After yet another disappointing season, time is really running out for the ATK World franchise with footfalls plummeting every year. However, the management cannot really be blamed for the outcomes, for they have brought together a brilliant blend of coach and players yet again this season.
While clubs like Jamshedpur FC, NorthEast United FC, and FC Goa would be credited for their scout’s ability to find talents that have been doing wonders in the Indian Super League, ATK have really been pioneers in negotiating with some of the best players in world football with their unlimited cash. And while the side stuck to proven league names until last year, this time they have really gone big with some of the most mouthwatering names on their roster.
The first thing that strikes you about the Irishman is his tremendous versatility, which makes him a tailor-made player for Antonio Lopez Habas. ATK fans still remember how the former Valencia tactician used Borja Fernandez and Ofentse Nato brilliantly to create an astute side that hardly conceded goals (14) in the entire season before going onto win the league. Coming from Scottish top tier side Motherwell FC, McHugh can play in as many as eight positions if needed.
Primarily a defensive midfielder and centre half, McHugh can also play as the left and the right back and the respective midfields. Aged just 26, the player already has had stints in League Two, League one, Scottish Premiership and the EFL Cup among others and has proved himself to be a squad player over everything else. Partnering the likes of Pronay Halder and Sehnaj Singh, McHugh brings brute strength to ATK’s midfield.
He has played over 100 matches as a defensive midfielder and nearly 80 games as a centre-half in his career. Hence, he could trade places with the likes of John Johnson and Agus Garcia as and when needed, something that would be immensely helpful for Habas’ structure-maintaining play.
Considered as the biggest coup by an ISL side this summer, Roy Krishna brings with himself a thrill no other striker has ever brought to the league. The Fijian international was the MVP in A-League last season and after going over his 19-goal video compilation on YouTube, the one trait that seems to ooze out is his persistence.
Not known for his silky finishing or unparalleled dribbling, what Krishna brings to the table isn’t very unknown in ISL – presence inside the box. A muscular physique blended with the will to run at every long, through, or lobbed ball kicked in his direction, Krishna would be an upgraded version of the likes of Moudou Sougou or Iain Hume and not only Balwant Singh and Kalu Uche.
The 31-year-old had netted over 50 goals in 122 appearances for Wellington Phoenix in a league that is way more physical and faster than the ISL. Hence, with the likes of Michael Soosairaj, Jobby Justin, and Komal Thatal giving Krishna wings and Edu Garcia providing him direction, ATK could be looking at a forward who could easily dismantle Ferran Corrominas’ 18-goal a season record.
More than anything in the transfer window, ATK fans were stunned by the franchise’s decision to part ways with Spanish playmaker Manuel Lanzarote. Bought from FC Goa last season, the no.10 had a one-man role in the team for much of the season before Edu Garcia joined in, and to top that, Lanzarote ended the season with a world-class volley against Real Kashmir FC in the Super Cup.
But, just when one thought that the likes of Soosairaj and Justin would finally make Lanzarote’s passes fruitful again, the Spaniard was released. Though in Edu Garcia, ATK have a proper creator, they decided to go for Australia’s Dario Vidosic, whose playing style and strengths are way different than the one departed.
While Lanzarote excelled in passing and finding the crucial ball in the final third, Vidosic believes in more physicality going up. The over six feet player isn’t shy to go into tackles and could excel in Habas’ high pressing football quite well. Apart from that, Vidosic has also caught the eye with his ability to score from direct free-kicks. Hence, while on the counter or forcing opponents to make mistakes, this Australian could come in handy for ATK.
Among all the foreign investments that ATK made, the one of Agus Garcia could turn out to be the most crucial. ATK had left centre-half Tiri after their title-winning season of 2016 and they have regretted their decision since then. A fine defender with the vision to play perfectly measured long balls has panned out to be a rare acquisition for ISL sides and Habas was quick to pick a familiar option in Agus Garcia.
The 34-year-old has been a specialist centre back all his footballing career and has impressed one and all with his ability to read the game. Though his ability to play long balls as efficiently as Tiri would be questionable, he has an affinity to play them and alongside a fine cover in John Johnson, he will get the time needed to find his pass more often than not.
In terms of acquisition, ATK have got most things correct this summer window and getting back one of their title-winning managers would mean they have a real chance at competing for the playoffs right from the beginning. What makes this ATK side better than their last two seasons is the fact that the players can interchange position with relatable ease, and more importantly, the immense physicality that they bring to the side. Jorge Costa’s Mumbai City FC almost outmuscled their way into the final last season with the likes of Arnold Issoko, Sougou, and Pablo Machada, and we have no reason to believe why someone like Habas won’t be able to take it one step further with a better front line.
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