If there’s one team that can be labelled favourites to win the Indian Super League next season, even before the season has begun, even before the teams have completed their squads, it’s ATKMB.
As part of our series, we would be taking a look at all the 10 ISL teams, where they stand at the moment and what should be the way forward for them going into the next season.
Fourth up on our list is the newly formed ATKMB or rather ATK MOHUN BAGAN.
Performance in previous season– 2nd position in the league/ Eventual Champions.
The Defending Champions have been in the thick of things for quite some time now. But it hasn’t been for their transfer dealings. Rather, it’s been for something that can be a turning point not just for ATK but for the entirety of the Indian Super League. Well, not even just the ISL, but the whole of Indian Football. ATK are no longer just ATK. Now, they are a new entity altogether called ATK Mohun Bagan. And with the addition of Mohun Bagan’s name to it, the club is no longer just six years old. Rather, it has a history of 131 years attached to it now. Although the new entity has been formed in 2020, it will always be 1889 for the Mohun Bagan supporters and quite rightly so.
The merger is now done and dusted. It’s time now to focus on the season ahead. So without much further ado, let’s take a look at the transfer activities of the club so far and the direction in which they are heading after claiming the title last time around.
RETAINING THE CORE OF THE TEAM
“WHY FIX SOMETHING THAT’S NOT BROKEN?” This has been the exact mantra for ATKMB going into the next season. All the players who were key in their title race last season have been retained by the club. Javi Hernandez, Carl McHugh and David Williams already had long term contracts with the club and one guy who did not have a long term contract and was looking at other options after the highs of last season, was offered a contact extension, which he gleefully accepted. Yes, we are talking about the joint highest goal scorer of the last season- ROY KRISHNA. After the season ended, Krishna made it clear that he had offers from a number of teams all around the globe. Signing him back was never going to be an easy task for the club but they have managed to secure the signing of the Fiji International for atleast another season, which comes as a massive boost to the chances going into the next season. Along with Roy Krishna, Edu Garcia has also penned down an extension with the club.
On the Indian front as well, the club offered contract extensions to Jobby Justin, Pranoy Halder and Prabir Das and all three have extended their time with the club for atleast the next two seasons with Prabir going a step further and signing an extension that would keep him at the club till the end of the 2022-23 season. All of Michael Soosairaj, Pritam Kotal, Sumit Rathi and Regin Michael are on long term contracts already. Thus, continuing from where they left off last season seems to be the Mantra for ATKMB next season.
SHREWD NEW SIGNINGS
As soon as the ISL got over last season, the club started to focus on building an even stronger team for the next season and signed 2 India Internationals in the form of Manvir Singh and Subhasish Bose. Both players are a regular feature in the Indian National Team and signing quality national team players is only going to help ATKMB’s chances going into the next season. The club landed yet another coup when they managed to lure Tiri after his issues with the Kerala Blasters. Tiri had already signed a pre-contract with the Kerala Blasters but was later asked to take a pay cut. Not happy with the treatment meted out to him, Tiri started looking at other options and ATKMB were quick to sign their former player back.
Let’s have a look at what these three players bring to the table for ATKMB:
A former ISL Champion with ATK in his own right, Jose Luis Espinosa Arroyo, better known as Tiri is one of the finest defenders ever to put foot on Indian Soil. Well, he was playing for Atletico Madrid-B when he first came to India, and that in itself gives us an indication of the quality he possesses. 5 years to the date when he first came to India, Tiri is an ever better player now. At 29 years of age, Tiri is entering the prime of his career and having already played for ATK under Antonio Lopez Habas in the past, adapting to his style of play wouldn’t be too difficult either.
WHERE DOES TIRI FIT AT ATKMB?
Last season, the foreign centre back slot was taken by Agus Garcia. He was an absolute pillar at the back and played an integral part in ATK’s sublime defence last season. During the latter half of the season, when he was unavailable, the Englishman John Johnson took his place and was equally impressive, if not more. But with Agus Garcia retiring from the game and John Johnson’s 2 year contract with ATK already expired, it carved open a huge gap in the ATKMB Defence. This is exactly where Tiri comes into the picture. Tiri is arguably even better than both Agus Garcia and John Johnson, and with Tiri guarding the defence, it will be a monumental task for strikers to breach past the ATKMB Defence next season.
The former FC Goa Man joins ATKMB after a successful season with the Gaurs in which he managed to score two goals coming on as a substitute and won the ISL Shield. Manvir possesses great aerial ability and uses his head to great effect while scoring goals. At just 24 years of age, he is yet to reach his peak. ATKMB will be happy to add yet another National Team player in their ranks but the same cannot be said for Manvir as it’s highly unlikely that he will get regular playing time under his belt. The presence of Roy Krishna and David Williams makes it almost impossible for Manvir to break into the Starting XI, irrespective of the work that he puts in on the training ground.
Manvir can be used as an impact substitute or as a Super-Sub, as the term is popularly known. He can play the exact same role at ATKMB which he did at his former club FC GOA under Sergio Lobera. His role would be to come on when the team needs a goal late in the game and bask his team to glory. Manvir is a like to like replacement for Balwant Singh, who has now moved on to East Bengal. But absence of regular playing time can severely hurt Manvir’s chances of becoming a National Team regular, much like the case of another ATKMB starlet- Jobby Justin.
One of the best left backs in the country, Subhasish Bose can be labelled as a quality signing for the newly merged entity. Having already captained the senior National Team, Subhasish comes with loads of experience despite being just 24. ATKMB played with a 3-5-2 formation last time around and Subhasish can fit in the role of Left Centre-Back perfectly. We all saw the capability he possesses while playing at Centre-Back, when he partnered Sandesh Jhingan against China. Although the club has last season’s Emerging Player in the form of Sumit Rathi in their ranks, Subhasish seems to be an upgrade over him. Standing at a towering height of 1.86 metres, Subhasish can become a primary Centre-Back for the National Team as well in case he excels in his ATKMB role.
A Mohun Bagan Academy Graduate, Subhasish would be delighted with his move back to the Kolkata Giants and can possibly become a Club Legend by the time he retires, in case he decides to stick to the club in future. One thing for sure, the future looks really bright for both- the player as well as the club.
Balwant Singh has joined East Bengal along with Sehnaj Singh. Salam Ranjan Singh and Boris Singh also seem to be on their way out of the club. So are Victor Mongil, Mandi Sosa and John Johnson.
But these departures will have little to no impact on the club as none of the these were mainstays and the club has already signed better replacements.
Manvir Singh is an upgrade over Balwant Singh and so is Subhasish Bose over Salam Ranjan. John Johnson has been replaced by the evergreen Tiri and Ashutosh Mehta takes Boris’ place. Thus, ATKMB seem to have all bases covered already, going into the next season.
The Defending Champions look like a solid team on paper and play some fabulous football when they take the field. No matter how much we try to find a weakness in the team, the fact remains that there is no area in which the club lacks. They have all their bases covered and seem good to go already, without even making any big signings as such.
POTENTIAL PLAYERS ATKMB CAN FURTHER TARGET
As we already mentioned, ATKMB do not lack in any department and have all their bases well covered. But where is it written that a strong team cannot further strengthen itself? And thus, ATKMB can look at options in the market to make their squad even better and to potentially quash the title hopes of any other team, even before the season has begun. There’s one player who can improve this ATKMB team massively and its none other than:
And here’s a man who needs no introduction in Indian Football. Sandesh Jhingan left the Kerala Blasters after a 6 year long stint and there were widespread tears among the Kerala fans. No one would have ever imagined Sandesh Jhingan leaving the Kerala Blasters, but now that he has, ATKMB are leaving no stones unturned to lure the talismanic defender to the Kolkata Maidan. And it seems highly likely that ATKMB could be the next destination for Sandesh Jhingan.
There was much hype among the Manjappada about a potential defensive partnership consisting of Sandesh Jhingan and Tiri. Both of them are good friends off the field as well and were expected to form a dream Centre-Back pairing at Kerala. But with Tiri’s depature, all hopes of a Jhingan-Tiri partnership next season seemed to have been dashed but the way things are moving forward, Jhingan and Tiri could all but unite to form a lethal partnership, but this time to the dismay of the Kerala fans as it would be the Mariners who would celebrate the dream combination guarding its defence.
Pritam Kotal was impressive last season at Right Centre-Back but is surely not as good as the “MINISTRY OF DEFENCE” Sandesh Jhingan. With the inclusion of Jhingan, ATKMB would have a squad that dreams are made of.
Sandesh Jhingan has already spoken about his desire to win trophies and if there is one club which could be leading the race to win the Indian Super League Title next season, it’s surely gonna be ATK MOHUN BAGAN. Add to that, ATKMB are participating in the AFC Cup next season and with the arrival of a certain Sandesh Jhingan, they can well and truly fancy their chances of not only doing well in the competition, but also going on and becoming the first ever Indian club to win it.
JUST SIGN SANDESH JHINGAN, ATKMB!
With 6 foreigners in their bag already, ATKMB would also be looking to sign a seventh. And in all likelihood, they would be aiming to sign a central midfielder. They already have Edu Garcia and Javi Hernandez in their ranks but both of them are attacking midfielders. Thus, the signing of a central defensive foreign midfielder would all but complete ATKMB’s team for the next season.
Here’s what the first eleven of ATKMB might look like, come the 2020-21 Indian Super League Season.
As if the above eleven wasn’t enough already, have a look at the BACKUP XI of ATKMB with 10 Indian players and just a solitary foreigner in the form of Carl McHugh.
All we have to say is- “Kudos ATKMB for winning the ISL once again, this time even before the start of the season.”
BUT HEY, GAMES HAVE NEVER EVER BEEN WON ON A PIECE OF PAPER, HAVE THEY?
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