ATK have proved that they are a balanced team, coached by an experienced winner…
By signing Antonio Habas as head coach, what ATK did was to reinstate a former manager who has proved that he can deliver success in the Indian Super League (ISL). He’s been there, done it and can do it again.
The Spaniard made Kolkata a fortress in his first year in Indian football and lost just one game at home. This season, with a completely new team, he has lost just two games on home soil.
Habas prefers substance to style and pragmatism to going all-out in his approach to football. At ATK, he assembled a star-studded lineup and managed to make the team tick with his practical style of play.
Before this season’s opener against Kerala Blasters, Habas made it clear, “The process is to organise the defence first and then go into transition and attack. The magic word in football is balance. You have to balance things well.” And 20 matches later, he has managed to do exactly that.
They say attack wins games and defence wins titles. What if a team can be shaped to do both in a balanced manner? The current ATK squad is a good example of this.
At the back, experienced campaigners like Agus Garcia, Victor Mongil and Pritam Kotal stood firm when required to hold on to narrow leads and crucial points. In midfield, the likes of Javier Hernandez and Edu Garcia have pulled the strings and orchestrated transitions with aplomb. And Roy Krishna and David Williams, the two forwards have been exemplary in doing what they have to do – trouble defences.
While other managers trialled more than one formation for their respective teams in the first half of the season, Habas stuck to this three-man backline from day one. He wanted to accommodate and make use of his foreign players.
In order to do so, he had to play Michael Soosairaj as a wingback but the rewards were worth the risk. The gaffer knew he needed his foreign players at the right positions in order to achieve success again in India.
The biggest challenge for Habas was away from the football pitch. He was presented with a group of stars and it was impossible to give all players regular first-team minutes. Edu Garcia, a highly impactful player for ATK this season, had to spend the first few games on the bench. But the Spanish coach figured it out and held the squad together. And the togetherness helped them to keep fighting. They are now one step away from a third ISL title.