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Analysis: How will Michael Soosairaj's signing benefit ATK?

Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar


The midfielder will look to provide dynamism and a cutting edge to the Kolkata outfit's attack.

After coming off short for the second consecutive season in the Indian Super League(ISL), ATK have made a statement of intent by making big acquisitions to fill the void plaguing the squad from regaining their place at the pinnacle. Among the smarter signings was the blockbuster domestic coup of Michael Soosairaj, who after a stunning debut season with Jamshedpur FC, has seen his stock soar through the last year.

The former Chennai City FC winger not only bamboozled defenders in the ISL with his tricks and electric pace, but he’s the clever wing-wizard the Kolkata side needs to start threatening going forward again. Having scored the lowest number of goals last season in the ISL, ATK obviously needs to rethink their attacking philosophy, which was somewhat hindered in Steve Coppell’s pragmatic style.

Not only did the Englishman suffer a crisis up front, with Kalu Uche’s injury and lack of match fitness ruining Coppell’s plans for attacking. Emiliano Alfaro was brought onto reenergize the Kolkata side, but a season-ending knock in training meant that he couldn’t even make a single appearance for ATK. Moreover, Balwant Singh’s goal-scoring boots were invisible almost throughout the ISL campaign, as he cut a frustrated figure in the middle.

Soosairaj had an impressive first season in the ISL with Jamshedpur FC

However, it’s not like their strikers were helped by those around them either. Manuel Lanzarote’s creativity and Edu Garcia’s driving influence aside, the wingers were very underwhelming and a core reason for their underwhelming performances. Only Jayesh Rane was a slightly influential figure, scoring and assisting two goals apiece and at least trying to get things started through the wings.

Otherwise, Komal Thatal had a few sparkling moments in particular occasions, while Hitesh Sharma just didn’t have the incisiveness nor the creativity to get things done. Even Everton Santos was a frustrating figure whenever playing down the left, while Balwant looked uneasy when having to shift to the left-wing position. So to solve their misery down the wings,who else to look at other than one of the most exciting wingers in the league?

Soosairaj’s sizzling style should bring the fireworks the Kolkata side lacked last time, as he possesses that incisiveness which ATK craved for through their attacking men. The former Jamshedpur FC man scored 4 goals last season, including some stunning ones in which he tormented defenders, breezed past them with ease before slotting in confidently after reaching the final third. The wing-wizard’s blazing showing against FC Goa and Bengaluru FC proved that he isn’t intimidated by the best either.

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The 24-year-old is the terrorizing left-winger ATK craved for last season and is quite different than Rane in his more direct aspect in terms of attacking. Rather than aiming to build up and work the ball into the box, Soosairaj craves on taking on defenders with his impressive pace and dribbling his way past bodies to get things started in attack. He isn’t much about crosses, averaging just about over 1 cross per game last season, but is more about having fun with his opposition on the left flank.

A decent 22% goal conversion ratio proves that the winger is actually quite clinical with his shots on targets and rarely misses an opportunity from a prime area. Moreover, averaging more than 2 tackles per game proves that Soosairaj can help with the defensive work, tracking back to win possession and kick-start blazing counter-attacks as a result.  So if he gets space to run into through the left, ATK’s fortunes could be turned bright next season.

With Soosairaj moving through the left, Rane might have to be content with moving through the right and being the more creative of the two wingers. The 24-year-old former Jamshedpur man will be focused on dancing past opposition and work harder to get into goal-scoring positions to eradicate ATK’s goal-draught in the ISL. As ATK’s four prime wingers in Rane, Sharma, Santos and Thatal only scored 3 goals altogether, one can pinpoint why the Kolkata side needs more clinical wingers to win them matches.

Moreover, having spent some time in the Indian national team training under Igor Stimac with his future team-mates Balwant Singh, Pronay Halder and Pritam Kotal, the 24-year-old might’ve already built up some chemistry. Especially for the underperforming Singh, a sizzling winger like Soosairaj potentially running th opposition ragged to create easier opportunities for him could be a beneficiary for Balwant to find back his goal-scoring flow. Even the cunning predator in Jobby Justin can work with Soosairaj to produce lethal results.

ATK might’ve been plagued with lack of goals last time, but in Soosairaj, they’ve probably struck gold. The 24-year-old phenomenon is only guaranteed to get better in the ISL. With some international experience now also under his belt, he can be the explosive maestro the Kolkata side have lacked in recent years.

Published: Fri Jun 14, 2019 04:41 PM IST


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