The defending champions were nothing like their former selves as they endured a forgettable campaign.
ATK have been a revelation when it comes to the Indian Super League. They were the most successful franchise winning the cup two times in three years, coming into the season. So. hopes were pretty high for the Kolkata-based club. But, much to the disappointment of the fans and everyone associated with the club, ATK had a season to forget this time around. Questionable picks in the domestic players’ draft, injury concerns, lack of experienced players and many more were the reasons for their downfall this season.
The Kolkata-based club was marred by injuries as star man Robbie Keane missed the first few matches. Players like Jayesh Rane, Carl Baker and Eugenson Lyngdoh picked up pre-season injuries as the latter two were ruled out for the season completely. Even Baker’s replacement Ryan Taylor didn’t last long before getting injured. A lot of chopping and changing in players and in managers didn’t help their cause at all. The team lacked a leader in every department on the field, To his credit, Keane lead the line pretty well upfront, but the same cannot be said for their defence and midfield. Defenders Tom Thorpe and Jordi Montel who could have inspired the Indian youngsters could not sort out their personal issues.
All in all, ATK looked toothless going forward as all their attacking move were centred around Keane. The midfield lacked the creativity to match the striker’s goalscoring prowess and the defence was clueless at times. ATK finished just above NorthEast United in the league table with just four wins out 18 matches.
Fact Sheet for Indian Football Season 2017-18
Games Played: 20
Won : 5
Lost : 11
Drawn : 4
Win %: 25
The Kolkata based club went through a lot of transformation as the club parted ways with co-owners Atletico Madrid. ATK trained in Dubai for their pre-season and Manchester United legend Teddy Sheringham was appointed as head coach along with former Bengaluru FC’s I-league-winning coach Ashley Westwood who became the Technical Director at the club.
ATK had a commendable outing in Dubai winning all four matches and scoring 13 goals in total. These friendly matches were crucial for the players to test themselves in different conditions as the team were supposed to head into a gruelling 4-months long league campaign.
Underperformer of the Season
Robin Singh: ATK showed a lot of trust in Robin Singh in the players’ draft as they snapped him up for a whopping ₹65 lakhs. Although, the forward was picked for high bucks, the 27-year-old never paid the club back with his performances. The former Delhi Dynamos forward had a terrible season in front of goal as he never read the play well and was out of position too many times.
Robin had a perfect opportunity to showcase his skills in the ISL and prove himself in front of national team coach Stephen Constantine. But, the forward failed to make a mark and was seen warming the bench most of the time. Being the leading Indian frontman in the team he scored only a single goal in the whole of the ISL season.
Robin must have a close look at his play and he must figure out his shortcomings if he wants to don the national colours again. Currently the lanky forward from Noida is far from his usual self.
Robins’s Performance in ISL 2017-18
Top 3 Performances
1. Mumbai City 0-1 ATK (Report and Highlights)
2. ATK 2-2 Kerala Blasters (Report and Highlights)
3. ATK 1-0 Delhi Dynamos (Report and Highlights)
Manager’s Report Card
One of the headlining problems for ATK’s poor performances on the field was the clash of egos off it. Both Sheringham and Westwood had disagreements regarding the style of play the team should follow and the unprofessional attitude from the managerial staff was evident in the players’ performances on the field. In time, the dispute got worse and coach Teddy Sheringham was shown the door.
Westwood did act as a caretaker manager but he too struggled with the combination of the tem and failed to churn out favourable results. Hence, Westwood followed Sheringham’s path and was sacked. Keane was made the player-coach and the Irish talisman did a decent enough job right at the end of the season.
ATK were drawn up against Chennai City and the 2-time champions comfortably defeated the southerners 4-1 as goals from Keane, Ashutosh Mehta, Hitesh Sharma and Zequinha led the side to the Super Cup main round. The Kolkata-based club qualified for the pre-quarters in the Super Cup where they were set to face ISL club FC Goa.
The Gaurs stormed into the Super Cup quarterfinals with a scoreline of 3-1. Ferran Corominas gave Goa the early lead, before Keane did cancel it out with a good header. But, goals from Hugo Boumous and Brandon Fernandes ended ATK’s run in the tournament.
Lessons to be Learned
ATK basically lacked a strong Indian base this time out. They have always had a strong Indian base in previous editions but unfortunately, they failed to tick that box this time around. They should also look to bring in players accustomed with the league and culture in the future as the new players take a good amount of time to settle down.
The 2-time champions need to bring in a proper coach who can marshal his troops and lead the team back to its path of success. They faced the serious deficiency of leaders on and off the pitch, as Keane was the only leader they had and he had too many jobs entitled to him.
We started the season with a draw in Kochi and then a big 1-4 defeat in the next match to FC Pune City at home. We only managed to win only four out of the 18 matches along with four draws. The wins were also very marginal by a margin of one goal in each.
Our defence was very shaky this season and we conceded the second highest number of goals, just behind Delhi Dynamos. We, the fans did miss the usual ATK we have seen throughout the years. We were very unhappy with Sheringham’s attitude and even Westwood could not anchor the sinking ship.
In the future, I hope ATK rope in some good foreign players along with some big names from the Indian contingent. We liked youngsters like Soram Poirei very much. Lastly, ATK should desperately sign a new manager who can keep the side together.