The Spaniard has played in a deeper role for the Bengal outfit and has become a very influential player for the club.

With ATK’s play-offs dreams dangerously close to sinking away, a result against Chennaiyin FC was mandatory for Steve Coppell’s men. After a topsy-turvy November, ATK needed to start a cold December in strong fashion. A stern test awaited at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium against a desperate Chennaiyin FC.

ATK didn’t have the best of records at the Marina prior to the match, having only won once in five visits in the Indian Super League (ISL) history. However, with the competition’s fire close to burning the side’s ambitions, ATK’s captain rose through the ashes. Manuel Lanzarote, who’s been a frustrating figure for the Kolkata-side throughout the tournament, came alive on Sunday.

Lanzarote’s career at ATK has been anything but east. The Spaniard’s weak English created a big communication problem between him and the team. He also had to exponentially change up his style after coming to ATK from the high-flying FC Goa, where he achieved more freedom thanks to his coordination with the Spanish teammates. At ATK, however, the whole creative aspect was just dropped on his shoulders. While Lanzarote’s struggled to cope with that initially, he seems to be ravishing the role right now.

Lanzarote has been a talismanic player and leader for ATK

ATK played almost the whole game against Chennaiyin FC like a different team than they were  in the first half of the season. They were much more positive and played with a freedom which Steve Coppell couldn’t give them initially. However, with their defensive issues sorted, Coppell tasked them to express themselves and Lanzarote lept at the opportunity to do so.

The Spaniard doesn’t have any shackles on him anymore which held him back throughout the season. After playing a deep role in many of ATK’s recent matches, Lanzarote decided to threaten Chennaiyin by playing high-up more often. He moved into the channels and different positions of the final third cleverly, something which really troubled the defending champions.

Lanzarote helped to fire up his attackers with his own positivity, allowing Jayesh Rane and Hitesh Sharma to express themselves more. It definitely got Rane inspired, encouraging the winger to try an audacious shot from 30 yards out which darted into the net to give ATK the lead. After Chennaiyin equalized from that, Lanzarote, instead of letting his side predictably crumble into a shell, decided to go on the attack.

He moved into the right-flank smoothly before playing a dangerous ball to Hitesh Sharma, who was free and hit a shot which struck Eli Sabia’s hand and resulted in a penalty. Lanzarote volunteered to take ATK’s first penalty of the season, slotting home calmly to regain the lead for his side. Instead of slowing things down, he kept ATK sharp and moving at a frantic pace.

Lanzarote kept on pushing hard for the third goal and his expert set-piece stuck John Johnson’s header onto Carlos Salom’s hands foolishly. The Spaniard took aim once again, convincingly scoring his second. ATK had scored a third goal in 80 minutes, after only managing two in their last four games.

Lanzarote showed signs of the influential player who impressed ATK into making him their captain this season. He scored two games in one game, having only scored the one in the rest of the competition. Lanzarote also attempted five shots, having attempted only 21 in nine matches earlier on.


The Spaniard’s own evolution as leader helped energize his players and is reaping compelling showing from Rane, Hitesh and even the exciting Komal Thatal. The youngsters are linking with their captain smoothly and can understand his style now. Balwant Singh and Everton Santos might be struggling up-front, but eventually they’ll also get accustomed to his rhythm.

The Spaniard doesn’t have any shackles on him anymore which held him back throughout the season

Lanzarote’s built himself into a complete package, who can easily set his players through on goal with beautiful through-balls and create scoring chances through expert set-pieces. He also proved his own goal-scoring prowess with calm finishes against Chennaiyin. However, he’ll now focus on getting the most out of those around him rather than going for personal glory.

With two difficult away trips to Bengaluru and Guwahati lying wait for ATK before phase one ends, Manuel Lanzarote’s evolution as captain will come as a positive sign for Steve Coppell. ATK need maximum points to finish their first-half on a high. If Lanzarote keeps on playing with such vigor, victories against Bengaluru and NorthEast United don’t seem that impossible anymore for the resurgent ATK.