The Spaniard is expected to develop several players in the squad for the coming season.
A change of guard is happening at ATK once again. After failing with repetitive disappointing managerial appointments, the Kolkata giants are going back to where it all started by reappointing Antonio Habas as their head coach for next season. The Spaniard gave birth to their success in the Indian Super League (ISL), helping them grind their way through to winning the inaugural edition.
Habas worked really well with his diverse squad that season and has some really talented players at his exposal next season as well. There were certain players Steve Coppell couldn’t use properly and were left disappointed. However, an attacking gameplay could help him revitalize the dejected talents. He can definitely improve many players next season and here we look at five such players.
5. Jayesh Rane
In his second season with the Kolkata outfit, Rane was very erratic in the attack. He didn’t get the freedom or enough aid to get going, only scoring and assisting two goal apiece in the whole season. Rane was promising with his movement but didn’t have enough bodies to pass to in the final third. However, that can change under Habas.
Jayesh Rane’s inconsistency was one of the major woes for ATK last season
The Spaniard will encourage him to run at defences and be more creative with his delivery around the final third. He can replicate his inspired season with Aizawl, tricking his way past defenders and creating chances. If he sees more of the ball in Habas’ style, he can definitely create chances more often and contribute to ATK’s attack much better.
4. Pronay Halder
While his work-rate last season was unquestionable, Halder was held back by some questionable tactics on Steve Coppell’s part. He was deployed as the old-school, “destroyer” for ATK, sitting back and just crunching into challenges to stop oppositions from breaking through on goal. As a result, he only averaged around 35 passes per game and picked up six yellow cards in 14 matches.
Halder can find new life under the Spanish coach, who will encourage him to dictate the tempo of the game better. He’ll be allowed to retain possession and be that link between defence and attack which he does best for India. Halder’s creative edge can be sparked up by Habas, who won’t only allow him to win possession, but lead from the front in controlling games.
3. Balwant Singh
He might’ve starred in their revival in the Super Cup, but Balwant Singh’s abysmal showing in the ISL was quite shocking. The experienced striker never settled into Steve Coppell’s system properly, being shifted from left-wing or down the middle too many times. However, he can improve under Habas who prefers a free role for his striker. He’ll be allowed to get behind defences, make clever movement and focus on scoring more than anything else.
Balwant Singh (Right) could not replicate his Mumbai City form with ATK
Rather than doing hold-up play or fulfilling defensive duties, Balwant can look to get back among goals again. Habas can do great work with an experienced individual like him and will look to create a dangerous connection between him and Jobby Justin to rip apart defences.
2. Eugeneson Lyngdoh
Steve Coppell could never really derive Eugeneson’s talent, who barely started a few games last season. He only played 129 minutes of football, with Coppell preferring Gerson Vieira at the heart of midfield. Habas, however, won’t make the same mistake. He fully knows how talented the experienced midfielder is and will allow him to add silk to his midfield.
Lyngdoh’s exquisite distribution ability, set-piece prowess and creativity can make him a vital part of the Spaniard’s new-look system next season. He could be the one to supply balls into the attack, supporting Lanzarote in attack and also helping out Halder with his defensive duties. The 32-year-old still has quite a lot left in his tank and Habas will look to fuel out his remaining ability to produce some beautiful football next season.
1. Manuel Lanzarote
The centre-piece of the star-studded ATK puzzle last season, Lanzarote never really got going as the Kolkata giants had hoped for. He was pegged with too many responsibilities and held back with a very cautious approach to games. Lanzarote was rarely allowed a free role, often having to track back deep in midfield to get things started. However, things won’t be as static as it was last season under Steve Coppell.
Lanzarote (right) failed to live upto the expectations last season
Thanks to their Spanish connection, Lanzarote should flourish and understand his exact role under Habas. The ATK captain will be freed of his restrictions to be their creative lynchpin, make crucial runs and be charge of the decision-making in the final third. With Edu Garcia also supporting him, Habas will allow Lanzarote to rekindle the ruthless form he showed with FC Goa and lead ATK from the front.