After their worst-ever finish in the previous season, the two-time champions have bolstered their attack and added key personnel to their backroom staff in their bid to wrest the crown away from Chennaiyin.
After a disappointing season, ATK has appointed Sanjoy Sen as their mentor to recruit national players. The former Mohun Bagan A.C. head coach roped in some of his own former players whom he had the experience of working with, along with former ATK players Arnab Mondal and Cavin Lobo.
ATK spent nearly a month in Spain on their pre-season, where they faced lower league teams like Real Murcia and Lorca FC. The Kolkata outfit also faced the Premier League side Fulham FC in the build-up to the Indian Super League.
The team moved early to sign Kalu Uche from Delhi Dynamos in March. They also acquired the services of defender John Johnson from Bengaluru and forward Balwant Singh from Mumbai in June. Further additions like Moroccan Noussair El Maimouni and the Brazilian duo of Gerson Vieira and Everton Santos has bolstered the ATK squad.
After his stints with Kerala Blasters and Jamshedpur FC, Steve Coppell has the opportunity to make a significant impact in the Indian football scene.
The former Manchester United player has managed has managed a host of English teams, namely Crystal Palace. Coppell also plucked Ian Wright out of obscurity to sign for the Eagles.
An advocate of defensive discipline, Coppell has boosted the defensive side of the squad with the signing of John Johnson from Bengaluru FC. Defender Andre Bikey also followed his head coach Steve Coppell from Jamshedpur FC.
The emphasis on the signing of Moroccan Noussair El Maimouni as a defensive cover provides further insight into Coppell’s style of play.
Players to Watch
Kalu Uche: The Nigerian international striker lit up the 2017/18 ISL with 13 goals in 15 appearances. Uche was one of the few bright spots for with Delhi Dynamos. Coppell hopes he can replicate this form with ATK.
Manuel Lanzarote: The new skipper of ATK. With 13 goals in 19 appearances for FC Goa, the Spanish winger adds another attacking threat to the Kolkata outfit. The former Barcelona youth player is expected to fit into Coppell’s style of play.
Without the full schedule being released, we shall focus on the first half of the league phase.
ATK has a tough start to the league with a home game against Kerala Blasters, followed by a winnable home game against NorthEast United. Two away trips to Delhi and Jamshedpur is followed by two tough matches: Chennaiyin at home and Bengaluru away. The matches against their western rivals, Pune and Goa, are at home. An away trip to Mumbai sandwiched in between the two.
Steve Coppell’s men will have their work cut out on the 26th of October when Chennaiyin visit them at Kolkata. The holders, with Jeje Lalpekhlua in their ranks, would aim to stamp their authority in the backyard of their competitors. The next assignment on the Oct. 31st at Bengaluru will also be a stern test, especially for John Johnson who visits his former club for the first time.
Last season was the worst in the short history of the Kolkata team. The two-time winners of the ISL enter the new season with a manager with a decent track record. With a smart recruitment of players, ATK kicks off the 2018/19 season with increased optimism and the verve to retain their crown.