Indian Super League is turning to be five years old and there are only two champions so far - ATK and Chennayin FC. Both the eastern and southern outfits lifted the trophy twice and they are the most successful ISL clubs by far in terms of results.
However, the Kolkata-based outfit co-owned by former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly had a disastrous last campaign. The defending champions finished the season at ninth place with just four wins and four draws and an uninspiring 10 losses in the total of 18 matches.
The club also sacked head coach Teddy Sheringham midway. Bringing former Irish international forward Robbie Keane didn't also work for ATK in season 5.
After a forgettable season, ATK has gone for a major overhaul for the 2018-19 season. The team has brought former Manchester United striker Steve Coppell who has managed Jamshedpur and Kerala Blasters in the previous Indian Super League seasons. In addition, the team has decided to nurture local talents than bring high-profile players from abroad.
ATK squad for 2018-19
Noussair El Maimouni
Foreign players - Gerson Vieira, Andre Bikey, John Johnson, Manuel Lanzarote, Noussair Al Maimouni, Kalu Uche, Everton Santos
Team analysis and strength
During the media days ahead of the season, many rival team coaches and players named ATK as the toughest opponents. The credit should go to their attacking department. The attacking department with Uche, Santos, Balwant and Jayesh looks certainly lethal and good enough find loopholes in any defence.
To feed the attack, ATK also has strong midfield team that include Lanzarote, Lyngdoh, Halder and others. Lanzarote was instrumental in FC Goa's dream run last year and he is expected to continue form with ATK as well.
There is also nothing to worry about the defence which will be spearhead by John Johnson. The English player had highly successful four years with Bengaluru FC and his collaboration with Vieira, Bikey, Prabir and others at ATK needed to step up the game. ATK has conceded 30 goals last season which is the second worst record and hence Johnson's team has a serious job in hand.
Area of concern
Manager Steve Coppel is known for his style of football that gives a lot of focus on defence. His last club Jamshedpur FC has the second-best defence record last year. As he will not compromise defence in favour of an attack, the star-studded forward line may not be fully used. In addition, the goalkeeping department also seems to be lacking depth in ATK squad.
Top 3 players to watch out
Manuel Lanzarote- 13 goals and 6 assists for FC Goa in the last season explains what impact the Spaniard will have in his new team. He will be the key player in ATK's midfield and hence he been awarded the captain armband by the team management.
Kalu Uche- the Nigerian striker netted 13 goals with Delhi Dynamos last season. He was the key players for Delhi Dynamos' raise at the end of the campaign. Under Coppell in ATK, Uche is expected to emulate similar form.
John Johnson- the English centre-back John Johnson joined ATK after a five-year term with Bengaluru FC. The wall of Bengaluru FC won 2 I-League trophies, federations cup, and the Super Cup with the Blues. The 30-year-old defender had made 12 interceptions, 86 clearances and 23 blocks for Bengaluru last season and is a natural leader capable to coordinate the defence.