ISL 2016 : Comparing Antonio Habas' Atletico de Kolkata side with FC Pune City
Antonio Lopez Habas, FC Pune City's manager made his return to the touchline last week as he completed his four-match suspension that he received last season. Arguably the most experienced man in the Indian Super League, Habas was roped into the Pune side after the Spaniard had financial issues with his former side, Atletico De Kolkata with whom he won the first ever ISL and also reached the semifinals in the last season.
FC Pune City have had an indifferent start to their campaign with one win, three draws, and two losses which have kept the Stallions at the seventh spot after six games. Habas has been critical of his team's performances but also has reiterated the fact that his set of players can do the job well this season.
Pune's home form has been disappointing as they have picked up only one point at home in four games and have scored just five goals in six games in ISL 3.
Antonio Habas completed a major overhaul before their preseason camp as the Spaniard handpicked his squad according to his requirements. Many of his former players followed him to Pune along with the entire coaching staff which was earlier at Kolkata. When the former Valencia man was announced as Pune City's manager, he had said, "This certainly is one of the most professionally managed clubs in the league and changing their fortunes will be a challenge that I am eagerly looking forward to. "
How Habas won the title with Atletico De Kolkata
Kolkata were the underdogs before the start of the season as the likes of Kerala and Goa had better squads on paper than Habas' side. The Spaniard has always instilled a family feeling in his squad and that reflected on the pitch as Kolkata won the inaugural ISL season against all odds. Habas set up his side like their parent club, Atletico Madrid, who are 25% owners of the ISL side.
Habas’ side played on the counter as the team soaked all the pressure from the opposition and swarmed them after they entered Kolkata's half. ATK had a strong defense and an even better midfield to churn out results consistently as Kolkata were not the best football playing side in the league but managed to get results in their favor with 1-0 being their favorite scoreline.
Habas' side started the season strongly but faded as the season progressed and the champions had to work hard even to reach the knockout phase at one stage. In the finals, Kerala Blasters completely outplayed Kolkata but their resolute defense stood in Kerala's way. Habas' substitutions were top notch that day as the Prayag United man, Mohammed Rafique scored the winning goal for ATK in extra time to send the Kolkata fans into delirium.
Similarities between Habas' ATK and FC Pune City sides
Both the sides have their issues in attack as Pune City are struggling for goals this season whereas Habas' title-winning Kolkata side were also criticized for their lackluster attack. Kolkata's star man Fikru Tefera playing as the target man was highly successful but the team were disappointing without him. Pune too have struggled with their forwards as Dramane Traore and Anibal Zurdo have failed to set the league alight with their performances.
Habas' marquee players have always had an unlucky campaign to their name. Although Luis Garcia made an impact whenever he played, he was mostly injured in the first season. Kolkata's marquee player for the second season, Helder Postiga achieved the same fate for Kolkata.
Pune City announced former Chelsea and Barcelona striker Eidur Gudjohnsen as their marquee player but the Iceland international failed to kick the ball even once for Pune as he was ruled out of ISL 3 with a long term injury.
Habas has been plagued with injuries and suspensions in time in India. Pune City have had to deal with injuries as well as losing Eugeneson Lyngdoh for more than half of the season due to his commitments in the AFC Cup. Fluid attack has always been an issue of concern for Antonio Habas as FC Pune City are struggling to keep up with the league leaders in terms of points and goals.
Differences between Antonio Habas' two sides
In Atletico de Kolkata, Habas had a solid midfield pairing in Borja Fernandes and Ofentse Nato. The duo were the best in the league in the inaugural season as Nato's defensive work combined well with Borja's vision from his deep playmaker role. Pune City are struggling in this department as their captain, Mohammed Sissoko has produced brilliant performances during his time at the club but has not been consistent enough.
His partner, Jonatan Lucca has been great going forward as the former Goa man has been involved in three of Pune's five goals this campaign. But the Brazilian has not contributed that much defensively and has failed to track back on a number of occasions. Habas' wingers at Kolkata in the first season, Sanju Pradhan, and Jakub Podany were brilliant on the break.
This season, Pune City have used a number of options on the flanks but only Jesus Tato has cemented his place in the starting lineup. Sanju Pradhan has not been able to live up to his expectations along with Arata Izumi who has been disappointing.
In the second season, Kolkata had Javi Lara and Sameehg Doutie on the wings and they formed a formidable attacking threat.
Kolkata's title winning side had a strong centre back pairing in Arnab Mondal and Josemi whereas Pune have struggled to find a permanent centre-back pairing this season. Dharmaraj Ravanan has been stellar for the Stallions but Gouramangi Singh has been disappointing and Eduardo Ferreira has been erratic.
Habas has employed the same systems and formations at both of his teams with the teams playing 4-3-3 and 3-4-3 according to the opposition. Though the Spaniard had a far superior squad at his disposal at Kolkata, Habas is trying to implement his ideas on the new squad which will take some time for the players to get used to.
This team seems to have been built on the duo of Lyngdoh and Gudjohnsen who both have yet to kick a ball for FC Pune City. The former Valencia man was right when he said that the Pune job was one of the most difficult of his career but the Spaniard has always maintained that he loves being the underdog and there is no denying the fact that FC Pune City are one.