ATK Mohun Bagan face league winners Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League 2020-21 season final on Saturday. Before the merger of ATK and Mohun Bagan, the erstwhile ATK were the most successful team in ISL history, having won the trophy on three occasions.
The merger continued the success for the team even this season. ATK Mohun Bagan kept up the consistency shown by three-time ISL winners ATK and I-League champions Mohun Bagan to remain in the top two positions on the standings.
Mumbai City FC and ATK Mohun Bagan created a big gap with other teams in ISL 2020-21 and showed that they were better prepared for the tournament than others.
By beating ATK Mohun Bagan in the final league match, the Islanders clinched the AFC Champions League spot. Despite having the same number of points as the Kolkata team, Mumbai's better head-to-head record helped them finish atop the points table.
In this piece, we take a look at three factors for ATKMB's success this season.
#3 Retaining the core of the team which won the ISL trophy last season
ATK Mohun Bagan got most of the core players who played last season for ATK. Having a set team with a tried-and-tested coaching staff, who managed to win two ISL titles, helped the Mariners this season.
Antonio Habas' knowledge of the league and his players' strengths and weaknesses helped ATK Mohun Bagan settle down quicker than their rivals.
Players like Arindam Bhattacharya, Pritam Kotal, Prabir Das, Edu Garcia, Carl McHugh, David Williams, and Roy Krishna had the advantage of playing together in the previous season. With the same football philosophy in place, they didn't take much time to get into a rhythm.
#2 Quality additions for ATK Mohun Bagan in the transfer window
When it comes to player signings, very few teams can match the caliber of ATK Mohun Bagan. Before starting the season, ATKMB made two huge additions to the squad in Sandesh Jhingan and Tiri.
The center-back pairing has lived up to expectations and has proven to be one of the best this season.
Another fantastic addition to the ATK Mohun Bagan roster has been Manvir Singh, who joined the team right after the previous season ended. Antonio Habas has used Manvir in a way no other coach has done before. His transformation into a right-winger/midfielder, apart from playing as the second striker to Roy Krishna, has been a revelation of sorts.
ATKMB also used the January transfer window to perfection as they bought in Marcelinho and Lenny Rodrigues from Odisha FC and FC Goa respectively to strengthen their midfield. The players have been quality additions to the squad this season and have played their part to perfection while guiding ATKMB to the final.
#1 Antonio Lopez Habas' tactics
The former Sporting Gijon and Valencia gaffer had helped the erstwhile ATK win the ISL twice, thus becoming the most successful coach in the league.
A significant advantage for Antonio Habas has been his knowledge of the league, being one of its oldest-serving managers. A lot has been said about the brand of football ATK Mohun Bagan have played this season, but Antonio Habas knows what is best for his side.
He has been able to use his players' physical aspects to perfection and draw out teams and hit them on the counter. Habas' so-called pragmatic approach may not be pleasing to the eye, but it is a tried-and-tested formula in the league.