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Will Steve Coppell's second match as ATK head coach be better than his first?

ATK overhauled their squad and brought in Steve Coppell to banish the nightmares of last season. However, they have made the worst possible start to the 2018/19 Indian Super League campaign. With two defeats in as many games, the Kolkata-based side are already staring down the barrel. The statistics of the first two ISL games makes for a grim reading for ATK fans. A tactical analysis of their defeats show the inherent weaknesses of the side and Coppell’s inexplicable team selections. The Englishman is now facing serious questions over his future at ATK and doubts about him are gaining legitimacy.

Steve Coppell Struggling To Meet Demands of Managing ATK

The former Manchester United winger has always been an unassuming man. His success at Kerala Blasters and Jamshedpur FC were based on work ethic rather than flair. However, the demands at ATK are different and Coppell is struggling to adapt his coaching methods.

ATK are two-time ISL winners and there’s a demand at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan is for them to play attacking football. They are one of the glamour teams of the competition and with it comes all the pressure of expectations.

The football Coppell’s side have played this season has been uninspiring and pedestrian. They controlled less than half of the possession against the Blasters in the opening game and the statistic in midweek was appalling. Playing at home, the Kolkata side surrendered 2/3rd of the ball to the visitors from the north east (albeit playing with ten men for close to an hour). While NorthEast United’s only shot on target turned out to be the winner, they played almost three times the number of passes as the home side.

Coppell’s decision to play such reactive football at home has not won him any fans, either in the stands or in the club hierarchy. He is yet to fathom the expectations he is facing at ATK. The realities at Kerala Blasters and Jamshedpur FC were different. At ATK, the Englishman would either have to adapt or perish.

Steve Coppell and the Curious Case of Team Selections

Kalu Uche was one of the top goalscorers of last season’s ISL when he played for the Delhi Dynamos. ATK signed him during the off-season to solve their lack of teeth up front. However, Coppell is yet to warm up to the Nigerian. Uche is yet to find himself in the starting eleven at ATK. Everton Santos continues to play as the centre-forward, although he is more comfortable in playing just behind the striker.

With their best centre-forward warming the bench, ATK have looked disjointed in attack. Coppell’s teams were never known for being serial goalscorers but the Englishman’s line-ups at ATK this season have lacked any spark. They are yet to score a goal in this season’s ISL, which is not a surprise anymore.

The ATK coach has also shown very little imagination in midfield. Cavin Lobo and Eugenson Lyngdoh can walk into any eleven in the ISL, but they have also been warming the bench. The duo are known for their ability to provide creativity from midfield, something ATK are lacking in abundance at the moment.

Coppell’s first instinct is to play safety first football but the lack of imagination at ATK this season is stark. Unless the Englishman makes some changes soon, he could soon be looking for a new job.

What’s next for Steve Coppell at ATK?

A red card for Sena Ralte in the 32nd minute against NorthEast United meant ATK’s hands were tied for more than an hour. They almost earned a point from a difficult scenario, but things are looking grim at ATK for the moment.

They are not in action until 17th October, when they will travel to the capital of Indian to take on Delhi Dynamos. As Kolkata prepare for the biggest festival of the year for Bengalis, the Durga Puja, there is little to cheer for inside the camp at ATK. Coppell has around ten days to carry out the necessary drills and change the mood inside the camp.

The Englishman is facing a stiff challenge but is he up to it? It remains to be seen whether he goes against his own nature and play more expansive football. ATK have the resources to do so, but Coppell’s instincts are based on a more reactive style.

ATK have already shown that they won’t shy away from changing coaches in the middle of the season and that should be a worry for Coppell. He must be aware that if results don’t turn soon, he could soon be out of work.

The clock is ticking for the former winger at ATK.