Little seems to have changed at Indian Super League side ATK despite a complete squad overhaul and the arrival of a new manager in Steve Coppell. They got off to the worst start possible to their ISL season when they suffered a 2-0 defeat at home to Kerala Blasters. A preview of their game against NorthEast United will be a grim reading for an ATK fan as they suffered in both defence and attack against the Blasters
The home side looked bereft of ideas in front of goal. Coppell more or less conceded that he didn’t expect his side to come back after conceding the first goal in the second half. The new ATK coach will now have his hands full to make sure a pattern doesn’t set in like last season.
On the other hand, NorthEast United FC scored a point from a 2-2 draw against FC Goa at the weekend. Their defence looked shaky but some flair at the other end of the pitch earned them a point from an error-filled opening game.
Steve Coppell’s Challenges
The Englishman will definitely demand a better start from his side against NorthEast United today. ATK started sloppily against the Kerala Blasters and never looked in control in the middle of the park. The number of misplaced passes from the home side in midfield left Coppell frustrated on the touchline.
The midfield also failed to provide any creativity with Pronoy Halder and El Maimouni Noussair struggling to provide the impetus. To make matters worse for the forwards, they didn’t receive much quality service from Jayesh Rane and Lanzarote on the flanks.
ATK’s attack looked good on paper but lack of service remains a problem. Coppell’s sides have never been known for creative flair or goals. But it compensated by their solidity in defence.
However, they looked nowhere close to the defensive stability that a Coppell tutored side should display. New signings John Johnson and Gerson Vieira looked shaky and lacked coordination. With the centre-back pairing struggling, it had a ripple effect on the team.
Coppell would expect the two experienced centre-backs to work on developing a partnership and providing the stability. He needs his defence to click before he can think about getting the best out of his attackers.
What Can We Expect From ATK vs NorthEast United
NorthEast United FC showed more promise in their 2-2 draw against FC Goa on Saturday. However, last season’s defensive failings remain The Highlanders finished last in the ISL last season and conceded 27 goals in 18 games last year.
And some of the old problems surfaced despite some encouraging signs in the final third. NorthEast’s new Nigerian striker Bartholomew Ogbeche scored his first goal for them. Creative midfielder Rowllin Borges looked incisive with his passing and could present problems to ATK’s shaky defence.
Borges and Ogbeche will be a key threat for NorthEast United against ATK away from home. However, the away side also have their defensive problems. New signings Mato Grgic and Mislav Komorski in the heart of their defence are also a work in progress. They could be an opportunity for ATK to get into a goalscoring groove if they sort out their play in the final third.
Coppell could look to start Kalu Uche in partnership with Everton Santos up front to provide more teeth in the attack. The decision to play Santos as the lone man came under criticism and the lack of goals could force the Englishman’s hand.
A Clash Of Flawed Teams
The key ingredient that makes a match between the two sides is the flawed nature of both the teams. Placed ninth and tenth in the league respectively last season, ATK and NorthEast United carried out squad overhauls during the break. Both were aware of their need for defensive stability and did invest in that area of the squad.
However, both are now getting the taste of squad overhauls. The teams are yet to gel and their backlines are still work in progress.
But ATK have the bigger problems at the moment. Their defence looks shaky and their attack is short of confidence. NorthEast United looked good going forward against Goa and have a point on board from their opening game. However, the home side are facing problems on both ends of the pitch.
The history between the Two
ATK have a 5-2 win-loss record from eight matches against the Guwahati franchise. NorthEast United will look to get their first win over the Kolkata side in five games.
A narrow 1-0 win over NorthEast United FC earned ATK a ninth-place finish in the ISL last season while condemning their opponents to the wooden spoon.