Defensive frailties, lack of proper attacking intent most of the times and an ageing squad and added to it a brand new coaching regime, inaugural Champions of the Indian Super League, Atletico De Kolkata seem to have been going through a tough time in the latest edition of the Indian Super League.
Ten matches down Jose Molina’s men have only been able to keep two clean sheets, scoring 12 and conceding a whopping 11 goals in the process and if the similar story continues, Kolkata could very well have a tough time ahead in their bid to make the playoffs. The Saurav Ganguly co-owned side is placed at the fifth spot in the league table and are a point adrift of fourth placed FC Pune City but more importantly are just three points ahead of the bottom paced FC Goa.
Their recent encounter with North East United at home highlighted all their troubles in a single match. The home side conceded a poor goal from a defensive misunderstanding within 5 minutes of the match getting underway and it took them added time in the dying moments of the second half to manage to take a point. It seemed Kolkata’s midfield was almost absent throughout the game. Misplaced passes, limited goal bound through balls, poor ball control from the players and it was all over the place from the players. And the lacklustre displays didn’t just limit itself to the middle of the park. On paper, defensively ATK seemed to be very sound, but that ability doesn’t seem to be reciprocating that well on field. Arnab Mondol, one of India’s best defensive options hasn’t been having a very good season and with Molina interchanging between Henrique Sereno and Tiri the lack of a proper partnership is evident.
Atletico seem to have been having plenty of problems down the left hand side of the field. At left back both Robert and Pritam Kotal has been inconsistent, which poses as a big dilemma for the coach. In the center of the field, Borja Fernandez is an ageing replica of the promise he brought with him when he joined Kolkata in the first season. Lack of pace and a flurry of misplaced balls throughout the match was his story in the game. His partner Stephen Pearson isn’t a young horse either, at 34; the Scotsman too lacks pace and has been having a poor season. Looking to the left, India International Lalrindika Ralte, who had been out for a long time with injury before the season, hasn’t been able to get into form at all and gave one of his poorest displays in an Atletico shirt in the last match. While winger Avinash Ruidas has been putting in a shift every now and again, it seems the coach still has his doubts in whether to give the young gun a regular starting spot. On the other hand Ofentse Nato has been struggling with injury niggles and has been used very sparingly by the coach, which too came as a big blow to their midfield dimensions, both holding play up and moving the ball forward.
In attack,marquee man Helder Postiga proves time and time again that he is too slow for the league and his impact in the squad has almost been next to none. The Portuguese has made five appearances this season and scored only once, a shadow of the player who once plied his trade with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo. Striker Juan Beloncoso hasn’t had a good start to his ISL career either, even with his limited appearances the Spaniard hasn’t made quite the mark in the league.
The only bright spots in the team have been the trio of Javi Lara, Sameegh Doutie and Iain Hume . Doutie , when on field provides the attacking intent down the flanks, bridging the gap between the midfield and forward line. His pace comes as a big threat to the opposition defense and he has been involved in most of the goals scored by Atletico. Although Iain Hume has been on the score sheet time and time again, his performances haven’t been all that pleasing. Dogged, the Canadian uses his pace well to close down the opposition quick but it’s his miss passes that seem to be a problem for the squad. Spaniard Javi Lara has too put in decent performances every now and again but consistency has been a big issue. But the biggest unsung hero of the squad has to be goalkeeper Debjit Majumder, who, time and time again has saved Kolkata’s blushes, either saving 3 points or playing a crucial part in them earning one.
The squad still hasn’t been able to grow into the mould of their new Spanish coach. Molina prefers a passing and counter attacking flow in his sides but the lack of pace is what seems to be the hindrance in his tactical approach. With a final few matches left, the Atletico could have a run for their money in their bid to make the semis with Chennayin FC, Pune City and North East United, all on their heels. Molina’s men need to regroup and find their feet quick if they want to make it to semis, or soon there could be an upset on the cards with the next set of matches coming thick and fast.