ISL 2018: Lanzarote to lead ATK’s quest for a new beginning
Pledging to bring back happiness to the city used to winning Indian Super League (ISL) titles, Spaniard Manuel Lanzarote, 34, accepted the captaincy of the two-time champions ATK here on Thursday.
One half of the famous combination with Ferran Corominas that fetched FC Goa 31 goals last term, Lanzarote is part of an overhauled set-up at ATK as the Kolkata franchise tries to forget its worst season in four editions; one where they finished ninth among 10 teams. Along with Lanzarote, who wrote on a social media platform that he left FC Goa because of a personal problem with coach Sergio Lobera, ATK have signed six more new foreigners, five of who are over 30, retaining none of last season’s imports.
Among the new recruits is Andre Bikey who will be teaming with new coach Steve Coppell for the third time after playing under him at Reading and Jamshedpur FC. Of the 19 Indians in the squad, ATK have kept only six from the fourth season.
Even the coaching staff has been changed with Coppell, who was with Kerala Blasters in season 3 and Jamshedpur FC last term, appointed head coach, the team’s fourth in five seasons, and former Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen his assistant.
“I was undecided after Jamshedpur when I got a call from ATK …I am very conscious of the fact that this is a team that is used to winning… We will go in with a lot of anticipation and a little bit of anxiety,” said Coppell, 63, a former Manchester United and England midfielder who managed Manchester City and has a degree in economic history from the University of Liverpool.
ATK are back from pre-season in Spain during which they played Fulham and lost 0-1.
“We have had to cram in six months’ preparation in some six weeks so it has been a lot of hard work. Hopefully, by the end of the tournament, I will be able to say that (the pre-season) laid the foundation for this,” said Coppell at a function to launch the team’s new shirt here on Thursday.
Stating one of football’s oft-used comment that goals win games but clean sheets fetch titles, Coppell said he would try to ensure that ATK stay tight at the back and try to get the ball to “Manu (Lanzarote), Kalu (Uche), Everton (Santos) and Balwant (Singh) and let them be creative in front.” That is what Pep Guardiola said before he got Manchester City ready for this season’s Premiership and I am leaning from him, said Coppell.
Foreign players -
Manuel Lanzarote (midfielder, 34); John Johnson (defender, 30); Kalu Uche (forward, 35); Gerson Vieira (centre-back, 25); Noussair El Mimouni (midfielder, 27); Andre Bikey (medio/defender,33); Everton Santos ( forward, 31).
Players retained -
Debjit Majumdar (goal-keeper), Prabir Das (defender), Eugenson Lyngdoh (midfielder), Jayesh Rane (wide midfielder), Komal Thatal (midfielder), Hitesh Sharma (midfielder).
Head coach: Steve Coppell, Assistant-coach: Sanjoy Sen.