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Analysis | Three Things We Learned: ATK 1-0 Delhi Dynamos

Arinjay Ghosh discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished ATK 1-0 Delhi Dynamos

ATK rode a Robbie Keane winner to consolidate their new-found momentum in front of an excitable gathering at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan to condemn Delhi Dynamos to their fifth consecutive loss of the campaign. The home side thus leapfrogged Kerala Blasters to the 7th spot on the league table. Here are the few takeaways from the encounter.

Both teams need a playmaker

ATK’s success in the Indian Super League was largely centred around the tireless brilliance of midfield metronome, Borja Fernandes. Thus, when new management decided to not retain his services, it naturally left a gaping hole in the midfield. ATK looked to Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Carl Baker to plug the gap but injuries to the pair severely affected Teddy Sheringham’s plans.

ATK lined up in their familiar 4-2-3-1 and with Hitesh Sharma being more of a second striker than a number 10, the creative onus fell largely on the double pivot of Conor Thomas and Ryan Taylor. While the former is a number 6 by trade, the latter is more of a dead-ball specialist than a deep lying playmaker. Furthermore, Taylor, being an eleventh-hour replacement for Carl Baker hasn’t got much time to build his chemistry with the rest of the team. Lacking the passing range of a playmaker, both men failed to pick out the constant runs made into space by Zequinha, Hitesh Sharma, Jayesh Rane and especially Prabir Das. Instead they played a host of long balls that was easily dealt by the Delhi defence.

Delhi, on the other hand, suffered from laboured build-up. The away side lined up in a 4-3-3 which became a 4-5-1 while defending and was meant to become a 4-1-4-1 while attacking. Although the former happened, the latter didn’t. Delhi lacked a runner from midfield, a basic requirement in a 4-3-3 to link the front-line to the midfield. Thus there was way too much space between their number 9 and their supposedly free 8’s. The only time Delhi had a runner from midfield was when they decided to press Anwar Ali on the ball and thus the ATK defence had a field day against a listless Delhi attack.

ATK and their long ball obsession

With a fit again Robbie Keane leading the line, one felt that ATK would finally shun their long ball system and play the ball to feet, a tactic that would also suit the three nimble-footed attackers behind Keane. Quite contrarily, the home side decided to stick to the long ball system which had brought them very little success throughout the tournament. This perfectly suited Delhi Dynamos, as they played a narrow back four with two tall and robust centre backs who had no problem dealing with their much shorter counterpart. Edu Moya stationed right in front of the defence had no problem in collecting the resulting second balls.

This tactic was strange given the fact that Delhi were playing a very narrow back four leaving a lot of space for the home side to exploit down either flank. The ATK midfield failed to stretch the play despite constant runs made by their wingers and fullbacks into the channels of space offered by the Delhi defence. In fact, the only times ATK managed to get behind the opposition defence was when the midfielders decided to play the wingers through instead of playing a hopeful long ball.

Going forward, Sheringham might want to look at his system. If he wants to get the best out of his front four, he must switch to a system where Keane can get on the ball and utilize the core competency of the players surrounding him. The likes of Zequinha, Hitesh Sharma, Rane and Prabir have enough pace and trickery to cause problems to most defences by running at and in behind them. To incorporate such a system fluidly, ATK must get rid of their long ball habit and keep the ball on the ground.

The long ball system, though, may be used as an effective Plan B by calling upon the likes of Robin Singh and Njazi Kuqi when required.

Delhi requires a Christmas miracle

It’s going south for Delhi all too quickly as they were handed their fifth consecutive loss. The away side looked hapless and bereft of ideas throughout the game. Coming into the game, they had scored two and conceded twelve in their four consecutive defeats, so they had a lot to correct. Assistant coach, Shakti Chauhan spoke extensively about his side’s ability to retain possession and one expected Delhi to have possession and play a neat passing based game. But on the night, they neither managed to hold the ball for too long nor did they manage to create anything when they did. In fact, the Dynamos were so bereft of ideas that they themselves decided to mimic the ATK way and play long balls. The static nature of their 4-3-3 contributed greatly to their blunt creativity. The fact that their defence has been leaking goals meant that the forward movement of their supposed free 8’s was restricted leaving a lot of space between their midfield and forward line. This allowed ATK’s double pivot to mop up and play their game.

Defensively, the away side was made to look better than they were by ATK’s penchant for long balls. The defence allowed a lot of space to the ATK wingers who whenever sought by the midfield found acres of space to operate. The defensive organization of Delhi was extremely ordinary for a team that had come for a point especially in the build up to the goal where Pratik Chowdhary was found out of position. A simple long ball to Bipin found Robbie Keane and with no covering defender, the Irish forward turned his marker to slot home into the bottom corner. In fact, things could have been much worse for Miguel Portugal’s side if Zequinha had been clinical with only the keeper to beat. On that occasion, too, the attack resulted directly from a lapse in the Dynamos defence.

Even at such an early stage, Delhi’s campaign looks sadly over and they need no less than a Christmas miracle to turn things around.

(Featured image via ISL)

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Arinjay Ghosh

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