ATK Mohun Bagan made a huge scoop on September 26 as they finally completed the signing of the highly-rated Indian defender, Sandesh Jhingan, on a five-year deal. The former Kerala Blasters centre-back had been out of action due to injury for almost a year now. But, as he approaches full recovery, this is the best possible move that could have panned out for both Jhingan and ATK Mohun Bagan.
The Kolkata-based club, who were the champions of the 2019/20 ISL season, were not crying out for a defender though. They had conceded the second least number of goals (16 in 18 games) among all teams on their way to the title. They already have quality defenders like Sumit Rathi, Pritam Kotal, Subhasish Bose, Prabir Das and Tiri in their ranks. They even had Agus Garcia but he announced his retirement after the last campaign.
ISL Emerging Player of the Tournament in 2014 ✅— ATK Mohun Bagan FC (@atkmohunbaganfc) September 26, 2020
AIFF Emerging Player of the Year in 2014 ✅
Arjuna Awardee 🎖️
To sweeten all #Mariners taste buds.
Presenting you the Guardian of Defence.
Welcome to the City of Joy, @SandeshJhingan. #ATKMB #JoyMohunBagan#IndianFootball pic.twitter.com/77FejShfEK
However, Jhingan's arrival does open up a lot of possibilities for the club. The most important among those possibilities is that it gives Antonio Lopez Habas the freedom to go with an all Indian defence.
Jhingan can easily slot into the back three, along with Kotal and Rathi, in place of Tiri. Das and Bose, on the other hand, can play their role as the two wingbacks.
The Indian centre-back's presence in the ATK Mohun Bagan lineup frees up space for an overseas player and that can be used to boost the quality of their attack further. Mind you, the ATK attack had proven to be one of the most lethal ones in the ISL last season. The likes of Roy Krishna, David Williams and Edu Garcia scored goals for fun. In fact, not only their overseas players, but their Indian attacking contingent of Jayesh Rane, Michael Soosairaj and Pronay Halder had played an instrumental role in the club's success as well.
So Jhingan's inclusion in the starting lineup at the cost of Tiri allows Habas to have far more overseas attacking quality on the pitch. Moreover, ATK Mohun Bagan will have high hopes from their participation in the 2021 AFC Cup as well. The competition doesn't allow more than four overseas players in the starting XI and it is mandatory for one of them to be an AFC member as well. The same rule is going to come into effect in the ISL as well from 2021.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter / @SandeshJhingan