Gor Mahia

Gor Mahia’s return to CECAFA was marked with a defeat to Ugandan side KCCA. It wasn’t really a surprise since for the umpteenth time a quality side took advantage of Gor’s high-line defense. While a high-line is nothing uncommon in football, Gor Mahia’s application is unworkable.

Defending high means having the space between the goalkeeper and the defense line to be very large. In fact most teams who use this usually have the defense at the halfway line. Why do teams
do this? To reduce the space available for the opposition to play in and to make transitions, from defense to attack, take place quicker. That is exactly what Gor Mahia does so why do they always get caught out? The catch for this system is that there has to be pressing in front of this defense and the central defenders
must be mobile and intelligent.

The problem is that Gor Mahia’s midfield- usually “Gattuso”, Eric Ochieng and Kizito- do not press. The best I’ve seen of this was during the 3-2 defeat to Esperance early in the year. In that game, Wanyonyi (who has
since shifted camp to AFC) gave a performance I consider the best by a Kenyan midfielder this year. His pressing contributed to one of the most lethargic Taraji performances in recent years-
though their struggles this CAF Champions league season portend the end of a cycle.

Absence of the press means the opposing team not only has the comfort of building up play but it makes it easy to run in behind the defense (something I’ve briefly discussed below). Hence it’s no surprise that teams with
good midfields have had a go at Gor Mahia: AFC Leopards, Tusker, Esperance and now KCCA. Perhaps Bobby Williamson has
ignored this because the players
simply lack the fitness levels to press all season- Logarusic did lament about this and its contribution to KPL’s relatively slow tempo matches. Actually it must be a dilemma for him since
Gor does not have the personnel
to build up play from deep; after all, most KPL teams wait for Gor to come at them. Fans might backlash because they lead the league but their mechanical performances this season are well
documented (and Tusker may just win the league eventually).

Without pressing, the opponents have time to pick their options and more often than not, it is Gor Mahia’s blind sides that are chosen. It’s not simply about Walusimbi’s gung-ho forays forward but about the defensive set up of Gor Mahia. As mentioned earlier, the attackers attempt to run behind this line and what easier way to do it than on the back of the lateral line
of defense. There seems to be a lack of knowledge on how Walusimbi, who provides offensive width, is to be covered;
central midfielders by nature are not comfortable slotting wide, Gor’s wingers don’t cover and Shakava is simply not the kind of defender you entrust with highline responsibilities. Whilst he has fairly decent game reading ability he is not mobile enough to
cover when the fullbacks maraud.

Basically Gor Mahia is set up for failure against good teams and I will be most surprised if they actually progress beyond the semi-finals in the ongoing CECAFA Kagame Cup.

For Africa football discussion, @RobertMalit