Sserenkuma, Keli, Baraza

In continuing the assessment on the Kenyan game, we delve into goals or the lack thereof. The Kenya Premier League is thrilling in terms of its final-day title deciders, colours on the stands and TV punditry; but fans don’t get to celebrate a lot of goals. Infact, for the last three seasons the goal average has failed to hit two per game- managing 1.89 in 2014, 1.8
in 2013 and 1.91 in 2012. In contrast, sampling some African leagues we find Algeria with 3.95, 1.82 & 2.28 respectively;
Nigeria with 2.2, 2.01 & 2.01 respectively and, Africa’s best league, Tunisia with 1.83, 2.09 & 2.33 respectively. The differences appear small but their total value is substantial. So why is East Africa’s glamour league lagging behind?

Condemnation usually falls on the strikers first, despite the fact that the last three top scorers (photo) have all managed a tally above 15 goals. But deeper insight reveals only a handful of players ever hit double digit figures; their number correlating with the season goal average. The core problem is that in the KPL most teams only fieldvthe ‘box striker’; a
position that has gone off mainstream in modern
tactics. This striker relies heavily on his physical superiority in the penalty area and is comparatively immobile in an era of movements. Unless a team possesses gems like Alan Wanga and John Baraza their bias towards this kind of player is futile. Some of these modern strikers we have witnessed in the KPL within the given timeframe are; Sserenkuma, Keli, Jesse Were, Waruru and Agwanda. They are characterized by their ability to move in and around the box. This serves to create space for themselves and other players, tire the opposing defenders and drag them out of position with the
generated confusion.

Of course even the aforementioned have a lot of room for improvement and this is only accomplished by practicing. The most important thing for the striker is to start a season in optimum condition, both physically and psychologically. This means keeping the body in good shape during the off-season and getting adequate rest before the season starts. The mind is also kept away from distractions and discouragers not forgetting building a strong mental state for the goal droughts that will ensue. All these serve to create a striker who has the ego to take up the challenge of scoring goals.

Shooting technique skills help create a striker with an excellent conversion rate. The problem for our league in
achieving this is that this needs to be conditioned in a player from early on in order to create second-nature. KPL players, mostly, lack the structured guided progression that strikers in better football nations have access to. Nonetheless, the modern footballer is a prime athlete hence I am confident Kenyan strikers can build up their repertoire to an acceptable level despite the limitations they (have) faced. Nothing more telling Victor Wanyama’s accomplishments. Generally, strikers are advised to shoot low or high to the sides- where the goalkeeper has to cover more ground. This is coupled
with practicing to play under pressure and with both feet (something that is clearly lacking in the KPL).

Lastly, the tactical approach plays into account. In the KPL most teams play either a low pressure game or the most basic of all pressing systems- the midfield press. While these have served teams in achieving their agenda (I support pragmatism) they are not conducive for healthy goal returns.
Football has oriented towards having fewer men as out and out forwards but has maintained the goal stream with aggressive play in terms of pressing the opposing team. Team pressing has great risks and is difficult to train but its rewards; goals and filled stands cloud the costs. In summary, the team plays higher up the pitch and puts pressure on the ball carrier (2 vs 1 situation created), his passing options (tremendous coordination) or movement channels (dividing the pitch into grids). This active defending means even the team without the ball can control the game.

Defenses win you titles but goals are the essence of the game. For African discussions; @RobertMalit