Last year Gor Mahia delivered a most horrible showing; especially for a five time champion 3 time champion. What was more painful to bear, for the fans, was that the team was humbled out of the competition by also-runs. The performances of 2014 were less a testament of Bobby Williamson’s coaching abilities and more about the deficiencies that plagued that Gor Mahia side. Is the current team that is running away with the league title any better?
Structurally, Nuttal has ditched the 4-3-3 favoured by Williamson and gone to the traditional 4-4-2. He is, afterall, from the British Isle so we should expect bias towards the traditional stuff. While his predecessor was equally primed to win the Kenya Premier League at this time last year, Nuttal’s march has offered more pizzazz. Gor Mahia has hardly faltered in its matches. Whether it’s style, defensive solidity or attacking fervor; they have delivered. They did falter continentally but it has been mentioned countless times to the dreamers that Gor Mahia needs to entrench its domination regionally before eyeing the big leagues.
An important difference between the two coaches has been the issue of winning back the ball. Williamson stood with his high pressing; he pushed his outfield players far from their goalkeeper with the intent of closing down gaps for the opposition. Plus win the ball back near the opponent’s goalmouth. The problem he had was that his charges never showed the nous to press intensely and intelligently. The midfield consisted, primarily, of destroyers. If you’ve forgotten, these were Kizito, Okoth and Eric Ochieng. They are good at being asked to clean up their zones but asking them to show movement that is necessary in high block pressing is another matter. It is no surprise that despite the attractive ideology of Williamson, most of what we saw from Gor Mahia was mechanical football.
On the contrary, this year they have preferred a middle block to high pressing and have introduced great energy in their game. I am getting convinced everyday that this is Africa’s football ideology. Okoth remained a mainstay and he was joined by the box-to-box powerhouse Khalid Aucho and Ali Abondo; a man who likes to shoot. Another change that Nuttal made is permanently place Walusimbi in midfield, as I had recommended. This has produced a midfield that has a high work rate and is sharper in releasing the attackers.
In defense, Gor Mahia covered the loss of David Owino by strengthening the fullback positions. Two things amaze me; how Musa Mohammed has fit into Calabar’s shoes as a leader and the fact that Gor Mahia managed to replace Walusimbi at fullback without fuss. The side’s strength is its wing attacks that are normally built from deep by the tireless wingbacks.
The other two replacements have struck gold as well; perhaps in retrospect. Oluoch may not have the verve of sweeping play but he has answered the need for a top shot-stopper. Similarly, Sserenkuma may have been more talented but Olunga and Kagere have developed a fruitful partnership to mask his departure.
In essence, things are looking pretty rosy for K’ogallo but there will still be a few key issues that they will need to consider. Their strength in wide attacks will be tested against teams that defend well laterally and it will be interesting to see if their central attack deficiency (since Rama Salim left) will be their shortfall.