Following the Kenya Premier League can be difficult. Just this off season, we have had the typical administrative wrangles. Our continental representatives, Tusker FC and Ulinzi Stars, appear to be facing early elimination.
It’s tough but the teams can make things a little better with some great football in 2017. We want to see more tactical risks and innovation from the coaches. If I had to pick, these are the trends I would like to see this season:
We know that our league’s preferred style of play is direct. And although many of us fans would like to see more ball retention in the teams’ DNAs, we recognize this can only be instilled in players by youth development programs. So what do we do with the players we have? The coaches can develop more accuracy with the “kupura” style we see from our players with a vertical passing game. This style retains moving the ball vertically along the pitch but takes advantage of poor horizontal compactness to give forwards accurate balls. The most common type of vertical passing is the through ball. The difference in this case is that the player receiving the ball is more likely to hold it for support in attack.
I always believe that a team struggles for goals, not because the striker is bad, but because the team creates few chances. One way to create more chances is using two strikers. We don’t have a 20-goal striker in the league so why not share the workload? I have written before on the advantage of utilizing combinations to outmaneuver your opponent. Two strikers up-top is a classic and simplistic combination. There are many formations that Kenya Premier League coaches can utilize this in: 3-5-2, 4-4-2, 4-3-1-2, 4-1-3-2, 4-2-2-2, among others.
The wing areas now have a reduced role in terms of controlling space on the pitch. That is modern football. Having a winger and fullback both hugging the touchline is inefficient. What we now have are wingers who cut inside, leaving the flank to the fullback. If you look at Harambee Stars, we do not have a lot of options at fullback. The best fullbacks in the league are foreigners. The coaches need to solve this. I have a suggestion: convert your technically inferior winger into a wingback or fullback.
Not every technically gifted midfielder has to play in the final third. Beside Akumu, how many deep creators in Kenya can you name? While those in the final third, like Kahata, create chances these ones build-play. This is an underrated phase of football not just in Kenya but most of Africa. We have seen instances of Wanyama playing as an 8 for Harambee Stars. Let’s stop believing that midfield, or even central defence, is purely combative. These are the low pressure areas that you use to establish control of the game.
5.The High Press
If we want fans to come to the stadium, one of the things we must do is make games interesting. Kimanzi has mentioned it before. The way to make Kenya Premier League play interesting is increasing tempo of the matches. We can’t have one coach (Kimanzi) playing an intense style while everyone else adopts the pedestrian middle block press. Nobody is going to give up Premier League football for that. The players need to raise their fitness and the coaches need to have these sophisticated pressing systems.