Changing our playing style a little bit.

Good morning Guys,

Welcome to a brand new week. It’s a lengthy post today so let’s get straight to the point.

I have been bothered and burdening by our playing style and wondering if we could tinker our style a bit to more effective ends. In a conversation with the tactics guru, @TheOddSolace, we sought to figure out how better we can utilize the playing personnel at our disposal to a more fruitful end.

His thoughts below

While there have been recriminations aplenty over the personnel choices at Enyimba, one area that has not been looked at with any real scrutiny is tactics.

Over the last three seasons, Enyimba have largely played a 4-4-2-ish system (under Ikhana, it was more 4-2-4, really; now under Aigbogun, it looks like a wide 4-1-3-2). Now, there is no perfect formation in world football, in fact some would go so far as to dismiss their importance completely.

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Of course, taking it to the extreme in any direction is problematic. However, tactics are important. Interestingly, a good number of teams even in the NPFL have moved away from two-striker systems, in spite of its advantages. For one thing, the nature of the playing surfaces league-wide often makes short passing problematic. A pass is a means of non-verbal communication, and even an ungainly bubble at the wrong time can damage the momentum of an attack.

There is also the issue of the technical level of the players, which is, no offence, middling. Ergo, it becomes useful to be able to play directly and bypass the midfield zone altogether in the attacking phase.

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That said, the Enyimba version does leave a lot to be desired: without the ball, the wingers are high, and the midfield two seem to be working at cross purposes. This gives the appearance of a loose diamond shape; which is easily broken once the first wave of pressure is bypassed. You really could make a case for Kelly Kester and Dare Ojo as Enyimba Player of the Season, for all the work they get through.

It has been clear on a number of occasions, even last season as Enyimba claimed a seventh league title, that the midfield as currently structured doesn’t work. I popped into Kano last year to watch Enyimba visit, and it was amusing quite how easily Pillars’ 3v2 advantage in midfield got them into goalscoring positions time and again. Ikhana made broadly like-for-like substitutions and twiddled his thumbs on the bench and Enyimba were lucky to lose 1-0.

If this sounds familiar, that is because it is. It has happened quite a bit already this season under new management!
Should Enyimba change the system then? That’s a tricky one to answer, not least of all because the club has 100 strikers on the payroll all at the same time, and being able to only select one at a time is a recipe for discontent, especially considering there is no one of the lot who is markedly better than the rest.

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In truth, this question is more pertinent in the CAF Champions League, where the playing surfaces are better and the opposition is at a higher level. In that case, a shift to a 4-1-4-1 might be a better bet. Enyimba’s best away performance this season came in Uyo when Peter Onyekachi was half striker, half midfielder: he dropped into midfield to the right of Nzube Anaezemba when the team was without the ball, preventing Akwa United from playing through the midfield, before charging forward once the ball was won to link up with Christian Pyagbara.

His deep starting position made him hard to track, and from one of those surges forward, he set up Pyagbara for the game’s only goal.
It is replicable with a proper, energetic midfielder who can carry the ball forward, though who that player is remains to be seen.

It is amazing that the club has encumbered itself with strikers of all shapes and sizes, but somehow neglected to recruit anyone aside Ikechukwu Ibenegbu as an attacking midfielder. Mosquito has battled gamely, but is hardly the sort of vertical battering ram to pull this off. Think a player like Arturo Vidal.

Peter Onyekachi is himself unavailable at the moment, so the chances of him reprising his role anytime soon are slim. The aforementioned Nzube is feisty but doesn’t pack enough of a punch in the attacking third. An unlikely candidate would be Kamal Sikiru, called in from the wilderness. Instrumental last season, he is one of the club’s most rangy players in terms of skillset.

Thanks man. Brilliant stuff. I have always believed that aside just grinding out results, we need to get back to catchy and exciting-to-watch playing styles.

Some very interesting results in the League yesterday. However did Abia Warriors capitulate in Kano and how did Shooting Stars throw away a 2-0 lead in Ibadan? Interesting stuff.

Back tomorrow.

‘EnyimbaEnyi

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