Sports Features of Saturday, 20 October 2012
Source: Jesse Aboagye Brite / four33sports.com
Coach Kwesi Appiah should adopt 3-5-2 formation to solve left-back problem
Ghana has long been searching for a left-back, and the root can be traced to as far back as 2002 Nations Cup in Mali when the Black Stars paraded a fine team with Emmanuel Osei Kuffour playing in the position.
After Ghana had failed to qualify for the same tournament two years after (Tunisia 2004), they made a huge come-back in 2006, eventually qualifying for the World Cup in Germany-though their performance in the Nations Cup was suspect.
One might think that after the team’s transition, the Left Back (LB) position was healing, but lo and behold the doctors were busy working round the clock to get Abedi Ayew “Pele” fit (40 years by then) to beat Roger Miller as the oldest ever African to play in FIFA’s World Cup finals (he would be two years older than Miller).
The entire National team exhibited a below-par performance in the AFCON that year, when they were kicked out in the first round, but Addoquaye Pappoe (LB at the time) had a decent performance nonetheless and so he would not go unnoticed. He was awarded the LB berth in Ghana’s quest to finally introduce herself to FIFA’s elite competition. The long wait was over and the World Cup finals had just commenced with Ghana playing against the Azzurri of Italy in their opening game, but the yet-to-be-expected happened when a couple of mistakes by the Left Back and Samuel Osei Kuffour were enough to hand La Nazionale a confident two nil win against the Black Stars.
The player was eventually dropped with Ghana’s ‘March to Zion’ in the tournament. There came the surprise package in the person of Sheila Illiasu (who until then had not had a big impact in the team) to fit into the crater orchestrated by his compatriot. He capped a superb performance slotting into that position till the Black Stars had to kiss thetournament goodbye kind courtesy the Selecao of Brazil’s rearguard.
Illiasu caught the eyes of Arsene Wenger and after a stint of impressive trials with Arsenal, was destined to don the Gunners’ jersey but for an “unagreed fee” and a feud between local clubs, King Faisal and Kotoko, it appears his best performance had already been seen.
Hans Adu Sarpei took the mantle and after 2010 World Cup, most players have had their “unfair” share of the cake. Nana Akwasi Asare, David Addy, and Harrison Afful have all played their part.
Ten years down the line and Ghana is still going through hell to get a reliable left-back, but have the coaches ever tried a different formation to solve the jig-saw puzzle? The 3-5-2 formation is the remedy for Ghana’s left-back crisis. Isaac Vorsah, John Boye, and Jonathan Mensah have proven time and again that they are not just the future of the team, but also force to reckon with. On a very good day, it will be every coach’s headache to choose between Boye and Mensah to Partner Vorsah in the heart of defence.
When Ghana captain, John Mensah is fit, he is the first option to marshal the back four.
So the question is, why not try playing three of the aforementioned defenders in the 3-5-2 formation? The good news is Kwesi Appiah will not be the first coach to try this system since it has been tested and proven, and also been in existence for long.
A recent example is Luiz Filipe Scolari’s ever-conquering Brazil national team that won the 2002 World Cup. Cafu and Roberto Carlos were used as wing-backs in that set up.
Andrea Stramaccioni’s Inter team is using this formation with ever-present Javier Zaneti and Yuto Nagatomo playing the RWB and LWB respectively. Samuel Inkoum, John Paitsil, and Daniel Opare have all been tried on the right offensive at a point in time and they have all contributed their quota so it will not be a new thing using any as a RWB. What makes playing this formation inevitable is the fact that Kwadwo Asamoah who is the most in-form Juventus player, playing all but just one of the Bianconeri’s first seven games (only missing that game due to Conte’s rotation policy) is used as a LWB in the Juve sest up.
What makes this formation a delight to play is on the offensive, the WBs add another dimension to the game by adding support to the two strikers upfront and delivering their deadly crosses for the striker to connect.
Defensively too, they give an extra hand to the back three, transforming the formation to a 5-3-2 formation which will make it nearly impossible for the opponents to penetrate.
Having either Anthony Annan or Derek Boateng as a box-to-box midfielder, just lying deep in MF, or preferably the “Makelele role” as the pundits term it, with Andre Ayew- as dynamic as he is- being Christian Atsu’s shield and scaring off predators from feeding on the “new Messi” as Ghanaians brand him now. This will allow Atsu see more of the ball and have enough room to scheme, and with his clear-vision, give the two strikers more passes.
It is about time Ghana tried a duo-partnership upfront, and stop the over-reliance on Asamoah Gyan. One-top has been most coaches’ “modus operandi” and this renders Ghana virtually powerless when Gyan takes a knock and has to be sidelined. This is clearly envisaged as to the reaction from the twenty-four million coaches to who will fit in that slot.
Different players have been tried, but to no avail, with Dominic Adiyiah and Jordan Ayew being the latest culprits.
Playing the two-top will help the supporting striker to come deep in mid-field to fetch the balls to supply the main attacker.
Again, because they are two, there will always be one to heckle the opposition’s defense at any given time.
Many formations have been tried over the past decade, and South Africa 2013 AFCON is the ideal time to try the 3-5-2 formation.