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Sports Features of Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Source: Owusu Ansah Doe

Kenichi Yatshuashi must re-invent himself to stand the test of time

They don’t make them like the original Kenichi anymore, do they? The enigmatic grey-haired sensei. It is glaring that Kenichi Yatshuashi’s return to the elite division of Ghanaian football has not been met with the same buzz as his first arrival two seasons ago.

For what it’s worth, this time around he’s managing a club with only a handful of controversy-free fans or perhaps, because social media isn’t taking the mick out of him for his lack of managerial experience unlike his first campaign. After all, he has managed a Nigerian side since he left Hearts of Oak and was linked to rivals Asante Kotoko coaching job and above all, he was courageous enough to express his desire to manage the senior national team, the Black Stars. He now possesses a CV much specked than when he first hit the shores of Ghana.

All these aside, how has Kenichi fared with his new club on his return to the league?

Kenichi has played nine league games with his new club Inter Allies, but the club’s recent defeat to AshGold proves the marriage has so far lacked the needed spark and not making any substantial progress just yet. Two seasons ago, he was not the most popular figure within the Hearts family at some point. That’s skewed, the statement doesn’t paint the true color. In fact, the fans loved him to a fault but management found his personality very repulsive and difficult to deal with, often accusing the Japanese trainer of gross insubordination. Reports of clashes with management members are well documented, even though he was delivering the goods for Hearts on matchdays.

That notwithstanding, his return to the league has been far from excellent. He’s no longer the overly animated coach on the touchline. These days, he is hardly responsible for any innuendos that will raise eyebrows in the media, unlike his days at Hearts of Oak. Most importantly, he now has a better relationship with his bosses. There’s every chance Kenichi has learnt a lot from his first campaign in this country and has purported to tread cautiously. However, it is his team’s performance on the field that has been the subject of scrutiny this season.

Inter Allies are occupying mid-table – which isn’t a bad position for the club. However, the cause for worry is the subliminal signs that have already started magnifying themselves, cautioning Kenichi to dig deeper if he wants to stay relevant in his capacity over a long period.

There are some staggering similarities between his current situation at Inter Allies and what transpired at Hearts two seasons ago.

Kenichi’s Inter Allies have netted just 7 goals in 9 games, but that’s not even the most pressing issue, although, the 7 goals put in context is the 11th highest in the division. The primary issue is his side’s inability to score goals in the first half of league games. Not one, nor two, nor three. No goal has been scored in the first half of any league game by Inter Allies this season and it’s a major cause for concern. For a sport played in two halves, what happens when an opponent stifles Kenichi’s side from scoring in the second half? Inter Allies scored 4 goals in the first half of league games at this stage last season and 5 each for the two previous seasons but have registered none this campaign.

It’s a Kenichi trademark. The energetic coach is well known for his strenuous training sessions as evidenced when he took over the reins at Hearts of Oak, this enables his teams to outlast opponents often and easily. Take his Hearts side for instance, they scored 12 second half goals in their opening 9 games in the league showing tremendous ability to win games at the eleventh hour, such as they did against Inter Allies and in their record-breaking win at Berekum Chelsea. But they too, scored just 1 goal in the first half over the same period. Admittedly, Kenichi’s Hearts improved marginally in the last 6 games before he got sacked… or maybe not? They scored just 1 goal in the first half of the remaining 6 matches leading to his dismissal. Allies like the Phobians, have made football a one-half game thanks to Kenichi, but what happens when things don’t go as planned in the only half they can win games? It leaves his teams in dire straits.

Kenichi’s teams (Allies & Hearts) have scored just 2 goals in the first half of the combined 24 league games he has managed.

Another red flag for the Japanese tactician is the ease with which his clubs concede goals. Not only has Inter Allies conceded 10 goals in 9 games which happens to be one of the worst this season (just fewer than seven teams), the club also recorded their worst ever defeat in the league: 6-0 to high-flying Aduana Stars. In fact, Inter Allies are the worst travelling side in the league losing all 5 games on the road without scoring a goal; an unimpressive feat contrary to when he was in charge of Hearts. Kenichi led the Phobians to three wins in his first five away games and drew the other two. Quite a contrast.

It is commendably incredible that Kenichi’s Inter Allies are yet to concede a goal at home this season which is an obvious improvement on the 5 goals his Hearts side had conceded at this stage. But a penny for his thoughts and everyone related to the club is this: what will happen to Inter Allies when teams succeed in stopping them from scoring in the second half of league games especially at home, has he got any Plan B? If Kenichi and Inter Allies don’t develop an alternative route to winning games, it won’t be long before other teams find them out and do more harm to their lackluster marriage.