National team, Harambee Stars coach has finally settled in his role, it is easy to allow poor management shroud our judgment of his performance. Yet, as a nation we must take stock and know whether the national team is moving forward or backward.
This article is written bearing at times he has had to assemble players for 2-3 days before a major match, I will try as much as possible to focus on what he does and how he manages games as that will give us bearing to his pedigree.
Harambee Stars have played several competitive games on the continental stage and as illustrated below, the statistics point to a worrying trend. That aside, his tactics also reveal the team’s performance is headed south.
Played 6 Won 1 Lost 2 Draw 3 GF 7 GA 7 Pts 6
From the above table of performance, it is clear that the direction our national team is headed is not the right one. The table below, showing results of mixed tournaments including World Cup, Nations Cup and CHAN Nations qualifiers indicates how we have failed to capitalize on some basics like winning home matches, which basically would have helped inspire if not bring some oomph into the squad. Note, (A) represent away match while (H), home match.
Team Win Loss Draw
Congo (A) 1-1
Ethiopia (A) 0-2
Ethiopia (H) 0-0
Zambia (H) 1-2
Mauritius (A) 5-2
Mauritius (H) 0-0
Bobby’s men have played 3 home games, drawing 2 and losing 1. It is however; the manner in which we performed that leaves a lot to be desired. Against Ethiopia, Victor Ali Abondo had a nightmare of a game, yet the coach kept him on the pitch until fans chanted that he be substituted; this was further compounded by the fact that he had missed a penalty in the game.
The team was very poor on set pieces, corners were wasted and the wide players could not deliver any decent crosses into the penalty yard for the forwards. In fact, goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch should be praised for keeping the scores barren as his two spectacular saves kept Kenya in the game immediately the second half started.
The home draw to Mauritius was a shambles of a display from the team. They lacked creativity, and Amwayi, guilty of many misplaced passes and poor corners, could he have been suffering from the fact that he was played wide as opposed to his preferred central role.
The players seemed jaded. It was only captain Wanyama who seemed inspired on the day.
Playing players out of position
Bobby has a tendency of playing players out of their position. This effectively creates an imbalance in the side and ultimately makes the play disjointed.
Against Mauritius at Kasarani, he played 4-1-4-1. It was genius on one end and a liability on the other. Mugubi sat ahead of the defence, Johanna Omollo having scored a brace in the first leg was slightly advanced, and for the first time, Mugubi controlled the game, the match’s pace was dictated by his inspiration, he produced fantastic long balls upfront, he linked well especially with Edwin Wafula alongside Timbe on the right wing, and this was the wing that produced several goal scoring chances.
Yet, in this formation, Bobby made a mistake of having Michael Olunga alone upfront. Olunga at club level feeds off Meddy Kagere and against Zambia, he was prolific because, he played off the main striker then, Dennis Oliech. For a player who loves running at defenders with the ball, it was unfair to have him up there solo and expect him to play with his back against the defenders.
The goal scoring chances he wasted came from him coming back to the midfield and playing off a teammate. One would have expected Bobby to address that earlier on in the match, yet it had to be the fans to shout for him to bring on Allan Wanga to be the main striker and free Olunga, yet, ironically after the substitution, he went further and took off Olunga. That was complete naively bearing; we had a commanding aggregate lead, were at home and needed a morale-boosting win.
Against Congo, he played Mugubi, to the left side of a two man holding midfield. Mugubi was so ineffective, that he at times went for the same ball with Aboud Omar on the LB position, yet it was his captain (Mugubi), who is supposed to set the heartbeat and conduct his choir.
Poor game management
Clearly, defence wins championships and naive teams play exposed games against top opposition especially after going ahead. It is with this naivety, that Coach Bobby cost Harambee Stars the game against Zambia. Even after the lead, rather than pack the midfield and expect to hit them on the counter, when Paul Were was injured, he brought on a largely ineffective winger, Noah Wafula, the Zambians; especially Katengo started controlling the tempo of the game. Stars lost.
After being with the team for some time, it is self-evident that Harambee Stars are a disjointed playing unit, the tactics are definitely wrong on most occasions. Poor timing of substitutions is also self-evident as with the case of Victor Abondo against Ethiopia and Noah Wafula against Zambia. Only Ayub Timbe has been a constant bright spot for the team as a wide player. Noah Wafula and Paul Were have just shown flashes of brilliance.
This begs the question, what really is his game plan? Who are the personnel he depends on?
The discipline of the players, too, has come into sharp focus. Does he have the respect of the players? Harambee Stars is in a group that if they utilized well their home games, they would have a clear chance to play in the nations cup. This will, however, remain a pipe dream if we cannot get the tactics right and win first all our home games.