The 2017 Kenyan Premier League (KPL) season is almost here, with less than one month to go until the transfer window closes. Teams are closing in on new players to bolster their ranks but what does each of the teams need to have a mark in the forthcoming season?
The three most obvious positions where AFC Leopards requires an upgrade are goalkeeper, centre-forward and defensive midfielder. In goal Lucas Indeche is said to be on his way out with Ian Otieno's stay a case for dividing opinion among the club stakeholders. Third choice keeper Edwin Mukolwe is a safe bet but head coach Stewart Hall will surely need someone who can command his defence.
In the midfield, Hall will need someone to complement Bernard Mangoli and with Kepha Aswani gone, a main striker, whose work is to bang in goals on a regular basis will be needed.
The brewers need to replace the outgoing Hashim Sempala and must find a second goalkeeper of quality to replace the departing Martin Musalia. The new manager George Nsiimbe has spoken of “two or three” significant additions, the third of which may be a left-back if Shafiq Batambuze also departs.
It needed Whyvone Isuza's directness to steer Mathare United away from trouble after a sterling start to the season and creativity in the final third remains a priority, as does a centre-half to partner George Wise with the imminent departure of Robinson Kamura.
Kimanzi wants a new No10 should Eric Johanna leave, a left-sided midfielder and to retain the youthful spine- tradition of the club. He can however achieve the latter by promoting some of the best gems in the teams Under 20 side who have just won the KPL U20 Championship.
Mike Mururi wants a new striking force, a central midfielder, a right-back and a new goalkeeper. Homeboyz's decent run last season suggests they need far more to maintain the same performance while also filling the leadership void created by Abbas Akinyemi’s departure. They will have Top 8 matches to add to their fixtures hence the need for good squad depth.
With continental assignments lying in wait, the soldiers have no option but to strengthen in almost every position. They kept on switching players in defence and that's an area Benjamin Nyangweso would want to address. They have acted fast to secure the services of Baron Jobita with Ezekiel Otuoma's fate still undecided. John Mark Makwatta will need to carry his 2016 goal scoring boots to the 2017 season but a creative midfielder will still be targeted.
If Eric Ouma moves, Ze Maria will have no option but to look for a replacement more so after it emerged that Abouba Sibomana might be on his way out too. They won't be participating in the continental assignments this year but the other priorities are a defensive midfielder and central defender. Should Sammy Okinda or Gradus Ochieng make a move, they will have to look for Boniface Oluoch's understudy.
Much hinges on the appointment of a new technical bench led by ex Tusker FC tactician Paul Nkata who is believed to have already drawn up a list of potential targets. There is an acceptance that the team was badly understaffed and two strikers, two central defenders, a midfield play maker and a left-back loom large on the Dockers' shopping list. Part of Nkata's job will be to persuade some of the better players to stay put.
Bernard Mwalala did well to get Nzoia promoted but the young tactician faces a harder job turning this squad into one that can survive in the KPL , the bulk of it consisting of players who have no KPL experience.
Retaining the core of his team would be a good start but strengthening the rest of the spine – central defence, central midfield and centre-forward – looks necessary.
The club keeps saying Gabriel Andika has a future at Stima but seems to suspect the goalkeeper might see his future elsewhere. They are said to be trailing Palos FC shot stopper Gad Mathews should Andika bolt out. Kenneth Muguna's days with the power men may also be coming to an end, with several admirers having expressed interest in luring the KPL 2016 MVP.
Omino likes the striker and is thought to be keeping tabs, along with much of the rest of the league teams.
Thika may have to replace much of the rearguard after the departure of Vincent Omumbo to Tusker and the imminent move of youthful defender Collins Omondi - a central defence partnership that excelled last season. They have parted ways with Martin Elungat and that would mean they will be looking for another keeper.
Striker Chibueze Onwudi is out injured and his return may be delayed hence a replacement is required to lead the line in the absence of the Nigerian. With Michael Luvutsi having been shown the door, another central midfielder will be a must buy.
Chemelil Sugar FC
The outgoing Francis Baraza did not exaggerate when he said Chemelil Sugar needed less than five new quality players to match the best in the league. This contingent could do with being pacy and, ideally, should include two central defenders, a full-back, a creative central midfielder, a winger and a striker. Much depends on the identity of the new manager but he has a good youthful squad to chose from.
Rangers' defence last season won them a top half slot on the team's return to the top flight and new head coach Sammy Omollo might have been aware of this-he will only need a replacement for Abdalla Shitu who is said to be on his way to AFC Leopards.
Omollo's major headache should be on his striking force, which fired blanks for the better part of the 2016 season. A player who can bang goals regularly for his team is all the mailmen need.
Salim Babu has had a season to assess the squad at his disposal and will now be allowed to make the changes he has always wanted. The team lost keeper Timothy Odhiambo and that's an area they will have to address while the manager has already admitted the side’s defence needs upgrading, with a centre-half and right-back targeted.
The task of scoring goals was left for Masoud Juma and with lots of uncertainty surrounding his future, Babu will need to act fast on that department.
The KPL newbies have hit the ground running with coach William Muluya raiding his former side Mathare United for players with KPL experience. Just as they were made aware in the nation's second football tier, the National Super League, the KPL won't be a walk in the park and the faster they get their men, the better for the team's bonding.
Wycliffe Ochomo’s 12 league goals last season ensured the striker was never going to miss on suitors once the transfer window was opened. The sugarbelt side will be losing a lot of players and many wonder how they will maneuver in the 2017 season.
They have new faces on the technical bench and just as Sofapaka, the entire team will need a massive overhaul if they are to compete.
The main priority is to find a new manager after the departure of coach David Ouma. Yet staying afloat by the skin of their teeth last season means they need to strengthen the squad. A serious overhaul is needed in the team, although they may find it too hard to convince good players to join their ranks.