Ze Maria in a past match. The tactician reluctance to change tactics seems to be derailing his teams progress
Of Ze Maria and the obsession with formation
By Zachary Oguda | Wed 03 May, 2017 14:40
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When the January 2017 window was a wrap, it was evident that Gor Mahia's roster was filled with expensive and impressive talent, and this got fans ecstatic. Finally they were having a team, whose array of players were going to challenge from all fronts. 

First forward to eight weeks of league action but not a lot has changed with the latest hullabaloo revolving around the Club's head coach Marcello Ze Maria who a section of the Club's fans has branded a tourist. But what has gone wrong (right) for the ex Inter Milan defender and how can he arrest the Club's dip in form now that a tie against arch rivals AFC Leopards is next on his roster? 

Changing Football 

Football never stops changing and Ze Maria should be aware of this. Tactics are constantly being killed (to suit the type of players at your disposal) and then resuscitated. And teams are always chasing the latest trend. Every other serious manager tinkers with his formation every now and then. To be a long-term success, a manager has to keep adjusting to such an unstable, progressive environmen and if he doesn’t, he’ll fall behind, and Ze Maria should be careful of being the latter. 

When the Brazilian first arrived at Gor, he favoured a back four (with Abouba Sibonana preferred over a young Eric Ouma) until he realized teams weren't embracing a back three, a tactic he saw had an impact on his first try in the latter stages of their scoreless draw against Ushuru (a match remembered for Shaban Odhoji's penalty save against Jacob Keli). 

Eric Ouma entrance 

Ken Kenyatta had matched the Brazilian formation for the entire afternoon until Eric Ouma was thrown in to compliment his fellow at the right wing back Karim Nizigiyamana.It was a formation that he has stuck with since then but the problem is, many, if not all coaches, have devised plans to counter his formation and it seems he doesn't have an alternative plan to back his plan A. 

This season they have lost against Western Stima who are struggling so much in the league and a Mathare United team whose bereft of a head coach and fielded a young team in the tie.The loss of Ouma to Georgia was a big blow but when you look at Godfrey Walusimbi You See a perfect replacement. 

Collins Okoth effect

Nizigiyamana is still at his devasting best as a right wing back but Ze Maria's formation exposes his three defenders more so if you field a defensive midfielder who can't run his socks off: a Collins Okoth type. They look vulnerable at the back (already shipping six goals, the same number as ninth placed Bandari and are struggling to score too. 

Ze Maria’s arrival in Kenya signaled the beginning of the end for a number of managers who couldn’t adapt to his attacking game. A big feature of his first months had been the team’s shift from a man-marking defensive scheme under Frank Nuttal to more of a zonal focus. While Nuttal's holding midfielder would hold their man tightly when out of possession, Ze Maria required his to stick to their positions and maintain a more stable shape, less reactive to opposition movement.

Tactical benefits 

In theory, this can have a number of benefits: the midfielder is not as susceptible to off-the-ball movement and is not isolated individually and can offer more cover to teammates but this, as earlier mentioned hasn’t worked, teams already know what to expect. Shut their wing backs and prevent their holding midfielder from orchestrating moves. It worked for Stima and Mathare and it will work for teams. 

When opponents have possession of the ball, Gor are often too passive in applying pressure from their defensive block. With the 3-5-2 formation, while having more numbers on defence when an opposition is attacking, a degree of pressure is still required to stop the opposition from making a key pass. 

Pressure on opposition defence 

Without the challenge of an immediate defender, it’s so much easier for the on-ball attacker to split open the defense. If your midfielders are stopped from making that decisive pass, strikers are forced to come back to get the ball then the pressure on the opponent’s defensive line becomes almost nonexistent. Although Gor have extra numbers to bring the ball forward, they then have fewer options to advance the ball to. 

Furthermore, it’s a misuse of someone like Tuyisenge's abilities he’s a perfect target for direct passes and a phenomenal finisher in the penalty area. 

Fine Gor Mahia 

Whatever the situation, one feels that Gor Mahia will just be fine. They are one of the best teams in the league and no matter who is in charge of the boys, everyone expects them to be always on to. They’re performing just well and are second on the. 

The squad is talented and filled with potential but that’s the issue: You don’t just lure the best players in the region and hire a Brazilian to be just fine.

Zachary Oguda

Twitter: @zaxoguda

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