There is a major scarcity of competitive football for Enyimba right now, and so we are unfortunately stuck re-living that disappointing defeat in Abidjan.
The reactions to that result have been all over the place, with some saying we did not deserve to lose, and others saying it should have been even worse. The truth, as they say is in-between: I don’t think Enyimba were as bad as some make out, but there was certainly a lot wrong with our play.
I, for one, was quite excited when I read the starting line-up and saw the captain of the side had been selected. However one feels about Mfon Udoh’s career trajectory, he is still one of the most naturally gifted players in the team, and will score goals when fit.
However, if there is one thing that has always bothered me, it is the manner in which he is utilized. By this time, we almost always expect our coach(es) to line up the team in a 4-4-2 shape. One wonders whether this is simply a matter of necessity, with the way the club stockpiles strikers. However, fielding two strikers as well as Mfon wide causes the team a lot of problems, and really does not play to his strengths.
If there is one thing I have observed from watching football over the years, it is that before a goal is conceded, there is often some sort of warning.
A smart manager sees this warning quickly and heeds it, making a slight adjustment, even if only for a while, in order to plug that hole.
The move that culminated in the opener for AC Williamsville had happened earlier in the half, but Dauda had pulled off a good save low at his near post. That was the signal to address the problem: we were not dealing well with late runs from midfield into the gaps in our defence.
This is where the formation comes in. Mfon is very much a forward, and you want him to remain up the pitch in case the ball is turned over, and not drop too far back. Combine that with two strikers upfront, and you are only defending with seven players.
With the Williamsville winger dragging our left-back Ikouwem Udoh very wide, space opened up between him and our centre-backs. That is the space that the hosts attacked through to score.
What is the solution then? Well, stop the obsession with 4-4-2. If you must play that, play Mfon Udoh as part of the front two, and then introduce someone who will track back, so you can have your most dangerous player upfront. As we saw, there is little point to having Chukwude and Mustapha upfront together.
Spilled milk, probably, but if we don’t learn anything from failure, then we are doomed to fail over and over.