Gor Mahia football is closing in on a third consecutive league title. At this point it shouldn’t matter whether they finish undefeated or not. More impressive has been the recommended trajectory the team has followed which, hopefully, realizes the ultimate fruition next year.
The club entrenched their foothold on the local scene, made a comeback at the regional level and now needs to make noise at the continental level. By virtue of being Kenyan champions, K’Ogalo will feature in the CAF Champions League 2016. More often than not Kenyan clubs have come to depend on the luck of the draw to have some ambition in Africa.
That is a testament of our failings. As an institution, Gor Mahia may not have clinched the Champions League but they have pedigree in the continent. The fabled campaign of 1987 the brightest of many memorable moments. Alongside Al Merreikh, Gor Mahia is the only other club in this region to have conquered African club football at any tier. This is the institutional pride the team will need to tag with them on-pitch next year.
Unfortunately, the recent campaigns have been disappointing and routine. This does not just reflect on Gor Mahia. Only Sofapaka have come close to that elite level with their Confederations Cup run in 2010. Even in this all-conquering year, Gor Mahia was unspectacular in Africa. After their win against CNaPS in Nairobi, they endured a hatrick of defeats and yet another early exit.
Next year Gor Mahia has to do better. Before we even know their opponents, likely North African after the preliminaries, there must be an introspection to find means of betterment. Coach Frank Nuttal has shown his tactical nous this year with the fullbacks and the intensity in his 4-4-2. His system has exposed Logarusic’s lament of KPL being “too slow” and “players not being used to tactical thinking” as Luc Eymael once said.
In Africa, with the diverse approaches and the experience possessed this will not be enough. We already saw in CECAFA how problematic the quality offered by Yanga (especially before the red card) and Azam had been. Nuttal was smart with the approach he chose at home to Leopards but this team has not been instilled with cautiousness in their game. They will have to stick with their approach but alter it to hide weaknesses.
The key weakness has been central attacking. Gor Mahia is very dominant with their direct style and their pendulating fullbacks who join the attack late; making them difficult to track. Yet as we saw against Yanga, wingers or wide forwards, who stay high either pin them back or munch on the space the overlaps afford them. The Gor Mahia wingers track back but they are also needed to tuck inside and overload the opponent’s area so Kagere and Olunga can maneuver between the channels. A lot of confusion thus ensues when the opponents are supreme in elaboration.
Unlike CECAFA, where the side got away with conceding in every other match, the aim in Africa is to keep tight as possible. To balance the need between the directness of 4-4-2 and it’s weakness in being out numbered in midfield plus a lack of central outlets for attacks the side has to consider a change. A fitting one is the 4-3-1-2 system.
It keeps the striking partnership, brings a central attacking midfielder, overloads the middle and still depends on fullbacks for width. I will delve on how the team would work with this system and a possible identity for the no.10 next.