Square pegs in round holes. Lacking basic fundamentals. Non-existent defending from set-pieces. Chronic misunderstanding of how to defend counter attacks. No passion or drive.
A player blame culture fostered over Hearts’ defeat to AS Real Bamako last weekend in the first leg of the CAF Confederation Cup tie. The Phobians lost 3-0 and find themselves in a very difficult position to advance to the next stage of the competition.
It is not impossible, though. The Phobians have the wherewithal to turn things around as was the case in the famous Miracle of Elwak.
So here are four things the Phobians must do to get the results they are after as the second leg schedule for today, 16th October, 2022 at Accra Sports Stadium.
Tighten the defence
Hearts’ defence had been an issue before David Johnson Ocloo came in, and has remained an issue even during his first competitive game. A title-winning side will always have a strong defensive unit to build on. Right now, Hearts at the back seem average at best and bad at worse. Aside from tweaking the tactical set up just a bit.
Conceding an early goal will force the Phobians to open up in the game far too early, so a clean sheet after 45 minutes will be most welcome in a tough home fixture, allowing them to grow into their passing style in a gradual but effective manner.
Work Without the Ball
An attacking trident of Junior Kaaba, Daniel Afriyie Barnie and Kwadwo Obeng Jnr is what had Hearts fans purring before the season started. However, for all their forward prowess, defending starts from the top. And they aren’t pulling their weight.
Without the ball, Hearts are appalling. The stats back it up, but any casual onlooker can see it clear as day. When the opposition get possession, their route to Eric Ofori Antwi is frighteningly simple. Sides cut through Hearts like a hot knife through butter. This is a combination of many things, but it starts from the attackers.
The front three allow too much time for opposing defences to pick passes, which is fine if you’re adopting a medium-pressing approach and you cut off the backline’s passing lanes. But in doing so they leave the midfield – who themselves need drastic coaching in positioning – far too exposed and they never know whether to stick or twist.
That leaves the holding midfielder with a men running at him, and the whole side find themselves defending with their fronts to goal far too often. When you give defenders who are rubbish at the best of times a situation like that to deal with, then you’re only shooting yourself in the foot.
Have Faith in Junior Kaaba
Hearts new striker had the chance to feature up top in the first leg, and despite having a quiet afternoon in Mali, the Cameroonian has shown glimpses of what an important figure he can be if given time to adapt.
After his first taste of CAF Confederation Cup action, it was clear that Junior Kaaba is not used to such a compact and deep laying defensive opposition, giving him little room to run in behind or get on the ball. However, his ability to provide neat lay-offs for his teammates, as well as his natural pace with the ball at feet was evident in brief glimpses, which will develop over time.
On Sunday afternoon, he will be granted a lot more time and space in what could be an open and attacking game, and should be given the chance to start. He needs minutes in his new side, and his instinctive finishing ability could be the difference against the Malians.
Provide Movement in Midfield
Should the Phobians want to make a bright start in the return fixture, then the movement and creativity of the midfield base will be key in unlocking space behind an aggressive Real Bamako side. Eric Esso has shown since his arrival that he has the ability to slice through compact midfields with his eagerness to find space and pick out his teammates in pockets in front of the back four, while his defensive commitment is noteworthy. Sadly, he is not available for this clash.
Caleb Amankwah, paired alongside the mobile Gladson Awako, Hearts could seriously challenge the compact Real Bamako midfield with interchanging movements and the threat of driving forward with the ball, leaving the Malians with a tough job to tie down and control such a dynamic midfield duo.
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Source: Kick GH
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