By Endale Mitiku Adere
They say football is subject to technique, tactic, physical fitness and fighting spirit. Though the factors aren’t limited to these, they can be the significant ones. In the aforementioned clinchers, players and managers have their own share. When the discussion is at a national team level, technical skill is almost fully left to the players, tactic to the manager, physical fitness and fighting spirit for both parties.
Having said that, when we analyze Ethiopia’s defeat by Algeria on Saturday, where the performance of the Ethiopia’s team has dipped significantly, technical issues will not be the point of argument as the team lined up with almost all players who have been successful in the last three years. Technique is an inborn skill that players develop through time. As players play more, they become technically better in my opinion. Thus, the current manager has better players than his predecessor. This is due to the fact that the players have developed their skill as time goes by and there are also additions to the already established squad. One may argue that the two central backs of the team, who are new, are less skillful and inexperienced. It may seem trivial to spot a single area as the dip in performance is general and all inclusive.
When we come to the tactical aspect which includes players’ selection, where the manager is responsible in designing and players implementation, huge question can be raised. The first issue is that the manager preferred a playing style that many previous foreign managers tried to implement i.e. sending long searching balls from the back to the front players. His tactic is a bit different from his predecessor non-Ethiopian managers by the fact that he favored stocking many strikers up front. The formation he used is 4-3-3. The three forwards were forced to fight against the big Algerian center-backs for the long searching balls who end up in an easy clearance by the defenders. This makes the team very predictable and easy to defend.
The three in the midfield, namely Adane, Tadelle and Natnael in the first half and Shimeles who changed his place from the wide to the midfield, were wondering around as they couldn’t get the balls from the defenders. Shimeles, who rarely got the ball from his, tried to link up the play. However, he was outmuscled by the Algerian midfielders and the danger he could have posed was easily handled by them. Adane played below his ability. Natnael, the young lad who was upgraded from the youth team has demonstrated his appetite for the game despite his lack of experience. Tadele’s below par performance forced the manager to substitute him. In general, we didn’t see any built up play – a flowing playing style which has been our trademark under any of the previous coaches.
First and foremost, playing with a 4-3-3 formation without having a strong defensive line will only help opponents to attack you when your team loses the ball up front and that was the case in the match. The defenders sent long balls to the strikers only to be cleared by the Algerian defenders, who passed the balls to their midfielders. The midfielders knew that they couldn’t play with high tempo for the full 90 minutes due to the altitude thus they made square passes and attacked occasionally.
Secondly, in this formation two of our strikers were expected to fall back and thwart Algeria’s attacking play but that was not the case in this match. Neither Shimeles and Oumed in the first half or Getaneh and Oumed in the second half, were doing that successfully. This is due to the fact that none of these players play as wide flank attackers at their clubs but they were put I those positions. Secondly, as the gap between them and the defense line was very wide as mentioned above, it was very difficult for them to ran back and forth for the full match. When Sewnet was in charge, he tried to solve this deficiency by using Birhanu and Minyahel in the flanks at times.
When moving to physical fitness, this team has been the luckiest of all the national teams we had over the past four decades, because they had lots of preparation time and resources. They were preparing in Brazil for a month by even making friendly matches there, and furthermore, they went to Angola for a friendly match. The purpose of these preparation matches was to make the players sharp and fit and coordinate their play. However, that didn’t happen rather we saw them failing to compete in terms of fitness. How we apply a physical fitness system that is applicable to Ethiopian players has been been a matter of debate in Ethiopian football for more than three decades. One may remember the live debate between Genene Mekuria “Libero” and Sewnet Bishaw on the radio. Though the debate ended up in dismay, it could have been a starting stage for reigniting the issue which seemed buried since the closure of Genene’s newspaper and Kassaye Arage’s departure to the USA.
Looking into the issue of fighting spirit, there was lesser motivation and determination in the team than we saw in the last couple of years. Some managers are known for their motivational skill, others are prefect in designing a tactic for matches. Jose Mourinho, whose name has been mentioned by Mariano Baretto several times, for instance is well known for building a team with high fighting spirit. Sewnet is also a manager who has that ability, and players were very committed during his time.
In general, what we saw on Saturday is unacceptable. The team’s performance has regressed from the recent past. Though it may be hard to make conclusion from a single match one may say foreign managers almost always fail to understand our players and our playing style. I support those who believe that in football we have unique feature comparing to other African nations, which stems from our physical size. What we need is someone from wherever he is who can help us to excel based on our identity. That is the one and the only means for success for our team !
* The views and opinions are that of the author – Endale Mitiku Adere –
The Author: Endale lives in Norway, where he attends the University of Oslo. He has been following football (soccer) for the last two decades. He is a supporter of the Ethiopian Walia Ibex and AC Milan (Italy)and Barcelona (Spain). Interested parties can follow him on his twitter account: @nohaminendale.
Photos Credit: Fédération Algérienne de Football (FAF)
Source Article from http://www.ethiosports.com/2014/09/08/when-the-incumbent-messed-it-all/