It is indeed the biggest job he has ever landed in his coaching career but he is yet to convince Ghanaians of his ability to man the Black Stars dugout.
CK Akonnor: The Black Stars’ problem is a coaching problem [Pulse Contributor’s Opinion]
Charles Kwabla Akonnor is currently 20 months into being in charge of the senior national team of Ghana, the Black Stars.
Akonnor, formerly of Ghana Premier League giants Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak, replaced an under-fire Kwesi Appiah, a man whom he was an assistant to, a few months before his appointment.
His era came in a period where the Black Stars were struggling as the country failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and then got knocked out of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations at the round of 16 stage by Tunisia via penalty shootout.
The Black Stars could no longer compete with its peers on the continent and needed a quick fix. A fix that could bring stability. In came C.K Akonnor, a former captain of the national team.
A man who at the time many agreed understood the national team better. Above everything, a man who has been on a crusade of playing “agro-ball”, a progressive style of football likened to “tiki taka”.
His target was to ensure the Black Stars qualify for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and also qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The former so far has been achieved; the latter not so much after the latest defeat to South Africa.
Truth is Akonnor’s appointment was hugely political, as the current officials of the Ghana Football Association led by the President Kurt Okraku did not trust that he was the best man to bring the Black Stars back its glory days. The government, however, insisted on the appointment of a local coach.
The best local coach close to the job was the current head coach who had won the Normalization Special Competition in 2019 with Kotoko before becoming an assistant coach of the Black Stars.
The thought behind the insistence on appointing a local coach was argued on the premise that, of the four times Ghana has won the AFCON, it was a local coach that led the team (Charles Kumi Gyamfi – 1963, 1965 and 1982) and Fred Osam-Dodou in 1978).
However after 20 months of Ghanaians rendered to watch the Black Stars with the hope of not conceding against other opponents, there is a wailing cry for a new head coach.
Twenty months of laborious football under Akonnor
Ask C.K Akonnor if it ever crossed his mind that his team will be this laborious and depend most of the time on luck in his first twenty months as head coach of Black Stars and he will probably shout “hell no”. But that is currently happening under his tutelage and most often finds himself clueless.
It all begun in his first game in charge of the team against Mali in a friendly match. A match that drew a lot of criticism at Akonnor after a horrible 3-0 defeat. It wasn’t just the results that looked bad, but the Black Stars were dominated by the Malians in every aspect of the game. A cause for worry begun but was quickly sent to the back burner as the team responded with a 5-0 win against Qatar. It was only Qatar but what we saw was progress and there was a sign of relief as Ghanaians wouldn’t have entertained another laborious to Qatar.
We assumed this was the moment all was waiting for. An emphatic win at that as Ghanaians early awaited the new Black Stars. To see the team play the agroball but it was short-lived.
Dede Ayew’s brace against Sudan which gave Ghana three points in the AFCON qualifiers was well celebrated in Ghana only for the Black Stars reset to its lackluster in the reverse fixture which saw Ghana create nothing at the opponents goal and conceded late in the game.
The defeat was the first Black Stars defeat against South Africa for the first time since 2001.
In the Stars’ recent outing against South Africa in the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers, they failed to create a goal scoring opportunity and pressed to the back by the Bafana Bafana, and conceded late in the game.
In twenty months, Akonnor has supervised 10 games with a winning rate of 40 percent with the team yet to find its identity. That I call a team with identity crises. The possession based team he looks at building as turned into a team that relies on “hope”. The team has lost four of the games with two draws.
They have played just five shots on targets in the last four games of which Ghana recorded their first win in the World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia courtesy a long range effort by Mubarak Wakaso.
The Black Stars Problem is a coaching problem and not lack of player quality
There is been an ongoing argument in wake of these results suggesting there is a lack of quality players. This I find hilarious to say the least. There is quality and in abundance.
All you need, is to have a coach who will either use the players he has at his disposal to their strengths or call up players who can suit his style of play. I dare say coaching is everything.
This why I say, prior to the recent game against Ethiopia at the Cape Coast Stadium where Ghana labored for a narrow win, it was evident that the team lacked goals and to win games, you need to score.
How do you this? Play the players you have to their strengths and not weakness (this is basic knowledge).
A typical player like Kamaldeen Suleman who is known to left winger was deployed as a right winger and Jordan Ayew drifted from been a centre forward to the left wing, Dede Ayew moved from the number 10 position to the centre forward position.
If that is not due to lack of coaching then I don’t know!!!
Let’s talk about the double pivot he always opts for
C.K Akonnor increasingly opts for a double pivot in games to protect his back four. He mostly shuffles his double pivot between Wakaso, Partey (when available), Baba Iddrisu, Emmanuel Lomotey and Afriyie Acquah.
That is the best thing to do when you want to prevent your team from conceding. However with these players, the only player who is very good at ball progression is Thomas Partey and just we have realized recently, if he is out with injury, we find it difficult progressing the ball from the midfield and tends affect the team greatly.
To solve this problem which he has brought upon himself is pretty much simple, call in players with the ability to progress the ball if Partey is not available.
There is Alfred Duncan who is very much capable of doing that.
The Wakaso Problem
I think it is about time we talk about Wakaso and how we can use him because it is un-denying that he wears his heart on his sleeves when playing for the Black Stars.
Can we have him start from the bench going forward depending on the opponents? Don’t get me wrong here, he is good destroyer when used right but he is equally a deficiency in the team.
His ability to stay in-disciplined (not entering into teammates zone) as the game wears on is very problematic.
His on-ball decision making begets the thought of sitting him out in games. We know he loves spraying the ball across the field to find his teammates but nine out of ten times, he miscalculates and gifts the opponent’s possession of the ball or the ball finds no one.
After everything is said and done, there is only one constant thing in life and that is change. Change is good and the executive council of the Ghana Football Association must accept the change the Black Stars is crying out for by sacking C.K Akonnor before it is too late.
By Fidel Deke
Pulse Contributors is an initiative to highlight diverse journalistic voices. Pulse Contributors do not represent the company Pulse and contribute on their own behalf.
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