Monday, August 14, 2017

Manchester United are champions already - to their fans

(Romelu the man - Getty Images)
Manchester United are champions already - to their fans, but there are 37 more matches to play, and they will not West Ham United every weekend.

There is a reason to believe they can go all the way. 

Except for Chelsea fans, everyone knows what Romelu Lukaku scores when he wants. 

Besides, coach Jose Mourinho is known to have a little horse, give it a little milk and it wins the race the next season. JM is not The Special One for nothing and you do not have to like him.

Nemanja Matic proved an asset all know he can be, touching the ball more than any player in the Man U 4-0  win over the Hammers.

The English Premier League season started with a scintillating Arsenal versus Leicester City, with seven marvelous goals and a reasonable pace of the game to match - a 4-3 win for the Gunners.

Amongst much exciting news around the new 2017/18 season, Wayne Rooney scored on his second Everton debut as the Toffees beat Stoke City 1-0, Lukaku scored a double, Matic won the man of the match in his Man U debut and his former club, Chelsea - the champions, lost their opener 3-2 against Burnley.

Disappointing as it may, Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool drew 3-3 in their first league match against Watford while Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City convincingly won 2-0 their matches over Newcastle United and Brighton and Hove Albion respectively.

As much as every fan feel their team has the capacity to lift the EPL in May 2018, Man U feel like it is done and dusted and what makes it a solid case is the fear the whole league fears after Paul Pogba also came to the party.

Marcus Rushford was something else and United looked solid and strolled after their third goal, but Manchester City seems to be playing the way the coach ever wanted. 

Arsenal looked a familiar 4th place contender, with the team playing as flat as ever, only different players. Arsene Wenger can be assured of the 'Wenger must go' campaigns very soon. 

Klopp will have a few headaches to nurse as the sting of his tactics have been blunt and seem to be easily neutralized by the English physicality of the game.

Mauricio Pochettino has the same young squad with pace and purpose. Whether they gained enough experience and can challenge for the title will have to depend on the form and fitness of Dele Alli and Harry Kane.

The Spurs advantage is the ability to turn on the style when needed but this is a new season, the fact that the Hurricane did not find the net on Day One is a psychological hump. 

Chelsea seems to be more rugged than fluent in their approach and much will depend on their flexibility as the going gets tough.

I wish I could say much about Leicester City, who kept a core of key players in the league but may lose Jaime Vardy soon, and West Ham who acquired some of the best and experienced footballers around.

May I say as much as I am seduced by Man U, their fans have to chill. Man City is the real deal. Chelsea will be back. Tottenham is still the team to beat.

There is a token challenge from Liverpool and Arsenal and nothing else. Lukaku will be a top scorer without a doubt.

We will unpack the league with a little detail next week.

Let me see if you agree with me that Wenger will fail dismally and finally get fired.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Highlanders: Bobby's Circuit Warm Up

Previously at some post, we detailed a Bobby Circuit warm up routine. Continuing from that, the over and under pattern would repeat itself until the leaders were in front and everyone was done.

The next exercise entailed the front pair sprinting 10 meters and then lay on their stomachs flat on the ground, heads towards each other but creating a 1- meter wide corridor, and the next two doing the same and laying about 2 meters further.

This allowed the whole crew to sprint at full stride over an array of flat bodies.Then the leading pair knelt on all fours, facing each other with about a meter space in between them.

The following pair hopped feet together over the human obstacles and kneeling on all fours, in the same manner, leaving enough space for one to hop over once without
hurting anyone. 

The routine went on until the leaders were in front and everyone had their turn. The benefits of this complete physical condition and cardiovascular and respiratory preparation, was harmony amongst players, as the exercise was such fun.

There would be enough recovery time after each bout of exercise. Pairs always enjoyed competing.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

How to set up an attack

Once the team building process has developed from the goalkeeper, defense organization and midfield preparation, the offensive part is pursued.
Before we engage the actual issues, it must be noted that the goalkeeper, centre back, central midfielder/anchor/destroyer and a good striker form the team spine.

whether you play with one, two or three strikers, you need to employ tactics in the team that will allow one extra fresh player to execute an attack when ball possession is regained.

In the case of a lone striker, think of his abilities. 

Can he play alone as a target man, that is, turning and running or dribbling towards the goal?

Or does he hold on to the ball, screen the defenders off the ball while waiting for support from attacking midfielders who must feed off him? 

Playing with two strikers requires assessing your style of play as a coach critically and other players involved in the attack. 

The two strikers may play square alongside each other or in tandem, one in front of the other. 

When pressing high, football intelligence is critical.

It is unwise to work hard to win the ball up high and when the ball is won, the team has no energy to use it

Attackers need to work antagonistically like pistons during defending high or pressing in the attacking third.

This means that if one attacker approaches the ball, the next one must withdraw a little
body language is key.

The player approaching the ball needs to move in a way to force play in a certain direction.
This gives the trailing player the ability to anticipate well and get a better chance to retrieve the ball.

Tactically, the team is in attack when they have possession of the ball. It means the goalkeeper may initiate many attacks in a match and the attacking tactics must start with him.

The ball distribution from him, that is the ability to accurately pass the ball to a teammate quickly is very critical

This is so, because the team attacking strongly to end the ball with the goalkeeper is out of balance defensively.

The quick and accurate ball release takes advantage of this instability as a counter-attack in initiated. This is the other crucial reason why a team must have a fresh attacker free, possibly along the centre line on the wings.

In attack, the pace is everything. Good offensive teams have quality players who think quicker and act faster.

The margins, in this case, may mean a difference between a good team and the champions. 

Happy coaching folks.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Highlanders; The Technical Advisor

(Bosso Tshilamoya)
I joined the Highlanders Football Club technical team as Technical Advisor in 2001, and, compared to my predecessors, I was too young and had had too much success too early, and the whole deal became disastrous.

Amongst many memorable times, one of my greatest moments at the Club was a match against local city rivals, Amazulu Football Club. We beat Usuthu at Luveve 4-2 coming from 0-2 at half time, in one of Bosso’s best ever games.

During my short stay at Bosso as the TA, we won two trophies after we beat Dynamos twice within weeks of each other. 

It was a Dairiboard Charity Cup at Barbourfields Stadium and the Independence Cup at the National Sports Stadium of Harare.

I am very proud of the achievements of the development program that produced Honour Gombami and Malala among others. During my stay, Mkhokheli Dube and Gilbert Banda were fast maturing and it is fulfilling to see where they are now.

Johannes Ngodzo played his worst football then because he was a Highlanders and then a Railstars player while I was the coach there before he joined Bosso again. He had refused my attempts to keep him with the Sporo men.

In reuniting with him at Tshilamoya, the feeling of guilt hindered his game despite my assurances and encouragement. He could only get his touch back in years to come. 

The upcoming team of that time had potential to move mountains like the famous Liverpool. I proposed that we form a Division 2 football then to afford the youngsters competitive football on a weekly basis. It sounded ridiculous then, to have two Highlanders teams registered in different leagues, according to the team manager, Ernest Sibanda Maphepha. I am glad the system is in operation now.

Working with Kenedy Ndebele, Liqhwa Gama and Isaac Mlilo under the leadership of Mangwana Tshuma was a rewarding experience. There was never a single moment that salaries were not paid on time.

Professionalism was at its best, but the technical team did not measure up to the standards in terms of following the plans and schedules. Everyone was paid their friendly matches appearance fees at the stadium. For international matches, the payment was in cash and 3 days before the travel dates.

That was efficiency at its best. The support given by Nhlanhla Bahlangene Dube and Onius Ndebele of Computon was encouraging. They assisted players with their personal needs in their personal capacities.

I had tremendous support and a great relationship with ‘abadala bempankeni’ (elders from the groove), the Board members. They were very encouraging and of course, humorous.

In a different world and at a different time I could have served Bosso in a telling way. I have a conviction that I could have won Africa Champions League with that team and management. I really do. With Captain Fantastic, Thulani Biya Ncube, the first player ever to captain the club team, Under 23 national team and the senior national at the same, the leadership on and off the field strengthened the personal playing attributes of everyone in the team and the dressing room.

I still harbor the ambitions to do so. Time will tell and that is a story for another day.

I have no regrets at all and I learned quite a lot very fast. There was no boring moment and the camping was always a comedy show. The spirit was very good and the unity amazing. Siza 'Nkinko' Khoza always kept everyone in stitches at camp. There were strong characters like Richard Dabuka Express Choruma, Blessing MaGuma Guma Gumiso, Charles Chief Chilufya.

Who can forget Eddie Dube, Melody Nkalakatha Wafawanaka, Gift Thebe Junior, Britto Gwere and Tapuwa Kapini amongst others?

Having a Brazilian mentality of periodisation and sticking to the book at all times, trying to influence a local process purely based on playing experience, was very uncomfortable with our own established set up. 

I compromised on my principles and began to see my appointment as a long-term strategy for the club. And how wrong I was. It lasted 6 months.

My perfectionist attitude did not help much and my high expectations of the Highlanders set-up was very unrealistic. More often than not, success gives the impression that there is progress, but for me success and progress are different, and I was looking forward to getting both simultaneously.

Highlanders won several titles and a few attempts in the African Champions’ League before my arrival at the club. I had watched the latest botched attempt against Cameroon’s Sable de Batiethat was played at the Barbourfields Stadium.

I watched with a lot of interest and analysed it as much as possible and passed my thoughts to the technical team. From that match, I knew it would not be easy to change the fortunes of the team overnight. Exactly 12 months later, I was appointed Technical Advisor and the story was the same. 

As before, this was a home-brewed disaster, many people crossing the bridge before we got to the river. There is no substitute for proper preparation.

The greed of taking the glory of leading the team to Canaan was the war between the technical department, which I was supposed to lead, and the Executive Committee led by late Retired Colonel James Mangwana Tshuma.

The two of us led our camps that had underlying currents, as both our second-in-command did not tango well with each other. In the technical team, the problem was magnified by the fact that Rush needed to take my advice, but he was solely responsible for the team performance and results and had the final say. He made it clear I understood that.

I had acquired a high-level Advanced Diploma in Brazilian Football, of which Professors Carlos Alberto Pereira and Julio Cesar Leal were some of the lecturers. It is not an Advanced Diploma for nothing, and it is not a chance that the Brazilians have won the FIFA World Cup a record six times, and every other football competition in this world.

Other prominent lecturers in that course included Professors Neto Esphezim, Paipfer Lula, Alberto Lancetta and Sebastiao Araujo who wrote many books and played alongside Pele and Mario Zagallo in the 1958 FIFA World Cup.

I really enjoyed a great deal in all the road shows, and the full stadia everywhere we played. I had influence and leadership at promoting Railstars Football Club from the Division One with Barry Daka in 1997 and those moments brought so much joy and satisfaction. 

In between, I formed a Division Two football academy KFA after purchasing Joseph James' Thorngrove status. In 38 matches, we scored over 100 goals and amassed over 100 points but Olivine won the promotion. That Academy produced Farai Zidane Mujokoro.

At the end of my tenure, I was physically and mentally drained and Delma Lupepe asked to assist Jerry Mafripa (MHSRIP) but I could not take up the offer. Lupepe always wanted me to work with Charles Mhlauri at Amazulu before I joined Bosso, but his management team did not play ball and I do not regret I chose Mantengwane.

Do people still sing Mantengwane?