Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1178, (2 - 8 January 2014)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1178, (2 - 8 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Without the shooting star

Following Abu Treika’s retirement, Ahli has to move fast in the transfer period. But there are tactical problems that the club must address. Ahmed Hamdi analyses what the squad now needs

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Since Mohamed Abu Treika put on the red shirt of Ahli in 2004 it was obvious he had that something special about him. Abu Treika’s vision, passing abilities, positioning and sharpness on goal made him a standout superstar. It was clear that Ahli relied on him throughout his career with the club to make the difference either with an accurate pass or by scoring decisive goals himself.
Abu Treika was substituted for the last time in his career due to an injury in the loss against the Chinese Guangzhou in the second half of the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup earlier last month. Without Abu Treika, Ahli was trashed by Monterrey of Mexico 5-1 in their second match in the tournament.
Monterrey’s match highlighted a problem that Ahli will face from now and until another player can fill Abu Treika’s position. Mohamed Youssef, Ahli’s coach, said that he could not yet find the player who could fill Abu Treika’s shoes. In fact Abu Treika’s value to the team led Youssef to say that he might have to change his tactics and style of play after Abu Treika’s retirement.
Ahli depends on its wings and left and right backs to create chances. The team would play wide and depend on crosses. The problem with this tactic is that the team does not have the header who can turn these crosses into the net. With Ahmed Abdel-Zaher loaned and Emad Metaeb injured and since Al-Sayed Hamdi’s heading abilities are not of quality and youngster Amr Gamal is yet to be evaluated, most of Ahli’s crosses will be of no use.
 That problem though could be solved with the possible return of Gedo from his loan to Hull City and the new transfer in Enppi’s former striker Ahmed Raouf. There is no doubt about Gedo’s finishing ability either using his head or both his feet but for him to score the ball has to reach him in the first place. Against an opposition with strong side backs who could stop Ahli’s wings from sending in crosses inside the box or strong and tall full backs, Ahli would be totally out of service.
That was illustrated in the second half against Guangzhou after Abu Treika’s substitution. In that half Ahli played geometrically in straight lines from left to right and from right to left crossing the ball from this side to that with no real chance creation. A lack of creativity was very clear. The result was a 2-0 loss.
To solve the problem Ahli would have to depend mostly on its side backs to send the crosses.  Reversing the position and roles of the wings Abdullah Al-Said and Walid Suleiman, sending Al-Said to the left and Suleiman to the right would be important. The two wings have speed, ball control and good shooting skills so their role must be changed from sending in crosses to penetrating the opposition’s defence horizontally from the sides in to the box and shooting. That would be another solution for the team in the 4-2-3-1 formation.
In this kind of formation, the playmaker has to be a player with vision and excellent passing skills. The speed of his passes also is very decisive. So having a playmaker who holds on to the ball for a long time is not favourable. However, Ahli lacks the classic number 10 playmaker kind of player. To get over this tactical problem, Ahli could play with a defender midfielder who has the accurate long passes that qualifies him to play the playmaker role as well. Xabi Alonso of Real Madrid is a perfect example of such a player. Hossam Ghali, former Ahli player and currently of Lierse S.K, is a local example too.
The problem again is that Ahli does not have that kind of player as well. The absence of a player of that kind was not visible while Treika carried all the playmaking duties on his back. But with him gone Youssef finds himself in trouble having a squad that does not really provide much flexibility in formation. Although Treika’s position is now vacant, Youssef might want to focus on bringing in to the team a midfielder with playmaking abilities rather than a classic playmaker. Playing down in midfield would give the player more space to send in creative passes than playing right behind the striker since most teams usually defend against the red giant. Also his position would give him better vision of his teammates’ movements.
Ahli’s problems might not show much against weaker sides in the Egyptian League. However, Youssef would have to move fast in the next transfer period to fill in the gaps in his squad before the African Champions League. The Egyptian coach has to forget about buying more strikers and find that one player who can work with the strikers he already has. It does not matter how many strikers a team has if the ball does not reach them.


The writer is a freelance journalist.

 

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