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Oliseh: How ‘Africa’s Guardiola’ can truly earn the name

By Nelson Dafe on 28/07/2015

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Now that Sunday Oliseh has assumed duties as Technical Adviser of the Super Eagles, the job to build a formidable national team is or should be well and truly underway. Tasked with revamping the development of footballers across the various cadres of Nigeria football for international assignments, Oliseh has his job cut out. But it is his immediate impacts on the playing style and winning ratio of the Super Eagles on which most eyes would be focused for now.

Nigeria Football Federation chairman Pinnick Amaju gleefully referred to Sunday Oliseh as 'Africa's Guardiola’. To justify this tag, the fair-skinned coach would have to create, through his coaching, a system that would mirror that of the widely acclaimed best coach in the world.

So what kind of tactical approach in games do we expect to mostly see from our ‘African Guardiola’? What kind of playing formation do we expect him to adopt for Nigeria's senior national team? The answer, to be honest, is difficult since, as it has been widely noted, little has been gleaned from his coaching methods in the past by most Nigerians. There are no extensive analytical materials on his favored playing style from his days as a coach in Belgium to just before he was appointed Eagles coach.

One of the main reasons why Nigerian football lovers fell out of love with Stephen Keshi, Oliseh’s predecessor, was because of how boringly his Super Eagles mostly played, especially against opponents that the fans expected the team to be dominant against. Watching teams like Sudan, South Africa, Ethiopia etc running Nigeria’s Super Eagles ragged was a painful experience. It is hoped that Oliseh and his Dutch assistant would come up with exhilarating stuff that would make that a more forgettable period.

The Eagles would need to practice and master that quick, short passing style that is the hallmark of the best entertaining teams. Patient build up play must be mixed with clear messages on players movement patterns to receive passes and free up space for others.

All too often in the recent past, the Eagles have been guilty of lethargic displays mixed with a painful lack of compactness when without the ball, as evidenced in games away against Sudan and home vs South Africa in the last failed nations cup campaign. Part of tactical strategies would be to know how and when to press in tackles, using the Guardiola six-second rule within which to regain possession as a guide.

All this would surely involve the technical crew mapping out clear strategies of on and off the ball movements, emphasising which zones of the pitch to press at particular times and which to cede and how to strangulate opponents from circulating the ball.

Mastering these ideas and translating them to his players would test Oliseh's communication skills to the limit. But sincere research into these methods from sources as close as YouTube videos to speaking with some of these experienced tiki-taka masters will help.

Though Oliseh has tried to tame expectations by declaring he is not a messiah to turn Nigeria into world champions overnight, he has nonetheless set out to put a stamp on how he hopes to dramatically raise the playing standards of the Eagles. He has declared that henceforth no player playing outside the top leagues in the major football countries of the world and in the Nigerian league would find a way into his team.

As far as building a team goes, the devil is usually in the details. Usually, a new coach is faced with two options – fashion out a formation based on the available top quality players at the moment, or allowing a preconceived idea of (a) preferred tactical formation(s) to guide the selection of players. Oliseh’s criteria on players invitation (by stating that only players playing in the top division of their leagues would be called up) suggests that he leans more toward the former, and this offers some clue as to how he wants to shape his team. i.e. get the players who are playing in big top clubs  of their countries and work out a playing style based on their characteristics.

For Oliseh to be a success, he must find a way of assimilating both options in getting his team to function as a cohesive unit.

Quite rightly, some have questioned this criterion. The fact is that some first divisions of some countries are not as competitive as the lower divisions of some other countries. So, limiting invitations strictly to players of top divisions of countries regardless of the competitive nature of their league, and paying no thorough focus on their playing positions, wouldn't be the right way to go.

There’s much more to football than winning or losing sometimes. Siasia’s Under-23 Dream Team didn’t get a convincing result against Congo in their Olympics qualifiers match an Port Harcourt, but the fans were generally pleased by the application of the boys and their cohesive team work. Fingers crossed, Africa’s Guardiola will truly earn the lofty sobriquet.

•Dafe is Benin City Correspondent of News Express. Photo shows Sunday Oliseh.

Source News Express

Posted 28/07/2015 2:29:09 PM

 

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