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Accra Hearts of Oak are defending Ghana Premier League champions

Ghana Premier League

Feature: What is happening to Accra Hearts of Oak?

The Phobians had been one of the Premier League’s most enjoyable sides to watch last season as they clinched the title.

Samuel Boadu had his side playing some fast, exciting, attacking (and, of course, honest) football, and it was bringing results and entertainment in equal measure.

Since then, however, Hearts have had some serious problems in recreating the magic formula and writing that much-anticipated title defence charge.

The Phobians peaked very soon. After enjoying such a magnificent feat last term, teams have started to figure them out. Hearts’ unpredictability has gone. In the domestic league, they are winless in four games… they have drawn Legon Cities, WAFA and Aduana Stars and lost to Ashantigold. In Africa, they got pummeled by Wydad Athletic Club and JS Saoura. They were performances lacking a spark and an energy.

The distrust and suspicion around the team and their coach has continued to grow, and the number of doubters who believe their coach has lost his way is multiplying. And on Sunday evening, it all came to a head with an unacceptable and extremely concerning 4-0 defeat to JS Saoura.

The zip and intensity is draining away, with their confidence following. This is not Samuel Boadu’s side that captivated the neutral at the start of the season. There are shades of the unimaginative outfit assembled by Kosta Papic.

In the second half of last season, when the Phobians were in an irresistible run of form, you would probably only have considered exchanging their forward line for the Liverpool front three. They were that unstoppable. All of a sudden, this team looked painfully outdated.

Humiliated, battered and bruised, Boadu’s job may well be on the line. There is a massive decision to be made.

But how has it gone so wrong, and how much of it is their manager’s doing?

Games especially continental games are won with a strong defence, and match-winning ability in attack. In Kofi Kordzi, Daniel Afriyie Barnie and Isaac Mensah, Hearts have that quality to steamroller teams on their day. But it’s not enough.

Boadu’s problem arrives behind that attacking trio, as he struggles to adapt to the ever-changing demands of football, which is becoming a hazy reflection of the domestic game.

The midfield requires so much athleticism and speed across the ground, and with Frederick Ansah Botchway and Salim Adams at the core, opponents know that hard running and physicality in the middle can disrupt Hearts’ pretty passing game.

The lack of balance is leaving the defence horribly exposed, and the quality of the individuals at the back simply is not sufficient enough to keep the top teams at bay anymore. The whole identity of this squad has vanished.

Not a high-pressing team, nor a succinct counter-attacking side, nor an effective, penetrative attacking unit – they’re unrecognisable. Now caught in no-man’s land, Boadu seems unsure whether to push forward and risk stepping on another landmine, or retreat and hope for the best.

The idea of ‘going for it’ in order to utilise the depth of attacking talent at his disposal might be enough to give Boadu a waking nightmare. It might also be a largely flawed, rudimentary ideology, resulting in their already shaky defensive record – plunging further.

In order to get back to the promise we saw in his early days at Hearts, however, it may be the only option left.

Aside from the tactics, there has clearly been a huge breakdown and division behind the scenes. Boadu is reportedly fallen out with the Hearts hierarchy over a number of issues, the Hearts manager has also hung some old favourites out to dry.

It is time for the upper echelons of the club to strategically get the club back to winning ways and bring smiles back to the faces of their followers if they still harbou Ir thoughts of defending their title. Hope is not lost but surely diminishing.

Credit: Kickgh

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