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Why Otto Addo deserves another crack at Black Stars job

So let me point out some insights on Otto Addo’s potential as a coach which you probably have no idea. I know for sure they’re not going to give him the job anyway but I believe he’ll come back some day in the future when he’s become an ‘already made’ – that’s what we like.

He was first given the role after the disastrous Afcon 2021 in January 2022 and the immediate assignment was to hurriedly put a team together to snatch a ticket away from bitter rivals, Nigeria who by then had one of the fiercest attacks on the continent.

He was officially announced by the Ghana FA on 9 February, with the first of two legs against the Super Eagles fixed for 25 March.

And unlike club football you don’t have your full team to train with until about a week before the game. This time it was even 4 days because the game was on a Thursday. Remember after the poor Afcon show in Cameroon, the team became disjointed, meaning he was starting from the scratch.

So what did he do? He needed to identify our weaknesses and try to fix them as quickly as possible. I remember he gave Denis Odoi a call-up for the first time after realising Andy Yiadom was one of the weakest links in the team. He also called Felix Afena Gyan. On the day, these new guys proved why he called them.

So what was the game plan for the first leg in Kumasi? Coach Otto Addo asked the boys to attack when they had to but be compact at the back. And to everyone’s surprise, we dominated and had the best chances on the day. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the desired result.

A week later in Abuja for the final leg, the whole world thought Nigeria were going to beat us considering their attack and the home advantage.

Again, what was the game plan? It was clear we needed to score a goal at all cost and find a resolute and compact defensive balance. Meanwhile we were not scoring so how do we get that all important goal?

Otto Addo realised that one of our surest source of goals is Thomas Partey so instead of playing him deep in front of the defence, he moved the Arsenal star a bit forward than his usual defensive position. The idea was to score early and contain the Nigerians defensively later in the game. So from the first whistle Partey joined the attack and when the chance came, he scored a typical Thomas Partey goal to give Ghana the lead.

Unfortunately we were pegged back but courtesy the away goal rule we were still leading, however our game plan needn’t change. It was time to manage the game and defend so well. In the second half, the Nigerians threw everything at us in quest to get their second goal, but Otto and the boys stuck to the game plan.

20 minutes into the second half, he had to change tactics looking at the incessant attacks from the Nigerians. Have you seen Ghana play 5 back before? Yes that’s what Otto Addo did in the game.

Before this, he had the usual 4 back because he needed to attack and score an early goal which we did. The 4 defenders who started the game were Amartey, Djiku, Odoi and Gideon Mensah.

In changing the tactics, he took off Afena Gyan and brought in Yiadom. Bringing on Yiadom meant we now had two right backs so he shifted the more experienced Odoi to the left and Mensah more centrally but having an eye and support for the left side

With these little details, we managed the game and despite the late scare from the Nigerians, we run away with the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification ticket.

Later in an Afcon qualifier against Madagascar, he played Gideon Mensah as a center half and gave the tactical explanation that he likes to use a left-footed centreback because of the way he wants certain passes through to the midfielders. That’s the reason he stuck with Mo Salisu immediately.

At the World Cup, Otto Addo again displayed his huge technical potential.

We sent 5 notable full backs to the tournament. Gideon, Baba, Odoi, Tariq, and Alidu. People didn’t quite understand how he intended to use them. As to whether it worked or not is a discussion for another day. But if you ask me, I will say it worked. The Black Stars’ group stage elimination doesn’t mean it didn’t work. We probably were up against superior opposition.

Now let’s look at the style of play of the five and how Otto Addo used them.

Gideon is the least combative and the physically weakest among them. He’s very poor in one one-on-one tackling. He hardly wins tackles against tricky wingers. His strength is his ball-playing ability and and exchange of quick passes. He is more offensive-minded and thrives in a ball-possession team.

Baba Rahman is a more combat left back with good timing. He’s very good in one-on-one battles. He also performs effectively on the offensive. He has the power and technique to put in a cross from the halfway line. His weaknesses include poor timing of his crosses sometimes. He has lost his pace in recent times because of a series of injuries. This has reduced his pace and tackling for now.

Alidu is an energetic and combative full back who can also play as a center back. He is disciplined when it comes to playing according to instructions. He’s not offensive minded like the others. He lacks pace.

Denis Odoi is the most experienced of them all. He has great timing and reads the game very well. But he’s not combative and not too pacy.

Tariq Lamptey on the other hand is a high flyer, a bombarding and marauding right back. He’s pacier than the rest. He puts in a lot of crosses and can cut in and help the midfield. His weaknesses include moving too forward and leaving gaps behind. He loses the ball too often.

So how did Otto Addo use all of them at the World Cup?

In the first game against Portugal, he went with Baba on the left and Alidu on the right. Alidu was a surprise because that was his debut tournament and his second game so people were expecting Odoi for his experience and little time with the team.

But Otto Addo picked Alidu because of his defensive mindedness, the Ghana coach knew we would have a lot of defending to do against one of the best attacking teams in the competition.

Predictably, we had to defend for the greater part of the game and that was when you realise the essence of Baba on the left and Alidu on the right. It was a real battle featuring them versus Leao, Ronaldo and Bernardo Silva on the wings for Portugal. Unfortunately we couldn’t earn the draw but they gave a very good account of themselves. Alidu had a great game and Baba didn’t do badly too.

In the second game against South Korea, it was all or nothing. We needed to go all out and be on our attacking best. We needed a win at all cost against one of the best group of talents in the competition.

Again, Otto surprised everyone with his selection, but many people didn’t know what he was about.

Because we wanted to attack and score goals he summoned the high flyer Tariq Lamptey as well as the attacking minded and free flowing Gideon Mensah. We were not too cautious about our defending but rather put everything into attack. And how did these two fair? Both were suspect defensively but but added so much to the attack. Tariq gave the ball away for Korea’s first goal and Gideon also allowed the Korean striker to jump over him for the equaliser. Meanwhile, Gideon even gave the assist for the third and winning goal. Tariq was also a delight to watch. He created chances and added more to our attack.

In the third game we needed a draw against Uruguay so we had to be cautious again like in the first game because Uruguay needed a win to progress and were boasting of some of the deadliest strikers in the competition. So this time too, he picked Baba and Alidu to everyone’s surprise.

Though we failed to qualify for the second round but you could tell that Otto Addo had plans technically and was cooking up something good before the setback.

He left amidst calls for his sacking, meanwhile the contract ended the very day we went out of the competition.

At the end of his contract, he played 12 games and lost 4.

Now look at the opposition he lost those 4 games to. Brazil, Portugal, Uruguay, and Japan. You’ll agree, looking at the current young and inexperienced boys who are now integrating into the team, losing to such big teams was not too big a deal.

Among some of the games he won were against Switzerland, South Korea, Chile and the qualification against Nigeria.

No African team was able to defeat his team, either a small or a big country.

So looking at this background, if we are looking for a coach for this current Black Stars team, Otto Addo is the best. He knows the team, he understands the expectations and he already had a plan in place before he left.

He might not be the best but he has a huge potential to become a good coach. Not many will see this but those who pay attention to little but important details of the game will appreciate him.

If you ask me a word about him I will say give him the job.

Credit: Lewis Numekevor

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