- Published on Tuesday, 20 December 2016 10:25
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By Clement Nwankpa
The Super4 has come and gone. It is the flagship preseason tournament that heralds the kick off of a new Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season. While it should be an avenue for coaches to forge proper blending between old and new players, it speaks volumes of how prepared a team are for the new campaign.
Considering the fact that the tournament involved the nation's four representatives on the continent, it becomes a veritable platform to assess the quality of representation that would be on parade. It also creates an avenue to plug identified loopholes early enough before Africa beckons.
How did the four teams fare? If the NPFL or the continental assignments were to kick off right away, who is the most prepared? What are the teams' strength, weakness, opportunities and threat? What needs to be done to make them better?
Rivers United: Great pre-season scouting work
The 'Pride of Rivers' emerged champions and deservedly so. Any neutral would admit that Stanley Eguma's wards were the best across the three matchdays. Even on the opening day when they lost 0-2 to Rangers, they were the better team.
Last season's runners-up appeared the most jelled team in Enugu largely because Eguma didn't tinker much with his selections. But the team's composition should send jitters across other clubs in the league. They have brought in Femi Thomas, Emeka Atuloma, Ifeanyi Nweke, Gabriel Wassa, Nzube Anaezemba, Esosa Igbinoba, Emeka Ogbugh, Lukman Mohammed and Bolaji Sakin. Notably, the new players played key roles in the three matches and blended well with older players like Guy Kuemian and Bernard Ovoke.
The scouting team of Rivers United must be commended. But while there is class oozing in the team, the central defence needs some touching up. The team need a new central defender to create the required balance. But going into the new season on the back of a Super4 victory and training tour of Madrid, should put confidence at an all-time high.
Rangers International: Imama must have Option B of 'CANE'
Last season, Rangers blew oppositions apart with the likes of Chisom Egbuchulam, Bobby Clement, Godwin Aguda, Obinna Nwobodo, Osas Okoro, Christian Madu and Kalu Orji. In fact the coinage CANE (Clement, Aguda, Nwobodo, Egbuchulam) epitomized the team's hyper-offensive disposition.
But while the major gladiators were on parade when the hosts defeated Rivers United in the first game, coach Imama Amapakabo did some shake up in the second game against Wikki Tourists and the team were far in quality to the usual starters. That showed that Rangers' second team are not as good as the all-consuming regulars. The team might find it hard dealing with a looming exodus. Like Eguma, has Imama made quality signings that should bridge the gap?
On the evidence of that second match, the answer is no. It also seems the team are still having a hangover from last season's jinx-breaking triumph. The Super4 was a wake up call...the honeymoon is over. If there is one thing Imama and his wards should take away from this tournament, it is that it will be more difficult remaining up there than climbing up.
In Rivers United, they have already seen one serious contender for the title, there are 16 more teams that were not part of the Enugu showdown. If the team stay intact, they should continue from where they stopped last season. But that does not seem likely with some players angling for greener pastures. So there should be commensurate recruitments.
Wikki Tourists: Ganaru must create own 'Gang'
How long will it take Wikki Tourists to overcome the exit of Abdu Maikaba? This was the major question thrown up by their Super4 outing. Maikaba had kept a set of players together for two seasons and making one or two additions every season. The result was a playing gang that bonded so close that the players could make passes with eyes closed.
Maikaba's gang would have had Rangers' second string team for dinner in the second match. But rather, Wikki showed the league champions so much respect on the night even when it was obvious Rangers was without their regulars.
The major concern this season will be how the team would cope with league top scorer, Godwin Obaje's impending exit. The lot to replace Obaje's goals has fallen on returnee striker, Shammah Tanze who had a season's loan spell at Nasarawa United.
But he struggled to impress at the Super4. They also have to deal with the exit of Obaje's strike partner, Abdullahi Alhassan 'Muazam' who has linked up with Maikaba at Akwa United. Baba Ganaru needs to instill his own identity and exorcise Maikaba's 'ghost.' It's all over the place.
FC Ifeanyiubah: Continuity on the bench needed
If the league kicks off today, FC Ifeanyiubah are the least prepared of the Super4 teams. The highpoint of the team's poor outing was the second game against Rivers United. With the opposition reduced to 10 men for the last 30 minutes, FCIU didn't take advantage. In fact, Rivers United were still the more offensive team scoring the second goal with one man deficit. It took the heroics of keeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa for the scoreline to remain 0-2. Japanese coach Kenichi Yatsuhashi quit afterwards but that is the problem with FCIU.
The turnover of coaches over the past two seasons has been so high and erodes whatever gains that could yield from continuity and consistency. The team tried a belated fight back in the last game against Rangers but the disjointed performances across the three matches left much to be desired.
If FCIU are to launch a strong assault on the continent and pose a strong opposition in this season that promises fireworks, the team's SCOUTING process has to be sorted out. Cognisance should be made of the quality of players needed; the departments that need fortification (and save for goalkeeping, every department needs uplift); the tournaments in perspective and what identity the club desires.
Then there should be some consistency in the dugout. Otherwise, they may rely on Ezenwa all season. This club should actually be the biggest beneficiary of this Super4. The revelations were ALARMING!
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