How Zesco United can get the best out of their strike force
Zesco united is one team on the African continent that can fairly compete with any team. They boast of a deadly and experienced strike force with fast-paced and dynamic wingers.
Zesco United have depth and quality in the team. Most of their substitutes can be starters at most teams in the Zambia Superleague. They have numbers, not just numbers but quality numbers.
The current Zesco United team can be slightly above the Zesco United team of 2016 that reached the semi-final of CAF champions league in terms of player-to-player comparisons. The current Zesco United squad has players who have been capped before at their respective national teams, talk of the big name in Kenyan trio of Jesse Were, Mark Makwata and Ian Otieno, Zimbabweans in Tafadzwa Rusike and Thabani Kamusoko and Zambians like Simon Silwimba, Fackson Kapumbu, Bruce Musakanya, Kelvin Kampamba, Winston Kalengo, Donashano Malama, John Ching’andu name them.
This is the team that should be cruising on all fronts with ease, grinding results like no man’s business but their form has kept on dwindling.
Since their 2016 CAF Champions League semi-final berth, they have never gotten beyond the group stage of any CAF club competition. Their problem since 2016 has been the defense and lack of a creative midfielder since the departure of Clatous Chama. As if failing to get past the group stage in CAF competitions wasn’t enough, they now can’t defend the Zambia Super League and qualify for CAF club competition, One would argue that the last season was cut short but still, Zesco United is Zesco United. One is forced to think something must be wrong with this team!
The problem for them failing to defend the league and to replicate their 2016 CAF champions league form has been the defense which was failing to defend a lead and lack of much creativity in the middle of the pack.
When they are trying to sort out the defense and creative midfielders problems, another problem has been born, their strikers have stopped finding the back of the net more often. To start with these problems except maybe the defense problem, the solution lies within the team.
Zesco United now has the creative midfielders they have lacked for some time in the likes of Tafadzwa Rusike, Bruce Musakanya, Kelvin Kampamba, etc.
In defense, Zesco United have modern wing-backs who can charge forward and add attacking threats and they have no problem in this area but if you are going to have such wing-backs in the team, you need to have the best center-backs and central midfielders in an event the team loses possession when they are in opposition’s half and wing-backs fail to track back in time to cover their numbers, cover is needed from defending midfielders and center backs a thing which zesco have failed to do that.
Since the departure of Anthony Akumu to Kaizer Chiefs and the slowing down of the aging Kondwani Mtonga, Zesco United have failed to find par-to-par replacements for these two players.
Second, Zesco has failed to find the right center-backs. The likes of Odhiambo, Adrian Chama, Marcel Kalonda are failing to work out a durable partnership to the standards of Zesco United.
They need to sort out their defense by going into the market to look for two center-backs and a defending midfielder in this case a number 6 or at least get the best out of the available players after all the mark of a good coach is getting the best out of available players even the most ordinary of the pack.
Goals win games and this has been the thing for Zesco in the past couple of seasons, they have been finding the back of the net consistently but it is their defense that has failed to win them honors as we all know the defense win trophies.
Now the question is being asked that why are Zesco United despite their massive and quality investments in the wingers and strikers they can’t bag goals as expected. The problem is the way they are being lined up.
Numba must know that Zesco doesn’t play reserved football the way he has been making them play, they like dominating proceedings.
Zesco United is not a team that plays counter-attacking football, they rely on build-up play were their number 9 has to drop and get involved in the build-up. They don’t usually play with a stagnant number 9 like Enock Sakala Jnr.
When Lazarus Kambole was at Zesco, it was difficult to know who was the main striker at Zesco between him and John Ching’andu and Jesse Were. These three guys found the chemistry. Lazarus used to be the main striker but he could drop and allow either John Ching’andu or Jesse Were to go up and switch flanks with either Jesse Were and John Ching’andu and they could play Enock Sabumukama to a number 10 role. It was difficult to know who to mark cause goals could come from either of the three and they could score a lot between them.
Now the current Zesco United is full of disorganization upfront, they are playing with two people up top who can’t get involved in build-up play in Winstone Kalengo and Enock Sakala who prefer standing in between defenders and wait for the ball.
First of all, with due respect to these players, Winstone Kalengo is not a good number 10 looking at his age, the man can’t handle the ball properly and feed the number 9 which is his role. He can’t get involved in the build-up play because he can’t run due to his age making him not a creative number 10. Yes, Enock Sakala has shown a glimpse of being good but the truth is that he’s not ripe yet to the standards of Zesco United he needs to be eased into the team so that he is not rushed and ends up ruining his progress.
In modern football you don’t face your half when receiving the ball, the defenders will block your way unless you are a number 10 and you want to play the ball to your number 9. A number 9 should not face his goal when activated into play, his operational area and abilities reduce giving defenders control over him.
For Zesco United to find the rhythm up front, Numba must know and should know that John ching’andu and Jesse Were are two important players to Zesco United attacking prowess, He needs to find a way of getting the best out of them.
Jesse Were is the first Zesco United player to reach the hundred mark goal haul for the club which shows how important he is to the team. He is a guy who can carry Zesco United on his shoulders when the need arises.
Jesse Were and John Ching’andu are two guys who dictate Zesco’s attacking prowess, they will unlock and bamboozle any defense. Jesse Were and John Ching’andu have only scored one goal between them this season from 10 games which is a nightmare for both players. This is because of misplacement by the technical bench.
He should be utilized in a wing position where he will be allowed to cut in to cause damage. He can also play as a false 9, not a creative 10 while John Ching’andu can be played on the right-wing or through the middle of the midfield.
Zesco also doesn’t have a reliable number 9 to cause much damage, Kalengo provides the best option but due to his advanced age,e he will find it difficult in that role.
Enock Sakala despite scoring 2 goals this season, still has a lot to learn. He is a great prospect but not yet a finished product.
The best thing Zesco United could do if they want to make Winstone Kalengo play most matches and get the best out of him and the striking force is to play him as a number 9, and find a player to play a free role of a number 10 then play Jesse Were and John Ching’andu in the wings as they know how to play in these positions and they can interchange in the case of ineffectiveness and Kelvin Kampamba in an advanced number 8 in an ordinary 4-4-2. formation.
The other alternative can be to play a 4-3-3 formation, in this formation, they can play with three at the top by making Jesse Were as a false 9 and play Makwata as a second striker behind Jesse Were with John ching’andu or play Kalengo/Makwata as the main striker then Jese Were and John ching’andu besides the main striker, in the wings play Kelvin Kampamba on the left in an advanced 8 and Bruce Musakanya on the right meaning the defense must work extra hard since a lot of the players in the team are not defensive-minded.
The other alternative can be a 3-5-2. They can play Jesse on the left-wing, John Ching’andu on the right-wing, Kelvin Kampamba in advanced 8, and Logic Ching’andu with Donashano Malama as sitting midfielders to balance the defense. With maybe Mwape Mwelwa as a number 10 in a free role with Kalengo or John Makwata as number 9.
They can play John Ching’andu through the middle, Jesse Were as a false 9, Kelvin Kampamba left-wing, Bruce Musakanya right-wing with Makwata as a number 10, Donashano/Edward Tembo as number 6.
They can also play a 4-2-3-1 formation in which Kalengo/Makwata as number 9, Kelvin Kampamba advanced 8, Jesse Were left-wing while John Ching’andu on the right-wing, and Donashano Malama as a sitting midfielder.
These are top players who can easily play and adapt to each other as they have played at the top for so long and boast of quality with experience, they can develop chemistry.
The point here is that Zesco United at the moment can not afford to play with a sitting number 9 and a not so creative number 10 and should find a way of getting the best out of John ching’andu and Jesse Were.
Zesco United has scored 11 goals from 10 games with 2 goals from their current main strikers does not look good on a team that is usually prolific. With the transfer window coming up, Zesco United can also look around for reinforcements in some key areas.
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