Kotoko’s league campaigns have been bizarre since they won the league in 2013/2014 season.
They have become poorer in terms of winning games away, scoring and conceding goals. Their primary problem is hitting the back of the net consistently. Since the 2015 season where they finished second and scored 41(only Berekum Chelsea scored more 43), the Porcupine Warriors have left their fans living in frustration week in week out.
The goals have drastically dried up and Kotoko mostly rely on the deafening shouts for penalties at home by the fans to stand a chance of winning. Scoring from open play is a major concern for which reason they have fire coaches after coaches. Scoring 33 and 23 goals, conceding 29 and 22 in 2016 and 2017respectively, have been the best return over the last two seasons.
Under new gaffer Samuel Fabin, it is the same problem this season. Scoring five times in seven games, shipping in six in the process. The situation is even worse because they have lost three of their four away games and for a club of Kotoko’s stature, it is atrocious.
On the sole basis of their indifferent form, their next five games in the coming weeks are going to be very difficult especially the away games for the Porcupine Warriors.
Week 8: vs. Berekum Chelsea (H)
Kotoko comes into this game on the back of a demoralising defeat at the Theatre of Dreams in Dawu because of a momentary loss of focus which has been their bane all season on the road. A good response is definitely needed to pacify the fans. At home, where they have won all three games (1-0, 1-0 and 2-1 vs. Inter Allies, Eleven Wonders and Dwarfs), Kotoko would be looking to making it four wins on the spin to maintain their 100% record. Against Chelsea who has proved thus far to be poor travellers, losing all games (1-0, 1-0 and 1-0 vs. Dwarfs, Wa All Stars and Karela, respectively), Kotoko would fancy their chances winning this one. But as we know in football, nothing is given for free. Kotoko would have to work for the three points if they need it. Berekum Chelsea, on the other hand, would want to improve on their woeful run away from home and would want to use Kotoko to commence their transformation. Kotoko vs. Berekum Chelsea should be a tight game for both teams and the team with enough desire and determination might get something positive out of it.
Week 9: vs. Wa All Stars (A)
Wa All Stars are rock bottom after the games in week seven with just five points (W1 D1 L3). Nothing is going their way even under a new coach Sarfo Castro. In week eight, they will travel to Fosu Gyeabour and very likely come out losers because of their poor away record. This means, they face Kotoko who by virtue of their home record, highly probably, will defeat Chelsea in Kumasi but their away record should make the game in Wa a very difficult one. Some teams have a way of turning up to surprise everyone. The Northern Blues would view this as a window of opportunity to beat Kotoko and send a statement to everyone that, they are down but certainly not out. Paa Kwasi has a simple task; avoid a defeat. If he leads Kotoko to yet another defeat on the road, his future with the Porcupine Warriors would be cast in doubt.
Week 10: vs. Hearts of Oak (H)
It is against Hearts of Oak and it is a must win. Both teams are never satisfied with anything but all the three points in these games. It is also factual that, form guide is inconsequential. What is paramount is how you set your team up.
The Phobians might come into this game likely battered in their prior games in weeks eight and nine vs. Karela (A) and Chelsea (H) respectively, but, a game against Kotoko is always an opportunity not just to win, but to inflict psychological damage on your opponent, therefore, Hearts would be in for the kill. Again, games is Kumasi in recent times have been favourable to the Phobians which makes it even more difficult for Kotoko despite their impressive 100% record in the league this season. To stand a chance of beating Hearts, they would definitely need to hit the back of the net more than once because apart from week five where Hearts didn’t score a goal on the road (3-0 vs. Chelsea) they have scored at least a goal in their last two games. (1-1 and 0-2 vs. Eleven Wonders and Dwarfs respectively). Should Kotoko return to Kumasi beaten on the road again in Wa, they will be in hot waters facing Hearts and the pressure would be immeasurable.
Week 11: vs. Karela (A)
Karela are one of the most in-form teams in the league winning back-to-back games versus Chelsea (H) and Wa All Stars (A), picking seven out of nine available points and play at home consecutively in weeks eight and nine vs. Hearts and Elmina Sharks before travelling to Fosu Gyeabour to play the hunters, would come into week 11 with a decent run of form at home against Kotoko. Judging by Karela’s decent and unbeaten record at home this season (W2 D2) and Kotoko’s woeful run on the road, it is safer to say, the guests have an advantage. It should be an intriguing match-up and difficult one because Kotoko would play Hearts prior to their trip to Anyinase. A defeat against the Phobians would go a long way to affecting their performance against Karela. Kokoto does not only have to think about Hearts, they must also be wary of the potential defeat in Anyinase even if they beat Hearts in Kumasi.
Week 12: vs. Bechem United (H)
Kotoko’s run of five matches ends with a home game against Bechem United. It should be a good game by all standards. The visitors would have completed their four games with three of them at home against Wa All Stars, Karela and Elmina Sharks in weeks 8, 10 and 11 respectively. It is well-known how impressive Bechem United are in Fosu Gyeabour. It is very promising that they would come to the Baba Yara Sports Stadium, amassing at least nine points from 12 and highly spirited. Kotoko, on the other hand, would travel two times vs. Wa All Stars and Karela in weeks nine and 11 respectively and host Hearts in week 10. With an emphasis on Kotoko’s away from and performance against Hearts in Kumasi, it would not be out of the ordinary to suggest there would or might be hiccups or disaster before they host the Hunters. Be that as it may, Bechem United would be a difficult game for Kotoko and they must be ready for anything.
Where can Kotoko improve?
One area the Porcupine Warriors must improve is the goal-scoring department. It has been a niggling problem for over two seasons for which reason they haven’t come close to winning the league and have sacked coaches. Paa Kwasi Fabin would need to work on his midfielders to create enough goal scoring opportunities for the forwards. Emmanuel Gyamfi who has been unimpressive this term would need to up his game to create or score from the wing. Others like Jordan Opoku who is the brightest spot so far, Frank Sarfo Gyamfi, Baba Mahama, Jackson Owusu and Kwame Boahen must come to the fore especially on the road to bring smiles to the fans.
When Paa Kwasi was appointed, he said unequivocally that he would improve the team.
“I am delighted to be here. I promise to work hard to improve the team and get it at the level that we all can be proud of” he said.
It is only seven games out of 30 so it would be a little too early to say he can’t live up to his promise. Conversely, 630 minutes of football plus daily practice sessions are enough to make at least a significant improvement to a team that was operating at a similar level before the axe fell on their last manager, Steve Pollack.
If and only if Kotoko can avoid defeats on the road, they can get the much-needed results. Best case scenario, they can win 12 out of 15 points. But, if they fail to improve on their away form, it might affect them psychologically because the fans are becoming increasingly irate at their unbelievably poor away performances. The can end up losing all away games and the home game vs. Hearts…. things will get messy. Kotoko have it all to do. The next five games will determine whether or not Paa Kwasi Fabin would be around to see out the deal he signed.