GPL Analysis: Kotoko and four games that will define Wellington's Hearts future
Life to the 2018 Ghana Premier League campaign is not what the Phobians envisaged.
The management, playing body and fans alike, have been scratching their heads wondering what has gone amiss. They have become frustratingly inconsistent, not only on the road, but at home as well.
Hearts coach Henry Wellington has copped 10 points from a possible 21, or 47.61%. Not good enough, and pressure is mounting.
Their football is far from high calibre, at least, according to the standards of Ghana football and Hearts’. After augmenting their squad with over 10 players, you'd have expected a significant improvement but it has not happened yet. Winning just two - all home games (3-1 vs. Wa All Stars and 1-0 vs. Dwarfs) of the opening seven games, with three defeats, two of them at home (1-3, 1-2 and 3-0 to AshGold, Elmina Sharks and Berekum Chelsea respectively) and one draw on the road (1-1 vs. Eleven Wonders), it is unacceptable for everyone involved with Hearts of Oak.
In light of their poor run of form, the Phobians have come forth as one of the teams with most difficult next five fixtures. Can Wellington go through the fire and survive without being singed?
Week 8: vs Karela (A)
After succumbing to yet another defeat at home (Cape Coast), the rainbow club will make a trip to Ayiniase to face debutants, Karela, who are in-form. This is 100% difficult game for the Phobians. Even if this were a home game for Hearts, you'd need to be brave enough to stick your neck out for the Phobians. Karela, have picked seven out of nine points in their last three games, including back-to-back wins (1-0 and 0-1 against Chelsea and Wa All Stars, home and away respectively).
Hearts would need to be at their very best mentally, physically and of course, tactically to get a positive result. Already, the heat on coach Wellington and his squad is immense, and they ought to step up.
Week 9: vs Bechem United (H)
How prepped would Hearts be psychologically going into week nine against Bechem United? That would depend on how they fare against Karela. By any means necessary, the Phobians must avoid defeat at Ayiniase, otherwise it would mean two losses in a row.
And mentally, a scenario like that would be damaging before hosting the Hunters. Bechem United, themsleves will come into this Cape Coast tie after hosting a struggling Wa All Stars at Fosu Gyeabour. Remember that Wa All Stars have yet to pick a point on the road this season, which will not make it far-fetched to say Bechem (who have dropped just two points at home) will be coming on the back of a win.
The only relieving bit about this fixture, from Hearts point of view, is the away form of Bechem United. The Hunters have lost three of their four away games (3-0, 3-1 and 1-0 against Inter Allies, Eleven Wonders and Chelsea respectively), but then again, Hearts cannot be confident because they have also lost at home twice this season to AshGold and, on Sunday, to Elmina Sharks. This is definitely a tough fixture with a lot of factors going to decide where the three points swing.
Week 10: vs Kotoko (A)
It's the big one.
Always difficult to predict irrespective of form. One thing is certain, you don’t go into these kinds of games mentally not ready, which is why it is important to be on some considerable rich vein of form facing your arch rival. This season, Kotoko have lost games and they are all on the road (1-0, 2-0 and 1-0 vs Medeama, AshGold and Dreams FC respectively) but they make sure they win all home games.
This is why the game against the Porcupine Warriors in Kumasi could turn out to be a difficult one for Hearts, who've won just once on the road (0-2 vs Ebusua Dwarfs) this season.
Coming into this game, Kotoko also have their own hurdles to scale in weeks eight and nine, against Berekum Chelsea (H) and Wa All Stars (A) before they face Hearts. These are two games Kotoko can easily pick six points from, therefore, they come in the big game in Kumasi where they haven’t dropped a single point, fired up.
However, Hearts fans will take consolation from the fact that historically, games against Kotoko in Kumasi are kind to them.
Week 11: vs Liberty Professionals (H)
At home, Liberty have been stellar in one week and completely dim in another. Before they host the Phobians, Liberty contend with Dreams (H), Berekum Chelsea (A) and Wa All Stars (A). With Liberty Professionals, nothing is guaranteed. They fought really hard to end AshGold’s unbeaten run in week six and then got beaten by Dwarfs in the following week in the very last minute of the game.
But the Dansoman lads have obvious deficiencies, so when you look at their next three games, it is difficult to point out whether confidently and psychologically, they would face Hearts of Oak on the up. That is not to say this isn’t a difficult game for Hearts of Oak….it is. The Phobians would have to safely go through Karela, Bechem United and Kotoko before Liberty. Tough call.
Week 12: vs Aduana Stars (A)
Hearts will wrap up their next 5 fixtures on the road against the Fire Boys at the Agyemang Badu Park. Aduana's continental engagements have created a situation where they've outstanding matches, but they've made sure not to trail league leaders, AshGold, by much. This, they've done by having an imperious home form - Aduana have scored 10 goals in two games at Dormaa (6-0 and 4-1 vs. Inter Allies and Eleven wonders) to stretch their unbeaten home run to 31 (W25 D6).
Now, this is the difficulty of this fixture confronting the Phobians. Against a side who have lost only twice in their last 11 games both home and away (W6 D3 L2), it doesn’t get any more hectic. They'd need all the luck they can get.
How do the Phobians cope?
With three games on the road vs. Karela, Kotoko and Aduana in weeks 8, 10 and 12, Hearts cannot afford to be squeamish or else it can get ugly, really quickly.
They must understand the media and fans alike would criticize them. Regardless of how harsh these criticisms could become, Hearts have the power to make them go away by winning games. A win is a win. It doesn’t matter how ugly it is, it fetches them three points and takes them closer to the title for the first time in a while.
Henry Wellington spoke about how he got it tactically wrong against Elmina Sharks. “I think it is a very painful match. We lost in the first half….our tactics didn’t work”.., he said.
Not what Hearts need going into their next five games. Their tactics would have to work and must work to get anything near desired results. Karela, Kotoko and Aduana all away must be prioritized. Key players like Winful Cobbinah, Joseph Esso, Patrick Razak, Malik Akowuah, Richard Akrofi, Inusah Musah and Samudeen Ibrahim need to step up and take the challenge.
It is not going to be easy but it is plausible. If they can play each game as if their lives depend on it and not turn up disorganised and uninterested as they did in the game against Elmina Sharks, changing the fortunes for the better is not beyond the Phobians.
Just as their new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mark David Noonan said when he was unveiled together with 11 new acquisitions. “I am happy to be part of a great club like this and together we will work to get the best for the club”, he said.
Time has arrived for all parties involved with the club, fans, management team and playing body to come together and work assiduously towards one common goal; getting the best for the club.
They must evoke the spirit of their never say die attitude to do wonders in these five games. After these games, they begin another journey against WAFA SC in week 13. They don’t want to play WAFA in Cape Coast where they have already lost twice and likely battered in the five game prior. Hearts of Oak are the masters of their own destiny and their desire and quest for transformation would become crystal clear after the next five games.