What you need to know:
- Whereas there have been better opening days, any claim that the 2021/2022 season’s answer fell short of what was hoped for has a modicum of truth.
The new StarTimes Uganda Premier League season is up and running. The stunning upset (0-2) newly promoted Arua Hill won against defending champions Express, with 13 goals scored across five games provided a trove of feel-good storylines.
Whereas there have been better opening days, any claim that the 2021/2022 season’s answer fell short of what was hoped for has a modicum of truth.
While the latest instalment of Uganda’s top flight football league could – with luck – go on to achieve significant results, the blue riband fixture of the opening fixture proved that intractable problems cannot be wished away.
Over the past couple of seasons, Police has joined the big-spending pair of Vipers and KCCA in bestriding the goal-scoring stakes in a way other competitors never come close. Last season, such was the trio’s hulking presence in attack that it was not joined by others in the 50-goal club.
So when matchday one of the new season threw up a fixture between the Venoms and the Cops, the appetite of those that love goal gluts – of which there are many – must have been whetted. The two goals that the fixture eventually produced are, er, many by Ugandan standards. It would, however, be a tough needle to thread to describe the encounter as mildly entertaining.
The workmanlike display that secured Vipers maximum points augmented their title credentials if anything because an age-old cliché reminds us that champions always find a way to win.
Police’s scorecard, however, captured failures that are legion and the details excruciating. Abdallah Mubiru, who has come to be known – sometimes with a note of derision – as a front-foot coach, watched with a pained expression as his charges showcased little if any of his vaunted style. The struggles exposed deeper problems. The problems – on a clear sky day – stemmed in part from Police’s failure to beat Vipers’ diamond press.
The Cops’ inability to play out, which one can only imagine added to Mubiru’s feeling of loss, was largely down to Tom Ikara. Mubiru’s possession-based approach places a premium on playing out from the back during restarts.
Vipers’ press, however, limited options for Ikara and rarely in ways that made Police’s proactive approach safer. The towering goalkeeper, who is hardly comfortable on the ball, failed miserably in his several attempts to break the press.
Whereas less attention has been paid to the totality of the problem, it tends to stick out like the metaphorical sore thumb for Ugandan footballing outfits.
The volume of passes that goalkeepers have to complete nowadays is vast; yet many of our No.1s are not tooled to play out. The few who are tolerable seem to be caught between two irreconcilable forces of playing out and clearing their lines. There has to be a concerted effort to change this.
Another area in which Police struggled to land some punches against Vipers was playing well between the lines. Last season, Frank ‘Zaga’ Tumwesigye displayed an extraordinary grasp of this role after Mubiru worked tirelessly and obsessively on the youngster’s craft. But with Zaga having reportedly gone AWOL during the offseason, Police were forced to deploy Tonny Mawejje – a deep lying playmaker – in a more advanced position.
The mistake was in Police imagining that it would get away with such papering over cracks. A lack of creativity – the likes of which we have grown accustomed to on the international stage with the Cranes – was ultimately brought to bear. More encouragingly, it is early days and Mubiru will doubtless wake up to the damage the opening matchday deficits can have on the 2005 champions’ aspirations.
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