Angola v Ghana; A game tailor-made for Jordan, Hughton and Partey to shine – Citi Sports Online
The rash of injuries that have plagued the window of international games have hit an alarming rate and ruled out several key players from competing in key tournament qualifiers. Much is known about England’s troubles getting players available in the wake of Reece James, Marcus Rashford, Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling, Nick Pope and Phil Foden’s absences due to various injuries. Norway missed out on Erling Haaland’s services just as William Saliba missed the chance to channel his brilliant 2022-2023 campaign into building a case to start for the French national team.
After the Black Stars’ 1-0 win over Angola at the Baba Yara, that list continues to grow as players from both sides are set to miss out in the reverse fixture later today. On the part of Ghana, Andre Ayew, Alexander Djiku, Mohammed Salisu and Denis Odoi won’t feature in the game after picking several varied injuries.
For Angola, star striker M’Bala Nzola will miss the important game after getting nicked in Kumasi a few days back.
Despite the big losses, Ghana should still be favourites to clinch a win in Luanda due to the context of the game that plays into the strengths of big pieces in the Black Stars.
The X-factor for a Ghana win lies in one word; defence, and its broader influence and use will go a long way to determine a second-straight win for the Black Stars over Angola.
For head coach Chris Hughton, a second win in as many games is on the cards should he lean more into his strengths as a trainer, garnered over the years. Hughton’s team aren’t the type that typically play expansive, high entertaining football and against an Angolan side that is bound to play a high line like it did for the most parts in the second half, Hughton can lean on playing the sort of compact football he is synonymous with.
Ideally, repeating the 4-2-3-1 formation but with a few kinks should do the trick in Luanda for the Black Stars. Replacing the injured Djiku with Joseph Aidoo is a must at this point in time, while starting Salis Samed alongside Edmund Addo at the base of the midfield with Partey pushed up field is one change that should be made. Shifting Partey higher up the pitch means Kudus Mohammed gets moved to the wing areas, forcing Kamaldeen Sulemana to the bench.
With such a system, Hughton gets two tough tacklers in front of the back four to offer protection on top of the defensive work Jordan Ayew and Partey bring to the table in their respective position up the field. Before an expectant, passionate fan base in Kumasi, Hughton’s style of organized football didn’t go down so well despite the win but in enemy territory, grinding out a win should be well received.
The Crystal Palace man’s place in the team, and as a starter, is a hotly debated topic that has solid arguments for him and against him. For a team that has several guys with defensive profiles, having a defensive striker like Jordan Ayew creates an overload defensively that hurts the Black Stars on the opposite end. Allied to his inadequate speed, ability to beat defenders and goal return, the former Swansea City forward doesn’t help the team even in counter attacking situations.
On the flip side, tonight’s contest is where his biggest supporters will be emboldened to continue to root for his inclusion in the starting unit. Hughton needs to place Ayew on the left side of the three man unit behind Inaki Williams and have Ayew work as an inside forward in Luanda.
Unlike an inside forward on the left side like Coutinho, who does a ton more offensively than defensively, Jordan excels defensively and his defensive chops are needed to aide Gideon Mensah blanket that side of the field. Coutinho made a career from scoring curling blinders when moving inside from the left side and Jordan has a few of those on his CV.
While his crosses can be inconsistent finding the target, his recent appearances for the Black Stars, including the World Cup in Qatar have had him deliver good crosses enough to have him attempt as many as he can to find Williams.
This is necessary since Kudus Mohammed isn’t a particularly willing crosser of the ball and having a player like Williams willing to run in behind the defence needs to be fed in order to take advantage of the spaces Angola will leave with its high line.
It is difficult to argue for Inaki Williams to start ahead of Antoine Semenyo given Semenyo’s string of solid impact plays off the bench since making his Black Stars debut in 2022 but having Semenyo and Kamaldeen Sulemana, Osman Bukari and Joseph Paintsil gives Hughton direct options off the bench to stretch the Angolan back line further with their raw speed and direct play.
When Ghana needed to step out of its languid display and apply more pressure on Angola, Thomas Partey did and his quick direct passes helped with that. Moving Kudus to the right and having him operate as an inverted winger plays to his strength as a guy who beats defenders, looks to score and makes the best passes to find teammates rather than a player like Partey.
This was very evident at the Baba Yara in the 1-0 win as Kudus picked out Kamaldeen on the right instead of Williams who created space for himself with a run on the inside right.
Though Sulemana forced a save from Angola goal keeper Neblu from the pass, picking out Williams was the better option and the chance highlighted the next phase of development in Kudus’ career. Partey’s quick timely passes are needed to play the forwards in behind the Angolan backline.
With two “destroyers and ball winners” playing behind him, the Arsenal midfielder need not worry much about the defensive side and concentrate on taking advantage of playing in a less restricted area of the pitch. Partey is talented and so versatile that he can line up in multiple positions and there are wild debates over the best position to play him and the best way to utilize his skill set. A good performance could finally put to bed the best way to use Partey in a Black Stars setting.
It is easy to see a Black Stars win with these tweaks; while having Chris Hughton score back to back wins to open his debut national team coaching career, Inaki Williams score his debut Ghana goal and also see Thomas Partey and Jordan Ayew delivering big performances.