So what’s the problem? Coach Odoom has made the hardest part of the game look easy whilst his charges appear to over-complicate issues whenever they are in front of goal. The ex-Tema Youth coach has been able to setup a fine attacking machinery but in his case, instead of goals, it’s just glaring and unpardonable misses followed by gasps and oops.
Odoom’s Hearts, as we can clearly see from the first two games, are always on the prowl and creating chances is not a problem for them at all. But the problem has to do with the conversion. The Phobians appear to need five chances before they convert one whilst their opponents only need half-chances to punish them.
And this has been the story of Odoom’s tenure. Hearts play good football. Hearts dominate play in most games. Yet, Hearts hardly convert that dominance into three points. So they put out a beautiful spectacle and when it works, just like in the 4-0 drubbing of Olympics last season, it’s pure joy. And we have had moments when the team has played really well, like in the 1-2 home defeat to Kotoko, but they still ended up on the losing side.
This season a new, worrying, pattern is developing in the game of the Phobians. And it’s that they are so easy to open up both in midfield and in defense. The shape of the team without the ball is something Odoom has not been able to deal with. Hearts are not pressing as a unit and they easily back off when their opponents take a forward march. Ashgold highlighted how easy it’s to run the ball in the Hearts midfield because none of the players is willing to tackle or do the dirty work. In defense, the laterals are always on the front foot, neglecting their first duty as defenders but it’s hardly seen because they are athletic and are usually able to cover up. But when the game is stretched, these fine margins go against the Phobians and a clear case of it was shown in the two goals the Miners plucked at the Accra Sports Stadium. Again, today, the lack of cover in midfield was put to bare as Roger Lamptey was given time and space to pick his spot and shoot.
Hearts have conceded three goals from two games. Before this game, Odoom promised defensive solidity but even at 0-0, there were not signs of a marked improvement in the back-four. The defense looked stretched and not composed anytime Inter Allies ventured forward. And if the hosts were clinical, they could have extended their advantage or goal margin.
Odoom has not been afraid to ring the changes when players are not to up to the task. He made three changes from the Ashgold game and he would do some more if he’s still here for the next game. But the more troubling issue has to do with Odoom’s approach when the Phobians are unable to swing a game in their favor. There’s a lack of plan B in today’s game with players choosing the easy option of ballooning balls forward instead of building up from the middle through to attack. This exacerbated the moment Allies took the lead. Hearts had just run out of ideas as to how to get back in the game.
Odoom must find a balance between attack and defense. Going forward, there’s no problem but the structure and shape of the team must tighten if Odoom intends to be with Hearts till the season ends. And again, Odoom and his technical men will have to start varying their approach when the game is not in their favor not continue with same old routine, hoping for a miracle.