Asante Kotoko had scored 13 goals and conceded just 7 goals as they brought an end to the first half of the Ghana Premier League season.
The Porcupine Warriors had the best defence in the league but the goalscoring was a problem.
They only scored more than 1 goal twice in 16 games in the first half of the season.
However, they were not far off the top of the table, but a spark was needed after they suffered a defeat to Elmina Sharks and scraped past relegation candidates King Faisal just before the league break.
In comes Mariano Barreto; 7 goals scored in three games, which equals their tally for games in which Kotoko had scored more than one goal from the first half of the season.
The attacking displays against Bechem United and Berekum Chelsea left fans wanting more but being top of the league alone was enough to satisfy them for now.
The switch from 4231 to 433 has helped Kotoko improve the team in all phases of play; it has allowed the team to play in a more fluid build-up shape, and involved the midfielders a lot in the build-up, something that was missing from the early part of the season when they used the 4231.
The central midfielders have been key to Kotoko’s attacking resurgence, with Mudasiru and Fabio Gama especially picking up form at the right time.
The system has gotten the best out of their midfield and forward players because the smooth buildup from the back facilitated the progression of the ball to the final third.
This has given the central players more freedom and more options whenever they have the ball in attack.
Fabio Gama has unleashed a new side of himself. In the 4231, Gama was playing off the right, which meant he always had to start his attacks from out wide making it easier to mark him.
Starting in a more central role however has allowed him to freely move and rotate with other attackers especially Emmanuel Gyamfi on the right flank.
The new role also allows Gama to attack the box from deep areas where opponents would find it hard to mark his runs.
There are a few weaknesses of this new 433, nobody said it was perfect but the work is gradual and we will see the coach address this as the season goes on.
The pressing/defensive structure is in its early stages but the teams press against Eleven Wonders was easily bypassed anytime the Wonders’ defenders moved the ball into midfield to play long balls in behind the fullbacks.
In the 433 it involves a lot of discipline from the midfield and attack, the wingers need to track back to prevent their fullbacks from getting exposed and outnumbered.
The defensive midfield position has been key for Barretto, he has played Mudasiru and Habib Mohammed there but it looks like he’s set on using Habib moving forward.
📽️In Just 3 games under Baretto, Kotoko have scored more than 50% of their goal tally from the first half of the season— Amankwah (@Kwadwo_Hemeng) April 16, 2021
Fabio Gama is firing and Kotoko are top of the 🇬🇭 Ghana Premier League.
How has Mariano Baretto achieved this? 4-3-3.⚽️ pic.twitter.com/7LTuRXAfDJ
The thing with playing a lone Defensive midfielder is that he has to do two jobs at once; providing defensive cover and progressing the ball.
Mudasiru showed he could progress the ball but his defensive performance against Eleven wonders is the reason why he has been pushed higher up the field.
With Habib Mohammed, Kotoko now has a defensive anchor in the middle of the park, but his passing ability will need to improve if the system is to thrive.
Early days for the Porcupine Warriors but they already look unstoppable just 3 games into Mariano Barretto’s reign and the fans have all the right to be singing: “Top of the league! Top of the league!”
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