A team could be as close knit as possible and yet an individual or individuals will still stand out from the rest just as Michael Jackson was the Chosen One in the Jackson 5, Justin Timberlake in NSYNC or Harry Styles and Zayn Malik in One Direction. To make room for Micahel’s infamous spin and showmanship coupled with that angelic voice of his, he had to be the lead singer for all that greatness to shine through.
While his distinct talent drew attention and caused multiple rifts in the group that led to its disbandment, Jackson’s showmanship thrived and morphed into arguably the greatest music act ever. Ghana is Mohammed Kudus’ home by nationality and the West African nation’s Black Stars is Kudus’ football home and has been for years since he moved up from the juniour ranks.
The Black Stars has always welcomed Kudus and his mercurial talent especially during the frustrating periods of non- activity at Ajax. While the Black Stars have been Mohammed’s “saving grace”, finding the right room for the left footed genius has been quite challenging.
Kudus isn’t just talented, he is as versatile as they come and can line up at various spots and deliver solid performances. The Ajax forward can play as a False 9, inverted winger, an attacking midfielder and even as an all-round do-it all midfielder in a Mezzala role playing a bit deeper in midfield.
However, to get the best out of the former Right To Dream Academy product, Black Stars Head Coach Otto Addo needs to find the right spot for him. Looking beyond friendly games against Brazil, Nicaragua and Switzerland, the best spot for Kudus in Addo’s Black Stars starting set up is on the left side of a two pronged unit behind a solitary striker.
Kudus has been deployed as an exclusive attacking midfielder in games against Madagascar and Central African Republic. In those games, a two man combo laid between Kudus and the central defence but that protective layer in front of the defence was exposed in limited attacks from the quite frankly inferior opposition quality.
Kudus is expected to chip in defensively but that side of his game is a weakness and led to his minuscule minutes at Ajax earlier this season behind teammates Kenneth Taylor, Steven Berghuis and Davy Klaassen.
However, Kudus has bagged four goals in four games and been very influential in those games since being moved into a False 9 position. Alleviating him off defensive duties augers well for his game and the team’s overall shape and playing a similar role and position is likely to see him replicate such production for Ghana.
Otto Addo has shown on several occasions especially in Ghana’s crucial 2022 FIFA World Cup eliminator against Nigeria he is comfortable with a three man defensive unit. Since there isn’t much time to experiment before the start of this year’s World Cup in Qatar, the majority of players selected will make the final list in mid-November. The best fit for Kudus and Ghana is a 3-4-2-1 formation
Joseph Wollacott is primed to start for Ghana in Qatar after impressing in the qualifiers and winning the trust of the technical team in the process. A back three of Alexander Djiku, Daniel Amartey and Salisu Mohammed offers quality protection with Alidu Seidu and Joseph Aidoo as backups. Thomas Partey and Elisha Owusu man the middle with Tariq Lamptey and Gideon Mensah operating as wing backs on either side of the field in this system.
Baba Idrissu’s lack of forward passing range (surprising for a midfielder competing in the La Liga) makes it easy for opposing teams to key in on Partey and prevent him from influencing games. Teams play out this tactic knowing Idrissu excels at breaking up possession but is seemingly reluctant to exploit the space presented to him as a result of opposing midfielders zeroing in on Partey.
On the other hand, Owusu’s ability to drive the ball through the middle, pass from deep and is creative enough to wiggle free from a high press while playing out from the back makes him the ideal partner from Partey.
Thomas is familiar with this skill set as he lines up consistently in Arsenal’s midfield alongside Granit Xhaka; Daniel Kyereh is a better fit in a spot up the field than deep in midfield as he has been deployed often.
Jordan Ayew and Kudus lineup behind Inaki Williams in the Black Stars 3-4-2-1 setup that has quality replacements waiting in the wing in the likes of Osman Bukari, Daniel Kofi Kyereh, Kamaldeen Sulemana and Antoine Semenyo. Such a setup maximizes the strengths of all players named in the setup as Williams speed and work rate makes him a perfect fit to man the front line on his own.
Jordan Ayew and Kudus fit in right behind Inaki as Inside Forwards who drift infield to offer support up front and act as the first wave of the high press. Tucking Kudus and Jordan inside rather than having them hug the touch line is down to the duo’s lack of speed and this indirectly plays into the strengths of the wing backs. Mensah and Lamptey thrive in attack and have the speed to eat up space created by Kudus and Jordan’s infield movement.
Home is where the heart is and yes the Black Stars is Kudus’ home.