The 2017 mid-season transfer window opens up for SociaLiga clubs on Tuesday, 1st August and closes on the 31st. Judging by their performances in the league thus far as well as examining lingering problems from the 2016 season, we’ll be giving hot takes as well as recommending moves we feel teams should be making to bolster their playoff push. In this piece, we take a look at the Mainland Conference.
After 4 games in the 2016 season, Citizens FC had 4 points and had a goal difference of -1 (1W, 1D, 2L). This season, after 4 games, they have 4 points and a goal difference of -1 (1W, 1D, 2L). Obviously, on the surface, it might seem as if they’ve been stuck for a year but there have been major changes to the team’s performances. Last season, Citizens’ attack banged in 6 goals in those opening 4 games but then they shipped goals for fun, conceding 7 in those 4 games. This trend lasted till the end of the season with them scoring 14 goals (well, 11 seeing as 3 were from an automatic 3-0 walkover win against Reds FC) in 10 games while conceding 16. This season, they seem to have adopted the 2016 Knights FC approach; shore things up at the back first before looking to fix the attack. Citizens have conceded just twice in in 4 games but have disappointingly scored just once. While this may look bad to some, it could be a good foundation going into the window.
While all 3 units in Citizens’ team still need strengthening, their 1st priority should be the attack. Despite scoring 11 goals last season, only 3 were from attackers, with the other 8 coming from the midfield and defense. Having an attack that delivered just 3 league goals all year long, is a bit of a worry, you have to admit. Their only goal this season has come from, you guessed it, a midfielder, Eboreime Akhogbai (@akweezi). It’s pretty much obvious which position needs strengthening should they achieve their primary aim of making the play-offs.
“Na one man team dem be na. Shey we don talk am. As Nuel comot, dem no fit do anything again”. It’s very easy to pass that off as the reason for Royals’ struggles this season. Yes, Royals built their team around Nuel, but who wouldn’t? The man bagged 10 of their 17 league goals proving they were right to build around him. So indeed, you may be right to an extent but not entirely. Royals’ struggle has been a combination of a lot of things, really.
While Royals have scored some of the sweetest goals the league has seen, they haven’t really been known for their beautiful football. They’ve been known to favor a direct approach, more often than not launching the ball into the box from the half way line and, while they did try to look for a Plan B in games when they benched Nuel (most notably the 1-0 loss to Knights in last season’s MD4), Howard Okpara and his men just never seemed to get that. This season, Sly Ighedosa (@world_sly) was made to lead the attack, and despite his good start to this role, courtesy an opening day goal, he’s struggled in it. It’s hard to finish chances when there are no actual chances being created, you know. Royals have looked disorganized in attack and their build up pattern has been less effective this year. You wouldn’t be wrong to suggest the midfield has lost a bit of its magic. Reinforcements in the midfield unit is urgently needed.
The defensive unit too hasn’t exactly covered themselves in glory. Positionally, they’ve looked awful having to rely on their physicality more than their reading of the oppositions’ attack. Also, there’s been little contribution from the fullbacks in the attacking phase compared to last season when Ifeanyi overlapped brilliantly on many occasions.
All Black FC
We’re just going to go ahead and say it without sugar coating, All Black’s goal keeper needs to be replaced. SociaLiga has obviously seen worse goal-keepers (I mean, who can forget the 3 different goal keepers that lined up for Reds FC last season?) but he’s right up there. Dolapo’s (@OsheyD) goal for Cubs after 8 seconds can be chalked off as a freak goal by some but a large chunk of the blame rests on the #1 who clearly should have gotten rid of the ball. Similar errors last matchday saw Bravos Knights leave with a win courtesy a dropped ball and a mistimed punch-clearance. He might not get dropped/sold. He might actually see this and use it as motivation, come back in November after getting 4 consecutive clean-sheets and laugh at us for having a go at him but, right now, he’s the club’s weakest link. There’s no denying that.
It isn’t all dark and gloomy for All Black as that paragraph may have suggested, after all, they are second in the Mainland Conference log. However, 3-way tie for second place isn’t a comfortable position and they should look to further strengthen the side this summer.
Raineri Ghosts FC
Raineri’s season has been, for a lack of a better word, weird. They’re bottom of the log and have had the worst start by any team in SociaLiga history amongst both the Male & Female teams, yet, it’s hard to say they’ve been as bad as the table suggests. Perhaps a rare case of the table lying?
A rainy Matchday 3, which, we assumed, perfectly suited them, brought no luck for the newcomers and the Ghosts’ attack was nowhere to be found as they went a record 3-games without a goal. Striker, Benzema, who came into this season with so much promise, has found it hard to stick one in the net which has hurt their league campaign so far. Defensively, however, they have looked sturdy as evident by the ‘best defense in the league’ title they share with highflying Cubs & Saints.
Things aren’t as bad as they may seem for Raineri but if they want to make the playoffs, as they should want, a slight tweak to that attacking unit is very much needed. They must bring that rain & fast.
Bravos Knights FC
Statistically, Bravos Knights have been the second-best team in the league and have enjoyed a fine start to life in SociaLiga. A beautifully executed counter-attacking goal against All Black FC in a 2-1 over All Black on Matchday 3 epitomized just how much the team had grown from a long ball playing team to a team fit to play with different styles in an impressive short time. Sadly, the goal was wrongly flagged offside and will never be in record books.
The UniLag based team has struck a balance between defense and attack, scoring 4 goals in 4 games (which isn’t mind-blowing but has been sufficient) and conceding just 2 goals, 1 of which was an own-goal. Bravos Knights have showed no glaring weakness in their team (although, you could argue they’re yet to face a team from the Island Conference) and look to get even better.
This summer, they will be looking to finally complete the signing of last season’s League MVP, Emmanuel ‘Nuel’ Eze [read his exclusive interview] on a free transfer. With 10 league goals last season, Nuel proved just how much of a weapon he can be if used properly. Alaba Otukoya, who has had a good start to the season will no doubt be looking forward to partnering with Nuel upfront to form what could well be the best striking partnership to hit SociaLiga. On paper, at least. This single addition, you have to assume, should be able to seal the #1 seed in the Mainland Conference as well as see them to the finals.
Originally posted on The 12th Player