Tactics: Five reasons Vorsah and Boye must start
Ghana have six points going into their last group game against Guinea.
Now they have a selection problem with the return of John Mensah and Isaac Vorsah. The former was red-carded in Ghana’s first game, while Vorsah is done serving a suspension from the qualifiers.
My first hunch was that John Mensah and John Boye should start against Guinea but, after looking at the stats and figures, I realised something else. Isaac Vorsah and John Boye must start. Here is why.
1. Authority (Jonathan vs John Mensah)
The primary reason John Mensah is always maintained and why he will always be started when fit is due to his authority. The lads listen to him. Nobody commands the back like him. Look at the diagram below, which shows the fouls committed when the captain played against Botswana and in his absence.
The violet marks on the diagram show the key areas where poor tackles were made and it is clear that, despite the quality of Jonathan Mensah, Ghana still need a firm commander at the back.
2. Coverage area (Jonathan vs Boye)
John Boye is a more attacking-minded player than Mensah. In a team where a key set of the likely starters in midfield are defensively-minded as well, Ghana need people initiators. Against Botswana, Ghana generally took a cautious approach but look at the movement of John Boye (he made 61 passes, even more than Mensah). He also had enough energy to do his work at the back and, crucially, make several moves beyond the half-way line. When needed, he was always present to mop up.
Contrast that with Jonathan Mensah against Mali, where he was extremely cautious, in a game where Ghana generally played to win (he made 40 passes, the bulk of which were within his area). Indeed, those may have been his tactical instructions but I doubt the Black Stars will play to draw against Guinea. The focus will be on making a statement by winning, while trying to keep a clean sheet. Hence, Boye must start ahead of Jonathan.
3. Guinea’s style (flexible 4-3-3)
Ghana’s opponents on Wednesday are unlike the previous two. Botswana played through the centre and Mali loved to use the wings, having identified it as Ghana’s weakness. Guinea play a combination of both. Against Mali, Guinea played a very physical and tight game, only losing from Bakary Traore’s freak goal in the first half (it took a deflection). Against Botswana, Guinea went all out and destroyed.
Their two approaches showed how all-round they can be and, against a compact side like Ghana, they would use a combination of both systems. John Mensah is reportedly recovering from injury. Why risk him, when it is not a do-or-die game and when the bench has fresh legs?
For the sake of the reasons stated, it’s quite clear that John Boye must start. There’s also the fact that he has been consistent, winning Man of the Match against Botswana and having one of the best player averages against Mali (only bettered by Andre Ayew, Agyemang-Badu and Gyan).
For John and Jonathan Mensah, the choice is even more difficult. John Mensah is recovering from injury and, despite his pleas that he “is getting better”, we know his situation. John Mensah cannot go five games without breaking down and so there’s no need to risk him.
Jonathan Mensah is also on a yellow card, and against the mobile Guineans, another one may cost Ghana in the next stage.
So, if Ghana have the luxury of another quality centre-back, why not use him? The question answers itself: Isaac Vorsah.
5. Element of surprise
Isaac Vorsah has been Ghana’s preferred centre-back, along with John Mensah, since late 2009. Having trained with the team since late December, this will be the perfect time to get rid of any rust he has due to a lack of competitive games. Guinea will not have seen him play in tournament conditions so, on a tactical level, Ghana have that element of surprise.
Resting John Mensah, as already explained, also gives Vorsah the chance to stamp his authority on the back as he is clearly Ghana’s next first-choice central defender.
For all the talk of Ghana’s defence not being too solid, the last two games show that a rhythm is developing nicely. Why not give Vorsah a run out in this ‘medium-pressure’ game against Guinea, if only to test how he fits into Ghana’s system in this tournament?
And so, in the end, I feel Ghana would be better served with a John Boye/Isaac Vorsah partnership for this game. Moving forward, the permutations might change but, if all remains equal, this should be the best combo at centre-back.
Gary Al-Smith is on Twitter: @garyalsmith