For the last three years, determining the perfect role Kwadwo Asamoah can play for the Black Stars has become a huge issue for various head coaches of the national team. Indeed, Milovan Rajevac first tried using him in the ‘hole’ behind the lone striker and to some extent, it succeeded until after the 2010 African Nations Cup.
Asamoah failed to glitter in that role during the 2010 World Cup, which resulted in his dropping deeper so that Kevin Prince Boateng could play in the ‘hole’ in the quarterfinal against Uruguay.
Playing in the hole since then has been a struggle for the Juventus midfielder and indeed, based on the fact that he has been largely used as a wing back for the ‘Old Lady’ this season, current head coach Kwasi Appiah decided to try him at left back during the 2013 African Nations Cup.
Because Asamoah is an adaptable player, he didn’t do too badly, but it appears he is being played everywhere for the Black Stars except his favoured position, which I strongly believe is in front of the back four as a deep lying playmaker.
I know this is probably going to spark a debate over where Asamoah should play for the Black Stars and that is all well and good, because at the end of the day, it will help if our best players play in positions that they are comfortable with.
Role clarification has been a major weakness with the Black Stars for some time now and you might have read last week an article I wrote on why I believe Asamoah Gyan should be playing in the hole for the Black Stars. Since that automatically displaces Asamoah from that role, it is important to determine his most suitable role.
Let me start by saying that I was a bit surprised to see Asamoah deployed as a wing back for Juventus at the start of this season, because he had performed brilliantly as a deep lying playmaker for Udinese over the last two previous seasons.
Recently, in an interview, the ex-Liberty Professionals player admitted that even though he has adapted to his role at Juventus well, his favoured position is in the middle. That for me confirms that the Black Stars can get the best out of him when he plays as an orchestrator in front of the back four.
Asamoah, like the great Stephen Appiah, evolved from a dribbling attacking midfielder into a cultured playmaker after moving to Italy. He is deceptively quick and has an eye for the perfect pass and given the opportunity, can also provide shots from distance.
The danger in rigidly sticking to the 4-2-3-1 formation is that eventually, the two players in front of the back four could both be so defensive-minded that the team in question is forced to drop deep and in so doing, invites so much pressure that eventually goals are conceded.
A clear example was the international friendly against the Netherlands before the 2010 World Cup. As I recall, Derek Boateng and Anthony Annan were the two men in front of the back four and Ghana eventually lost 1-4.
When you have one player being defensive and another having attacking instincts, but disciplined enough to know when to drop deep or to come forward, it makes the formation more fluid and so formations can easily be switched on the pitch.
If you remember, Kevin Prince Boateng stole the show at the 2010 World Cup because, as he played beside Annan in the centre, his adaptability allowed him to move forward when required and that sometimes allowed the Black Stars to line up in a 4-1-4-1 formation at times during games.
With Rabiu Mohammed seemingly displacing Annan as the holding midfielder, as much as supporters of Emmanuel Agyemang Badu will scream blue murder, I believe that Asamoah would be the perfect partner for the Evian midfielder in the centre.
After a brief chat with Appiah and his assistant Maxwell Konadu, what I was able to glean from the conversations that we had was that Asamoah loves to play with the majority of the pitch in front of him so that at will, he can decide which pass to pick.
Again, I am reliably informed that when he moved to Juventus, he was initially earmarked for the centre of midfield, but with the incomparable Andrea Pirlo at his best, head coach Antonio Conte had to find another role for Asamoah to fill.
His pace and adaptability allowed Conte to use him at wing back and he has done reasonably well, but you just get the feeling that once Pirlo retires or leaves the club, Asamoah is his natural successor in the middle.
With regard to the Black Stars, Asamoah’s inclusion as a deep lying midfielder will give the team a lot of tactical flexibility. Ghana could switch to a 4-1-4-1 formation during a game, where Rabiu would sit and allow Asamoah the license to move forward to join Asamoah Gyan in creating more chances for the lead striker up front.
Also the formation could morph into a 4-1-3-2, where Asamoah again can move forward, as a central attacking player in a trio of attacking players and supply passes for Gyan, who would have moved further forward and his striker partner.
Again, the formation could also morph into a fluid 4-4-2 system, with Gyan pushing further forward alongside the lead striker. The advantage here is that Asamoah’s quick movement and alertness of thought will prove immensely beneficial to the team and the ensuing tactical switches should give the Black Stars a head start over any opponent, once every player strictly adheres to his responsibilities and role.
Some would argue that Asamoah could be utilized on the left wing, but expert pundits will tell you that being shunted out on the flanks limits creativity and in terms of close control and skill, the Juventus midfielder is probably Ghana’s most gifted player and so the Black Stars technical bench should take full advantage.
In other words, in my view, Asamoah should be the Black Stars’ new midfield general and orchestrator, and the responsibility that comes with such a role will undoubtedly bring out the best in him.