When Hezzy Obungu took over from Ambrose Otieno at the helm of Kisumu Hot Stars in January, expectations for his success were… shall I say… expected . He had been Ambrose’s assistant, and in fact he had been an assistant for quite some time at the club despite finishing the previous season as interim head coach after the club fired Fredrick Okello.
Obungu’s first 5 matches in National Division One saw his side win four wins out of the six matches played and for the very first time Kisumu Hot Stars won away matches 2-1 to Raiply FC in Eldoret
One of the keys to Hezzy’s success has been a greater reliance on a 4-3-3 formation rather than Diego Armando’s preferred 4-2-3-1. With the double-pivot, Hot Stars had been more vulnerable to attacks down the flanks; in the 4-3-3, the midfielders can spread wider to defend. Yet there’s another interesting aspect to the young gaffer’s work that’s not as obvious from looking at performance in away matches: the change to how Hot Stars defenders play at home. The quality of defending is low overall, partly a hangover from Armando’s time in charge. But the ball retention of Hot Stars defenders – and indeed almost all of the squad – is so high that the defenders rarely have come under pressure, anyway. In theory, however, Opuk as known by her loyal fans never count on that kind of dominance when they play in away soil.
Now the quality of defending looks downright mediocre, and the ball retention is less extraordinary as well. So just judging by Kisumu Hot Stars away matches, the prognosis for the away matches would not have been too positive. And indeed, the club concedes regularly in way matches But since Hezzy Obungu took over, Hot Stars have only lost one away matches have allowed just two goals one being a penalty, owing to the harsh officiating that comes with Division one referees.
The quality of defending is much higher than expected, and so is the ball retention for every player except Fredrick Odongo the deep-lying midfielder who plays at most two to three touches.
So what changed? Well, have a look at Clinton Bulimo at RB During away matches, Bulimo has disrupted opposition plays much more often – a rating of 6 versus near-perfect rating of 9 in-home matches where he works harder to break up moves on the flanks, which had been one of Hot Star weaknesses. And he’s also shooting more, which may draw defenders closer to him and make counterattacking more difficult. The same has been true for left-back Steve Otieno.
Otieno’s style rating for disrupting opposition plays rises from 5 to 9 in home matches, another huge difference. The change in his shooting is simply enormous, and he also gets into the box much more often. Granted, there is a favorable factor playing on the astroturf , but the change in style for both fullbacks is something to behold. It doesn’t hurt that they’re two of the best tacklers anywhere.
Hezzy seems to have found a way to make his players’ defending more effective at home by using width in midfield and pushing his fullbacks further up the flanks.
When the season resumes, we’ll see if he can keep up this remarkable defensive record at home. In the meantime, keep it here for more feature stories