NPFL clubs re-strategizing for second round | Dailytrust

NPFL clubs re-strategizing for second round

 Kwara United player, Joshua Agboola (R) shields the ball away from Samuel Christian of Abia Warriors
Kwara United player, Joshua Agboola (R) shields the ball away from Samuel Christian of Abia Warriors

After 19 matches, the 2021 Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL, season is observing a two weeks break. This has paved the way for the 20 clubs to go back to the drawing board to re-strategise for enhanced performance.

According to the statement released by the LMC, the league is expected to resume on April 18 with Match Day 20.

At the end of the first stanza, Kwara United who struggled last season are on top of the league table with 36 points, having won 10 drawn 6 and lost only three out of 19 matches played so far.

The ‘Afonja Warriors’ are closely followed by four time winners of the league, Kano Pillars who also have 36 points but inferior goal difference. In third place is Akwa United on 33 points with a game in hand.

Although former African champions, Enyimba have found themselves in the fifth place behind Enugu Rangers, mathematically, they are potential leaders because of their four outstanding matches.

Unlike the top four clubs, Enyimba have played only 15 matches due to their continental engagement. They are representing Nigeria in the ongoing CAF Confederation Cup.

Consequently, pundits are of the opinion that the real shape of the table would be known only when the eight time winners of the NPFL have played their outstanding matches.

Meanwhile, as the quartet of Kwara United, Kano Pillars, Akwa United and Enugu Rangers is leading from the top, some clubs are leading from the bottom due to lacklustre performances.

After 19 matches, Adamawa United, FC IfeanyiUbah, Katsina United and Warri Wolves have found themselves at the basement and would require a miracle to escape relegation at the end of the season.

The worst hit is Adamawa United who have won only two matches, drawn six and lost 11 to place last on the table with a miserable 12 points from possible 57 points.

Thus, only an unforeseen occurrence like the COVID-19 pandemic that saved some clubs from relegation in the 2020 season will keep Adamawa United in the topflight.

However, both the clubs that are comfortable on the table and those gasping for breath at the bottom have regrouped in their camps to plan how they will either maintain their impressive performances or fight to avoid the drop.

Interestingly, in addition to the two weeks break, the League Management Company, LMC, has announced the opening of the second transfer window which is on and will close at mid-night of April 14.

The clubs have been advised to make maximum use of the window to beef up their squads with more quality players.

Consequently, in the coming days, there will be a flurry of activities in the Nigerian league transfer market as clubs will attempt to poach from opposing teams.

However, some of the coaches who spoke to Trust Sports said they are not planning to overhaul their squads as they maintained that doing so might be counter-productive.

According to the Technical Adviser of Kano Pillars, Coach Ibrahim Musa, there is really no need to change a winning team.

“If you look at our position on the table, we are not doing badly. Out of 19 matches, we have won 11, drawn 3 and lost 5 to finish the first round in second position.

“In addition, Pillars boast of some of the best players in the league so we may not have need for new players but we are certainly using the break to make some adjustments,” he said.

The Technical Adviser of Abia Warriors, Imama Amapakabo also explained to Trust Sports why his team struggled at the beginning of the season and what he plans to do to sustain their revival in the second stanza.

According to him, Abia Warriors were nearly wrecked by injuries to key players at the start of the season but such concerns have been sorted out.

“We started the league very very rough. We lost four consecutive matches and drew three consecutively. So as at week seven, we were still at the bottom of the league. And at week 9 to 11, we were still there.

“Therefore, if you look at where we came from and where we are now, you will agree with me that yes, giant strides have been made but there is room for progress. Abia Warriors is still work in progress.

“Having seen all the teams play in the first round, I now have better knowledge about them.  I like to play with the knowledge about my opponents. Most times it has been challenging because not all matches are on television for one to watch. So sometimes, I had to depend on information from some colleagues or media clips.

“It would have been easier for me if every other game were on television every other week. But now that I have been able to see every team play, I have a better understanding of their formations and tactics so the second round will be more exciting,” said Amapakabo.

The Media Officer of Lobi Stars, Austin Tyowua said the club is right now plugging all the loopholes for better performance in the second round.

He said with the appointment of a new Vice-Chairman for the club, there is a renewed spirit and fans would see a brand new Lobi Stars when the league resumes.

“We had our challenges in the first stanza but there is a silent transformation in the club. We have a new vice-chairman, Mr. Tama Aondofa who has come in with new ideas to reposition the club.

“He is working round the clock to ensure that Lobi Stars rise and shine brighter in the concluding round of the league,” he said.

For Nasarawa United’s leading goalscorer, Adamu Hassan, second round of the league will be fight to finish.

“Some of us have been around for years now so we know what to expect in the second round. There is going to be fierce competition but we are equal to the task.

“Nasarawa United are focused on playing continental football in the 2021/2022 season. It is not going to be easy but we are determined to achieve our target,” said the former Kano Pillars player.

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