I have not watched Cameroon train and the media have largely focused on side-events such as the tense relationship between Alex Song and Samuel Eto’o – which makes it hard to discuss coach Javier Clemente’s plans for Saturday.
Nevertheless, the Spaniard promised a more offensive game. Does that mean he would change his personnel to accommodate more attack-minded players than in Dakar?
A few reports have suggested that he is planning a 4-4-2 with Eto’o and Webo as the strikers, while the young, Monaco based forward, Benjamin Moukandjo (or Valenciene striker Vincent Aboubakar) would be fielded on the right flank. Unfortunately, the reports have not stated if Henri Bedimo (who plays left-back at Lens) would continue as left winger.
If Clemente has effectively opted for 4-4-2 it would mean a greater use of the wings to stretch the game but it would also require the wide men to put-in inch-perfect crosses and have the ability to take their markers in one-on-one dribbles à la Valencia (Manchester United) to create space and allow the forwards to take suitable positions.
With only Webo as a good header of the ball against a Senegalese defence of very tall and physical players, banging ill-timed high crosses would be a fruitless strategy.
That formation would mean one-to-one battles in the midfield as opposed to the Dakar game while the Cameroon full-backs will be bereft of the protection from and extra midfielder. This would expose them to the trickery and pace of the Senegalese wingers (who are actually attackers).
Moreover, this would not solve the key problem that Cameroon faced in Dakar which was lack of penetration from the centre. Nguemo was supposed to act like a box to box mid-fielder to support Webo but it didn’t quite work out. Eto’o often had to retreat into central midfield positions to link up play. It’s a shame that Clemente did not retain Somen Tchoyi. He could have done this very well.
Nonetheless, I suspect Clemente would keep the shape of the team close to what we saw in Dakar and play in a sort of 4-1-2-3. Sadly, Assou-Ekotto who adds an extra attacking dimension from full-back is an injury doubt.
I have not seen them practice so I can’t say for sure what coach’s choices would be. Using the 4-1-2-3 formation, here’s how I would field the players currently at his disposal against Senegal to ensure defensive balance, penetration from midfield as well as width and incisiveness from the attack:
A back four of: Benoit Amgwa (RB) – Nicolas Nkoulou (CB) – Sebastien Bassong (CB) – Gaetan Bong (LB). Stephane Mbia (CM) to sit in-front of the back-four; Aurelien Chedjou (CM) and Landry Nguemo (CM) working box-to-box. A forward trio of: Benjamin Moukandjo (right) Samuel Eto’o (centre) and Maxim Choupo-Moting (left). The front-men can always switch positions.
Choupo-Moting and Moukandjo regularly play as wingers in their clubs (though they are strikers) and are technically good to cut-in from the flanks into the centre of attack (à la Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Di Maria). They are tactically aware enough to drop deep to form a midfield 5 once Cameroon loses possession.
Nguemo, Mbia and Chedjou play more defensive roles in their clubs but in the past (especially at youth levels) they played in advanced positions for the national teams. They have the energy to do the box-to-box roles that is required of midfielders in such a formation to give thrust and penetration to attacks like Essien, Lampard used to do in Mourinho’s Chelsea.
The system is built on speed and power and thus accommodates the type of players Cameroon currently possesses when played in the Chelsea way rather than the Barcelona format which lays emphasis on technique.
But, I am not the coach. It’s down to Javier Clemente.