Rajevac’s Not-So-Fresh Start Counts On the ‘Tuchel Effect’
You could be forgiven for assuming, on seeing the initial raft of invitees released by Milovan Rajevac for the first assignments of his second coming as Ghana head coach, that the recently sacked Charles Akonnor was still in charge.
The latter, during his tenure, gave minutes — of varying lengths — to 62 players (according to Transfermarkt, that is, although that tally fails to take into account Mexico-based Clifford Aboagye’s brief cameo against Sudan in November 2020).
Completing the 32-man roster is returnee Alfred Duncan (who, despite his decent performances in Serie A, somehow never got a look-in under Akonnor), uncapped Benjamin Tetteh (congratulations on his maiden call-up) and Joe Wollacott (could someone explain just what business a goalkeeper from England’s fourth tier has in Ghana’s flagship national team?).
The thread running through the draft is one of continuity, reinforced by the fact that all but four of the players in camp for Akonnor’s last two games are returning under Rajevac, albeit only provisionally; the final list will be much shorter, but still very familiar.
Rajevac, still in his first full week in the job, has clearly opted to give himself a chance to properly assess and run the rule over the group he has inherited, surprising those who might have expected some early chopping and changing.
In doing so, Rajevac appears to be counting on what I call — pardon my recency bias, if you will — the ‘Tuchel effect’.
When German tactician Thomas Tuchel took over the reins at English side Chelsea in January this year, succeeding club legend Frank Lampard, he had no chance to tinker with the existing playing body as the winter window was almost over and the summer session was still months away.
And yet Tuchel managed to find a formula to meet — and exceed — short-term expectations with the material at his disposal, switching up both mood and strategy when an immediate upgrade of personnel wasn’t possible.
He squeezed more out of most of the players than had previously been apparent and — as just reward for his efforts — secured silver medals in the FA Cup, UEFA Champions League triumph, and a better finish in the 2020/21 Premier League season than the Blues had seemed destined for under Lampard.
It’s the sort of impact that Rajevac would hope to derive from players who, quite reasonably, would be eager to impress when Ghana takes on Zimbabwe in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying double-header for which they’ve been summoned.
It’s a big gamble, though, one that could well backfire if the players stink as badly as they did against Ethiopia and South Africa earlier this month, potentially shrinking further the already narrow sliver of opportunity through which Ghana could slip unscathed to Qatar.
Should Rajevac’s wand fail to inspire the transformation of a collective that has, thus far, not impressed, his axe — with a cool $300,000 bonus for the Serbian to pocket if all goes well in the remainder of Ghana’s mission to reach the next edition of the Mundial — is likely going to come out swinging, ruthlessly and decisively.