The Highlanders FC Conundrum: Underperformance or True Form?


How long does a team have to continuously over/under-perform for it to just be a reflection of their true form?

Turn back your calendar for a few months to Sunday, June 5, 2022.

Highlanders FC poor form Zimbabwe Castle premier soccer league
Image: Highlanders FC

Three weeks earlier Highlanders had obliterated Dynamos 3-0. Now, 14 months have gone by since then and Bosso only managed to score three goals in game thrice. They've won by 1 goal margins (1-0, 2-1, 3-2) a staggering 16 times. They've also had 18 ties in that period that ended in nil all stalemates and one goal apiece draws.

All of this is endemic to a bigger problem within the team. 10 of Bosso's 11 wins this season have come by one goal. And that includes a 19 game unbeaten run in that period as well. 

Highlanders seemed set to win the league back in August. 

You don't need to be told that that unbeaten run wasn't sustainable because the proof is right there in that they’ve not won in 9 of the last 10. The drop off was coming but to be entirely honest, no one expected it to be this catastrophic.

Highlanders have only been winning by one goal for one simple reason: They don’t score enough goals. 

Is it A Coaching Problem?

But perhaps at the top level, coaches don’t matter all that much. A professional team with a coach will do better than one without a coach, but as long as you have a professional coach, the difference is very close to negligible.

Spending hours on analysis as a coach is somewhat useful. It doesn’t place a team in better conditions to win games. The tactics, the structures, systems all sound like things that win games. 

Of course tactics matter, but in reality, games are won by players playing very well. 

Titles are won by the teams with the most exceptional players. How to find such players that execute certain roles in Zimbabwe is a different conversation altogether but that's where Bosso need to focus on if they are to become the powerhouse they ought to be. 

For 45 minutes at a time, players make their own decisions within the parameters of coaching instructions; testing whether they work or completely ignore instructions and problem-solve for themselves. 

Football is a continuous sport in which the coach has barely any influence, less than in any other sport.

The evidence suggests that this isn't just a spell of underperformance. This is Highlanders' actual form ceiling. 

Winning by 1 goal margins isn't sustainable and the needle can and has fell the other way.

Bosso have been struggling with passing, creativity, players receiving the ball on the half turn, and positioning among other traits needed to be a dominating team that wins the Premier League, and to be at the level Highlanders wants to be at. 

They need players who can pass between the lines or pick out a pass to unlock a low block - which 15 teams in the league. Unfortunately, you can not coach that at that level. There's simply no time.

There weren't any blemishes on the coach when they went 19 unbeaten. Once teams figured out how they play, it's been difficult for Highlanders. There is a case for adapting and finding a new niche but for that to work, you need players that can execute more than a coach that can work magic.

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