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  • Giacomo Notari

Asumah Abubakar – (still) waiting to take off in Tessin

Was Lugano the right choice for Abubakar? The numbers as of now suggest difficulties for the ex-Challenge League star…But it’s too early to panic. Here’s how Lugano could get more out of their new striker.

Asumah Abubakar signing for FC Lugano was without a doubt one of the most surprising moves of the winter transfer window in Switzerland. The Ghanese / Portuguese forward has been the nightmare of almost every defender in the Challenge League since months. What’s somewhat surprising is Abu’s choice to join Lugano. It was almost shocking to see one of the more requested players on the market choose a place like Lugano which, despite the very good results obtained since their comeback in the Super League in 2015, is definitely still a little “fish” in the pond of Swiss football, at least compared to YB or Basel. Alternatives were for sure there, Servette and Lausanne, if we only want to name two of them. But for now, let’s keep that aside, without forgetting that Abubakar himself really wanted to sign for the Bianconeri.

Excitement followed by questions

Considering everything we just mentioned, it was no surprise that Abubakar joining Lugano was a pretty exciting moment for a lot of fans, who immediately put quite a lot of expectations on him. Those expectations grew even more when, only a few weeks after joining Lugano, he was elected “Best Challenge League Player” in 2020. If we add to that the fact that there’s never been a real killer for Lugano’s attack since Armando Sadiku’ departure, the ex-Kriens forward really arrived in hardly easy conditions.

It’s now been a bit more than three months since Abu signed for Lugano, enough to do a first check. And at this point, obviously, everyone looks first at the number of goals he scored. Only 2 in 16 appearances. Clearly not enough for a striker, and kind of disappointing for someone with the track record of Asumah Abubakar. But we must be careful before jumping to conclusions from these numbers. Here’s why.

Turnover and awkward positioning

If Abu’s choice to join Lugano can be considered surprising, it also has to do with the fact that there is already such a large number of players in the team, who can take on the role of striker in Jacobacci's preferred system, the 3-5-2. Gerndt, Lungoyi, Bottani and Ardaiz are some of them. All these players represent four potential different attacking partners for Abubakar. If we keep in mind how much of a struggle it can be to find your place when you are new in a team, and we add to that the fact that your partners constantly swap, this can easily be an argument to explain why the Portuguese encountered that much difficulties to be decisive.

via Instagran

The other problem with Lugano’s number 17 is that he has been used as a winger for a few games now, especially when Jacobacci decides to play in a 4-3-3. Even stranger, Abu last was played on the left wing in a 3-5-2 system. Bottani’s excellent form combined to Ardaiz finally being confident after months of incapacity have moved him to the wing, but come on, a killer like Abubakar belongs to the penalty area, not next to the sideline. When used like that, the ex-Challenge League Pichichi clearly has to waste his energy in other ways than for scoring, like for example working defensively plus trying to bring the ball up front.

Patience and confidence

Looking back at everything we just mentioned, is it time to worry for Abubakar and to question his transfer? Is Lugano the right destination for him? Did the Bianconeri make a bad decision, considering the fact that they could’ve easily concluded their season with the four strikers that were already in the squad? Well, I want to make clear that there’s no way Abu’s transfer can be called a flop as of now.

Even though he has not been able to play his favorite position for most of the time, his qualities can be seen every week-end. His ease to handle the ball and his technical qualities really stand out on the pitch. He has something that the majority of the other Super League strikers don’t have. The latest example of his outstanding talent was his masterclass against Luzern in the ¼ of the Schweizer Cup last Wednesday. Even if he didn’t score, he was the best player on the pitch for 120 minutes and did absolutely everything he could, including obtaining a penalty kick at the 120’… Episodes like that, which aren’t that rare, are reassuring every Lugano fan, that Abubakar will be able to live up to the expectations at some point.

One last thing to keep in mind is that, fortunately, Abubakar seems very calm and patient. He’s appreciated by the medias and fans here in Lugano, way more than some of the previous strikers who have stopped at the Cornared lately. People seem to accept that a striker that young with that much talent may just need a little more time, which is very important for Abubakar’s confidence and mental health.

To sum it all up, I really think that Abubakar’s takeoff in Lugano is just a matter of time. There’s no need to lose patience, especially if we look at his impact on Lugano’s game without scoring. Jacobacci will definitely continue to traying to find the best possible system to extract all the qualities of Abu. Until then, let's continue to enjoy his spectacular talent and eagerly follow his adaptation to the Super League. The goals will come by themselves. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lugano’s number 17 would be in the race for the best scorer of the Super League next season…

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