It is not too long ago that we could not talk about the CAF Champions League without mentioning Esperance Tunis. Yet here we are today questioning whether they will be able to mount a challenge for CAFCL 2020/2021. Not enough has happened at Parc B since they were knocked out at the quarterfinal stage by Zamalek.
Esperance Tunis are famed for being able to rebuild their team. They looked well on their way to doing that with the $1.5 million signing of Abderrahmane Meziane. The Algerian winger was bought to replace the irreplaceable Anice Badri. The Tunis side also seemed to have addressed question marks over the future of Moine Chaabani. Couple that up with a couple of good signings and even CAFCL Gazette was singing praises for Taraji.
All this changed when I got a peek at what the Esperance squad will look like next season. The stories surrounding the team do not fill me with excitement either. But I am not saying Esperance Tunis is not good. They are one of the CAFCL teams. I am just concerned that we could witness a long break until Taraji is good again.
This has led me to ponder over five issues regarding their squad. I have the questions, do you have the answers? Let us go through them together.
1. Is Moine Chaabani Staying?
I feel bad for Moine Chaabani. The young coach has led Esperance Tunis to 2 Tunisia Ligue 1 titles plus back-to-back CAFCL wins. Despite this, there is always noise being made by Tunisian media about his future. The club leadership was even forced to back him publicly one time.
The names being fronted to replace him are obvious ones. The first is Nabil Maaloul. He won the CAFCL with Esperance in 2011. And he is regarded as the best Tunisian coach out there. Maaloul is reportedly leaving his job as coach of Syria to join Taraji.
The second guy linked with Esperance is Lassaad Chabbi. He has made a name for himself this past season by leading US Monastir to a third place league finish plus the Tunisian Cup title.
What will come of this latest round of speculation? I hope nothing.
2. Will Abderrahmane Meziane Be Value for Money?
Esperance Tunis is a wealthy club. But even they do not like spending $1 million plus more on players. This is a behavior you will find only the trio of Al Ahly, Zamalek and Pyramids FC comfortable with. So, you can understand why it was a big deal when they forked out such amounts to sign, winger, Abderrahmane Meziane.
Unfortunately, Meziane has not impressed anybody since donning the Blood and Gold jersey. The Algerian played 10 league matches and only managed to score once. So much for a Badri replacement. There is now discussion on whether he is worth the wages he is on in a team trying to rebuild. I know us fans need to be patient but there is no time.
3. Who is the Next Esperance Tunis Striker?
We remember Michael Eneramo and Yannick Ndjeng then marvel at Taraji’s scouting. Let us not forget that the Tunis side has failed to find a good striker since the Nigerian then the Cameroonian left.
Who can forget the Emmanuel Clottey disaster? Ahmed Akaichi and Yassine Khenissi are passable. Now, the club feels like they have given Ibrahim Ouattara enough time to show what he can do. Esperance Tunis are reportedly talking to a Nigerian striker based in Europe to be their next striker.
4. End of the Algerian Experiment?
Esperance Tunis took full advantage of the rule in Tunisia that did not considered players from other North African countries to be foreigners. They decided to sign as many players from Algeria as they could. Esperance had up to 8 Algerian footballers at one time.
But the experiment does not quite seem to have been a success. Besides Belaili, the other Algerian players do not appear to be that much better than their cheaper Tunisian counterparts. Esperance have already offloaded Bilel Bensaha to MC Alger and are reconsidering their relation with Meziane.
5. Can “that” Midfield Compete?
Ghaylen Chaalali is back. But Esperance Tunis midfield is still clearly lacking key attributes. The defensive aspects took a hit with the departure of Kom. And, his replacement, Kwame Bonsu has not done enough to win over the Parc B faithful. Fousseny Coulibaly still has to do it alone.
The creative side is also being completely neglected in the rebuild. Benguit, Ben Romdhane and Chaalali are a class away from the likes of Sassi and El Karti. We do not want to see Esperance struggling to create clear cut chances again when El Houni is not in form.
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