Three solutions for Ninjas in Problems
Anyone will tell you that NiP are going through a slump with lackluster results online and a last place finish at Gfinity Spring Masters - and we're offering them solutions.
NiP are a dedicated bunch - they are not a team known to rush into roster changes, but as more and more time passes by without results, it is also something they will have to consider if things don't turn around.
For now, we are offering the Ninjas possible solutions to their problems in the order that we believe are most likely the team could actually follow and implement in reality.
In addition, these are all solutions that could, and possible should be, combined together in order to have the best possibility of succeeding. Only time will tell whether that will happen or not.
One thing is for sure - they've missed out on ESL ESEA Pro League's $500,000 Finals and will likely miss FACEIT Finals, and the team isn't what it used to be. Something has to give.
NiP's results have not been encouraging
Break from tournaments, practice and a bootcamp
NiP has attended six offline tournaments in fifteen weekends since Aleksi "allu" Jalli joined for ESL One Katowice. It may not sound like a lot - with more than half the weekends still free - but considering how often that means a five-day span when including travel, and how many online matches the Swedes have played, it means they have had an incredibly busy schedule this spring and early summer.
With ESL One Cologne coming up in late August and NiP already qualified, I think the recipe for success for the Ninjas, assuming everything else stays as is, is avoiding tournaments and online leagues at all costs until then. I would play out Gfinity, take two weeks completely off of Counter-Strike - as a team - and then give it everything I have for the five weeks leading up to the next major.
A break from Counter-Strike wouldn't mean forgetting about the game - in general, I find that often successful players visualize games and situations, and from my experience I can tell I have figured out many tactical issues my teams have had when doing things completely unrelated to the game, while allowing my mind to wander and think about them. That's the play here.
In addition, NiP has a full-time coach - Joona "natu" Leppänen - who would be expected to spend those two weeks analyzing every detail of the team's game, with input from other players, who should probably also watch some games - but not play - to come up with ways to do things better. A break should revitalize the team, and give them enough time to figure out their issues to implement in-game in five weeks of uninterrupted practice.
A break from CS:GO would give natu a chance to prove his worth
New coach, new play style, new NiP
I am still not sold on natu as NiP's coach - I think he would work wonders for a team who have issues with communication or team work, or who get into arguments during matches. But NiP doesn't - presumably - have any of those issues. In fact, I have always considered all of those things the strengths of NiP, while they clearly struggle in the tactical department.
The problem with NiP in my opinion is still the same it was when they added Mikail "Maikelele" Bill in the primary AWPer role - and this is something that I discussed in detail with Robin "Fifflaren" Johansson, who likely knows them better than any outsider, and fully agreed - they are super predictable. Every top team knows exactly how NiP plays, and what to expect against them. They play super basic Counter-Strike, but it no longer works.
NiP's problem is that they used to have two of the world's five best players and two other very good fraggers -- now they are stuck with one player who can play like a superstar on the right day, and another one who probably isn't currently even a star. In other words, there are now at least five, maybe ten, players I would pick up before anyone from NiP when building a team from scratch and ignoring communication and nationality issues.
What worked when being the most skilled does not work anymore, and since NiP are reluctant to make another roster move - and there aren't exactly any great candidates available anyway - they should instead add a tactics oriented coach. Björn "THREAT" Pers comes to mind, but it's unlikely he would want to commmit to the job full-time - yet even a two month stint in the summer could fix NiP for the foreseeable future.
NiP need to rebuild their play from scratch. They need someone like THREAT to bring in an outsider's perspective and help them see things in a different way. NiP still have - presumably - good communication and team work, and they have enough skill to compete for titles. The issue is that everyone else knows exactly how to counter them, which is why they must change their playing style.
Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund should stop calling as soon as possible - if he still does it - to focus solely on being the best player he can be, while Richard "Xizt" Landström should simply suck it up and pick up mid-round calling. But none of that changes the fact NiP have proven incapable of changing their style on their own, which is why they must add a new tactics oriented coach to do it for them.
Here's a chance for THREAT to win a major. He would have to dedicate the rest of the summer to Counter-Strike, but it would be an interesting challenge I could imagine him taking on. Otherwise, if I were NiP's management, I would consider overpaying for Fifflaren's services to get his input. No doubt he could at least, without a huge tactical background, point NiP to the right direction.
THREAT would be an ideal short-term coach to get NiP back on track
Get fresh blood to re-energize the team
This is the option NiP are definitely most reluctant to. They refused to let go of Fifflaren despite his issues costing them a number of titles - though it is possible he contributed in other ways - and there is no way they want to make changes any faster this time around. Looking at NiP's player ratings in 2015, they simply aren't what they used to be, and if they can't make up for lost skills in tactics, they must do it via individual skill.
Both GeT_RiGhT and Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg are still stars - the former can be a superstar still, but mostly isn't playing like one - but have both become inconsistent and can no longer be counted on to carry the Ninjas to podium finishes all year long. allu gets the job done, while Xizt has been average at best with his 1.01 rating, and Adam "friberg" Friberg has been a net-negative since the days of ESL One Cologne almost a year ago.
If NiP can add a coach who can lead them in-game, they should do that. If Xizt is open to still making the necessary mid-round calls a coach cannot contribute to, he should stay. Otherwise, I would even look into getting rid of him together with friberg, who I think without a doubt should be the first to go in a scenario where NiP decides to go for a roster change - his struggles have lasted too long now.
Possible recuits include the likes of former LGB talent Simon "twist" Eliasson - who I believe would be a good pick-up as a versatile player - or his former LGB teammate, Dennis "dennis" Edman, who was another solid all-around player who put up big numbers when LGB got their top placings. In other words, NiP could look into picking up a pair of former LGB players, fnatic-style, and hope they will bring them back to the top. I'd also consider ex-fnatic player Andreas "znajder" Lindberg.
twist could be the new blood NiP need
How would you fix NiP? Do you think it is still possible for them to get out of their slump and regain top form without any material changes? Leave a comment below and let us know.
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