With just a few days to go the biggest football showpiece on planet earth there seems to be some concern for the Nigerian team no thanks to recent poor results
The general consensus among many including the Coach of the Super Eagles himself Gernot Rohr is that the team is simply not ready
While the poor performances may be partly due to extreme caution on the part of the players to avoid Injuries the last couple of games have as they should highlighted areas where if the team must excel in Russia Gernot Rohr must address urgently
We highlight 7 . . .
1) Our Tactical Formation
The Super Eagles have for long favored the 4 3 3 formation playing a lone striker flanked by 2 wide men with 3 midfielders and 4 in defence.
But against quality and technical opposition we have struggled with that system except when we switch to the 3-5 2
The 3-5 2 is enjoying a resurgence across Europe and was a strong factor in Chelseas title winning run last 2 seasons to the extent some other clubs had to begin to mirror the formation
We were at sea and totally stretched until we switched to the 3-5-2against the English and also against Argentina
The major advantage of the 3-5-2 is the spacing it provides and how it places more emphasis on the midfield holding role a role in which a player like Mikel Obi can thrive
Its also a system that seems to favor our current full backs Tyronne Ebuehi and more especially Bryan Idowu
We adapted and switched from the traditional 4 4 2 to what we currently use now, its time to switch again and play with 3 centrebacks
2) Our Handling Of Set Pieces
It’s no surprise Englands 1st goal came from a set piece as Gary Cahill expertly lost his former teammate Mikel Obi to head home. We have always struggled against set pieces and seem naïve when it comes to defending them. Think back as far back as the 94 World cup.
Free kicks, corners and throw-ins can provide match winning situations and it’s important to learn how to defend against them properly
We are no better at delivery and often times playing against Nigeria its wiser to foul a player to halt an attack and give away a freekick knowing it would most likely be wasted
We will be punished again at the World cup proper if nothing is done to address this
3) Our Midfield Combination
Rohr has often opted for a midfield combo of Mikel Onazi and Ndidi and this has it has to be said had some success in the past. But again against England Onazis deficiencies were exposed while Rohrs choice to replace Ndidi Joel Obis lack of fitness also came to fore, Mikel was pushed too far upfront and his lack of pace was visible while Alex iwobi was once again wasted on the wings.
Its been overstated, for the Eagles to play fluid attacking football and create goal scoring chances Alex Iwobi MUST play infield as a 10 and not on the flanks. Mikel who is an orchestrator can superbly still pull the strings from a deeper deep lying playmaker role, a role he was born to play, while Ndidi pairs him to execute the defensive midfield duties. Our coach now needs to adjust his midfield and play the Arsenal man in front of a double Pivot of Mikel and Ndidi for best results
4) Our Slow Start To Games
Over the last couple of games the Super Eagles have been a reactive side starting games in an uninspired mode and only later picking the pace up most times when we are a goal down
We have looked bereft of ideas to counter opponents at the beginning of matches and If this happens in Russia we will be punished severely
While Gernot Rohr has been lauded for his quick reaction in the game against England switching formation to counter the English tactics it was a little too late and he has to be more proactive and get his tactics spot on from the beginning of the game.
Rohr also has to work on the attitude and approach to games and get the Eagles to come out smoking from the go
He must improve the team’s level of concentration and composure in the opening minutes of the game ensuring they impose themselves early on to avoid getting blown away, overrun, overwhelmed and unable to recover
5) Victor Moses
The Chelsea of England star may be a marauding right back for the English Club but for the Super eagles he is the main man, the main attacking outlet and the “messi” of the Nigerian team
Moses who has always been our most potent attacking weapon and most likely outlet for goals has looked jaded in recent time
For the Super eagles to truly threaten Moses must be brought back to a 100%, he needs to revert to the Moses that dazzles down the flanks and either creates or scores taking on defenders with aplomb
Every team needs a match winner , a player who steps up and does the impossible when the chips are down, for now Moses has been that man for the Super Eagles, Rohr needs to do everything possible to ensure he is again
6) The Cracks In The Onyibo Wall
The much vaunted Onyibo Wall central defence partnership of Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong has been our choice partnership for over a year snuffling out almost everything thrown at them
However in recent matches the pair have looked a little shaky with Balogun in particular fingered for some lapses
While there is no cause for panic yet Rohr has to firm up his central defence pairing and ensure their communication and is top notch
Kenneth Omeruo looked a little assured coming in against the English and should be made to push the pair of Ekong and Rohr to remove any chances of complacency
7) Making The Bold Calls
Part of Rohrs success in Nigeria can be attributed to his understanding of the politics of the game knowing whom and whom not to give quarter or credence to
He also understands the composition of the team, the Nigerian psyche and the need to reward & satiate experience, seniority and loyalty. Infact he favors it
But going into the World cup proper Rohr will ultimately be judged by his performances and if he is to succeed he has to be able to make the bold calls
Before the shambolic performance against England calls have long been made for the Trabzonspor of Turkey midfielder Onazis exclusion at least from the starting line ups for more versatile energetic younger and skillful midfielders like Etebo but typical of Rohr he stood by his man just as he stood by Echiejile despite his poor season in Europe.
The World Cup is an altogether different ball game and for the Super Eagles to succeed Rohr must be able to drop whoever when necessary despite pressure to the contrary when he needs to or despite whatever contribution that player has made to his cause in the past