FEATURE: Oliseh’s Eagle needs a ‘real’ playmaker
One of the talking points of Nigeria’s first leg FIFA World Cup qualifier stalemate against minnows Swaziland was the way in which they appeared top-heavy late on, overloading the King’s Shield half.
Coming into the game, it had been expected the gaffer would play his recently acquired wildcards, Seattle Sounders’ Obafemi Martins and teenage prodigy Kelechi Iheanacho. Both attackers were thrusted on in the second period in a rather bizarre fashion. Iheanacho coming on for Eagles’ only natural playmaker Rabiu Ibrahim, who had been on the pitch for barely twenty minutes, after entering the fray for the out-of-touch Sylvester Igboun.
The 19-year-old had to make his international bow slotting into the number ten position at first, before being shifted deeper with the introduction of John Obi Mikel, for his first appearance in 20 months, in an advanced midfield role.
With Oliseh’s favoured tactics a strict 4-3-3 system, with pacy wingers Ahmed Musa and Simon Moses staunchly sticking to their prerogatives as flankers, limiting their opportunity to join in midfield. Oliseh has mostly stuck with less productive Igboun’s bull in the China shop approach in his short reign. That approach ensured Swaziland’s stern defence was a strong wall with the Nigeria lacking the composure and vision of a natural playmaker to unlock the oppositions’s defence.
However, Oliseh seem to have completed two of the three midfield man puzzle with the third still proving stern. The two, unsurprisingly Lazio’s Ogenyi Onazi and Mikel, apparently, yet to come to reality of Emmanuel Emenike’s sudden retirement, often depriving the Eagles’ game of its most vital transition – midfield to attack – thereby playing long balls for the forward line, led by Odion Ighalo, to chase.
Austin Jay Jay Okocha’s former protege, Ibrahim, after a superb exhibition in the September friendly against Niger, has seen his stock stall with the latest report of a bust up that stemmed from his early substitution against Swaziland. The bulky Sylvester Igboun’s reeling performances that indicate his best position is away from being a creative hub. All of these would definitely affect the output of the team and fingers pointed in the wrong direction.
Oliseh, for now, has little or no time to provide a high-flying creator, even if it seems Nigeria’s stock in that area has refused to rise, despite promises.