How will Rohr solve the Eagles’ Midfield Puzzle?


The Super Eagles team to the World Cup, like the ones to previous editions, will virtually pick itself. From the starting goalkeeper to the last reserve, almost any Nigerian familiar with the team, is aware that certain players are a lock for a World Cup slot. The surprises, if there will be any, will be a few…three maybe, but not more than four. There are still speculations however, about who plays with John Mikel Obi in midfield…

Mikel will start, that is not negotiable. The player we loved, hated, then fell in love with all over again, has proved to be the fulcrum around which the Super Eagles revolve. Mikel’s influence over the team has gone beyond simple football, it is almost spiritual. Therefore, if Mikel takes one of Gernot Rohr’s preferred three-man midfield, who among the others, take up the remaining two places?

Some will argue that Wilfred Ndidi has the second place on lockdown too. And they may be right. The Leicester City man has been in phenomenal form in the Premiership, and has been credited with ‘the most tackles in a game Europe’ on more than one occasion. This means that when Mikel starts his ‘roaming’, the Eagles can be sure somebody is sitting, covering the defence. And if Ndidi is also a lock; that leaves just one more place…

And there are several candidates, and options open. First, the candidates: Oghenekaro Etebo, John Ogu, Mikel Agu, Joel Obi, Ogenyi Onazi, and Uche Agbo. There are others, but these are the leading candidates. The options are only two really: Rohr would need offensive midfielders when Eagles need goals, and defensive midfielders when they need to hold.

✔ Obi, Etebo and Ogu are the ones capable of scoring goals; Obi is the most intriguing of the lot, he’s scored more goals this season than in his entire career put together before now, and he is playing well.

✔ Ogu offers accurate long range shots, and will have space for those missiles when the wingers draw defenders away.

✔ Etebo can create, score, and still have enough energy left, to disrupt opposition plans in midfield. He can be the x-factor and extra man rolled into one.

The remaining three; Onazi, Agbo and Agu are basically Ndidi clones. They offer what the Leicester man offers, only he does it better. So, we are left with the conclusion that…

Each opponent will determine which formation the coach plays. And this depends on how Rohr plans to approach the game. Will it be Mikel, Ndidi and Etebo? Or Mikel, Etebo and Agu? Or will it be Mikel, Ndidi and Ogu? The major challenge Rohr will have, is…

Will he be bold enough to drop Onazi? The Trabzonspor midfielder has offered little to the team over the past couple of years. He is often caught out of position; that is why he picks up cards; in the bid to right the mistake. And he has been caught for pace on some occasions. He looks to be the weak link, but he looks to also be a lock for the team.

Whatever the amiable German decides to do, he has to first try it out during the pre-World Cup friendlies. Will he? Or will he simply strike out current form, go with what he already knows, and damn the consequences?

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