The Super Eagles coach launched an unusual free eight-a-side system, injecting some conspiracy into the second game against the indomitable Lions
In the friendly match between Nigeria and Tunisia in October 2020, Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr tried an interesting and bold new structure.
For most observers, it does not seem to have received attention, and it is not difficult to see why.
On the one hand, it was not very memorable, especially after seeing both teams found the net in the first half, Kelechi Iheanacho missed a penalty.
With the venue, atmosphere and camera angle, this is a tough game. There is also the fact that the friendly match a few days ago was disappointing and eventually lost to Algeria weakly 1-0.
If all this sounds familiar, it’s because they repeated many of the same themes when the Super Eagles played against Cameroon’s indomitable Lions at Wiener Neustadt on Tuesday.
After losing a single goal in the first meeting five days ago, few people were willing to step back on the pace, and even fewer people expected the long-legged side to burst out suddenly for the second time.
However, Rohr introduced some conspiracy in the lawsuit by introducing the same structure as the Tunisian draw. The result-a very bold 4-3-3 with Alex Iwobi and Keleti Ishinajo in midfield-evoked in Guardiola’s first English football championship season Manchester City’s “free eight-a-side” concept.
At the base, Wilfred Endidi provided an approximation of the summit of Fernandinho, completing a central triangle with the apex moved according to the position of the ball.
The idea seems to be a game based on possession, aiming to pass the ball patiently to the final third through Cameroon’s pressure; losing possession, the team pushes directly to their opponent, trying to block space and be present Make a long pass and then (theoretically) will be recovered to start another ball possession phase.
The results are clearly mixed.
There were some successes, especially in the second half. After the initial uncertainty, Nigeria’s assembly seemed more fluid. In the first half, the most interesting rotation appeared on the left: Alex Iwobi did not turn left back inward, but occasionally went deeper, allowing Jamilo Collins to overlap and Moses Simon pinched on the court.
On the right, Ahmed Musa kept his width, while Abdullahi Shehu sat deeper and narrower, and Ishinacho was higher and closer to Paul Onuachyu.
The real failure lies in the personnel.
The central back combination of Chidozie Awaziem and Valentine Ozornwafor finally closed the gate, but could not meet the requirements of the tactical concept of possession (both) and possession (the latter).
They are unable to play through the gaps that appear, which makes the team’s assembly speed slower than necessary, and often results in players with their backs to the goal and receiving the ball under pressure instead of facing forward or half-court-turning.
Similarly, when Cameroon tried to cross the high post, the rusty Ozornwafor (who seems to be admired only for his left foot) was slow in pushing up and closing opponents, allowing his direct opponent to catch the ball in the space between the two lines and let him A wall pass or turn.
This allowed the Indomitable Lions to break through the exposed defenses and emphasized the inherent risks of the entire structure: without all units supporting the pressure and keeping it compact at all stages, it can easily pass.
It doesn’t help that the team doesn’t have so many offensive regulars.
In the front, Onuarchu hardly disrupted his idea of playing worse as a starter, hardly provided a link game when he went deep, and hardly moved when he stayed high.
Width is all of Moussa, completely marginalized, and does not make him an asset of his international career: vitality.
Ishinacho seems to lack intensity, and considering that the club season is over, it is not surprising when you understand that his personality is unlikely to always be integrated with professional rigor.
As if to illustrate this point, the team looked sharper after the break. First, Onuachyu was replaced by Trem Murphy, and then Marcus Abraham played on the right.
The possession rate of the last third improved immediately, and the Super Eagles slowly took control of the game, enjoying a fast-paced game and almost stealing the game.
In general, even if there is no target to enliven the occasion, from a tactical point of view, this provides Nigeria with more interest.
Rohr did something he was often accused of not doing: trying new things.
What is more difficult to understand is whether this is an idea imposed on him by the environment (remember, for the Tunisian game, he was also flawed in the selection of options), or whether he intends to use this as a template in the mid-term.