The Nigerian national team continues to struggle in front of goal, and a former international has proffered solutions to the team’s goalscoring problem
The Gernot Rohr-led Super Eagles will keep having difficulties getting goals past their opponents unless the German manager can find a creative midfielder with the ability to unlock the team’s attacking potentials, says former Nigeria international Etim Esin.
Nigeria paraded several attackers in the last two international friendlies against Algeria and Tunisia, including free-scoring Paul Onuachu, former Eredivisie top scorer Cyriel Dessers, goalscoring winger Chidera Ejuke, Leicester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho, as well as captain Ahmed Musa.
But the Super Eagles strikers struggled to sparkle in front of goal, firing blank against the African champions before managing a goal in the 1-1 draw versus the Carthage Eagles – a fine Iheanacho finish.
Esin is convinced that the Eagles strikers are competent but lack a proper playmaker behind them.
“The current Super Eagles team lack a creative player in the midfield who can make things happen,” the former playmaker told Complete Sports.
“A player that can direct the team’s play and create fear in the opposing team.
“I don’t even know who is playing the number 10 role for us anymore. It’s like the number 10 jersey is too heavy for them. If other teams look at you as ordinary, they will come all out against you because the fear factor is not there.
“So, we now lack a player with creative impact in the middle of the pack. A playmaker with a commanding presence that, even if he can’t score, can make assist and generally help dictate the team’s play and put panic in the opponent.
“I think it is something coach Rohr will have to work on in the team, look for that player with a flair that can create something out of nothing from corner kicks, free kicks, and so on to get
the results we need.”
Everton’s Alex Iwobi has been head coach Gernot Rohr’s favourite player in the attacking midfield role.
The former Arsenal winger has, however, provided only three assists – as well as seven goals – in the 42 games played for the Super Eagles since making his debut under former coach Sunday Oliseh in 2015.
Only twice in the last 16 games as the Rohr-led side scored more than two goals in a match, one of which was the 4-2 Afcon-qualifying win at Lesotho last year.
Iwobi got a goal in that encounter, benefiting immensely playing alongside the excellent Joe Aribo, who was earning his fourth cap for Nigeria.
Esin believes the combination of both top talents could raise the creativity level of the Super Eagles.
Esin continued: “For now, I don’t think we have a natural player’ for the position, you know.
“Somebody with that uncommon natural ability and skill to unlock opposing defense. I know Alex Iwobi has been trying his best to play the role for us in recent times with relative success.
“I think [Joe] Aribo can also play the role. I remembered he combined well with Iwobi in the midfield when we played against Brazil last year.
“That game was our best outing in recent times. Maybe Rohr already has his playmaking role solved by the combination of these two players, you know.”
Aribo missed the two games in October due to an injury, but he likely returns in time for Nigeria’s games against Sierra Leone in November.