Ahead of Nigeria’s international friendly games against Algeria and Tunisia, Gernot Rohr talked about the chances of Paul Onuachu in the Super Eagles team.
The German tactician said Onuachu would have to adapt his style to that of the team as the team cannot change for one player.
“The team doesn’t have to adapt the game to one player Paul Onuachu,” Rohr told ESPN.
“He has to adapt to the collective.
“We have our football: We try to find each other with short passes and find the wingers, playing quickly, switching from one side to the other, and he has to integrate with his qualities and to adapt to this.”
In the game against Algeria, Rohr handed Onuachu a start but hauled him off in the second-half in what was a disappointing performance from the former Midtjylland striker.
Onuachu made a late cameo in the second game against Tunisia but never featured in the two qualifying matches against Sierra Leone.
In fact, the ex-Midtjylland striker was initially placed on stand-by before he was called up due to an injury to one of the players invited.
It’s clear to see that Rohr is not a fan of the former Midtjylland man. However, the German tactician cannot continue to ignore the exploits of Onuachu.
Last night, the 27-year-old continued his prolific form after scoring a hat-trick in Genk’s 4-1 thrashing of Eupen to take his tally to 18 in 18 league games.
And with the player in such red hot form, Rohr cannot keep playing the tactics card. It’s time for the former Bordeaux manager to hand Onuachu a lengthy run of games in the team.
Onuachu made his debut for Nigeria in a friendly match against Egypt in 2019, scoring the lone goal.
However, despite the brilliant start to his international career, he has always found himself on fringes of the Super Eagles squad. His situation has also not been helped because he is not the favourite of many Super Eagles fans.
But his record in front of goal this season means he now deserves to feature regularly in the team. While Rohr insists the Super Eagles play in a certain way, it failed to yield a win in any of the four games they played last year.
A lot has been said about Onuachu’s performance in the games he has played for Nigeria, but that has to do with the team’s style and not the player’s ability.
In the game against Algeria last year, the 27-year-old had to drop deep to pick up balls whereas he’s most dangerous inside the box. The two Nigerian wingers and full-backs that night failed to deliver a single cross into the Genk striker box.
In contrast, all of his 18 goals at his club this season have all come from inside the box including penalties according to whoscored.
While he thrives in the box, the criticism of his style in the Super Eagles squad maybe a little bit exaggerated as he has also shown he can be a team player.
The 27-year-old link-up play has been impressive this season while former Club Brugge star Gert Verheyen has praised his positional sense.
But even in games where he would have been a suitable option in attack, he never got a look from Rohr. An example is the return leg of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Sierra Leone.
Nigeria went into the game in Freetown looking to redeem their battered image after squandering a four-goal lead in the first leg.
However, the state of the pitch made it difficult for the team to play their passing game. A direct approach with Onuachu leading the line could’ve changed the outcome, but Rohr kept to his preferred tactics, which resulted in an uninspiring performance from the team.
While it’s true that most coaches prefer to stick with a particular style, there have been situations they had to tweak their approach to accommodate a player.
Spain, the masters of tiki-taka, had to change their style to bring in a traditional striker in Diego Costa at the 2014 and 2018 World Cup.
Rohr also needs to take a cue from this and find a way to bring in Onuachu into the team and play to his strengths.
The 68-year-old needs to be flexible in his approach and give Onuachu a chance he truly deserves.