Jose Peseiro’s decision to leave out Chuba Akpom from the Nigerian national team’s squad for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Guinea-Bissau will likely raise eyebrows among Nigerian football fans.
Despite Akpom’s red-hot form this season, with 24 goals in all competitions, including 23 in the league, the former Arsenal striker was overlooked in favour of other strikers who are mostly struggling at the moment. This could lead to questions about the coach’s decision-making.
Why is Akpom out?
There could be several reasons why Peseiro decided not to select Akpom for the Guinea-Bissau games. One possible reason could be his lack of experience at the international level.
Although Akpom has played for England at the youth level, he has yet to debut for Nigeria’s senior team. Peseiro may have felt that Akpom’s lack of international experience could be a liability in a crucial game like the Afcon qualifier.
Another reason could be the competition for places in the Nigerian national team’s attacking line. Nigeria has several talented forwards, including Victor Osimhen, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Terem Moffi, all of whom have more experience at the international level than Akpom. Peseiro may have felt that he already had enough firepower in his squad and did not need to include Akpom.
Furthermore, Peseiro’s decision may have been influenced by Akpom’s playing style. While Akpom is a talented striker who can score goals, his style of play may not fit into Peseiro’s tactical plans. Peseiro may prefer more physical strikers who can hold up the ball, allowing the team to build attacks from the back. Akpom’s playing style, which is more focused on quick runs and goalscoring, may not be what Peseiro is looking for in his strikers.
Are these good enough reasons?
However, despite these reasons, some may question whether it was the right decision to snub one of Nigeria’s most prolific goalscorers in the world.
Chuba Akpom pledged his international allegiance to Nigeria in 2017 with his friend, Ola Aina. But while Aina has gone on to make 29 appearances for the Super Eagles, Akpom is still on the outside, looking for a way in.
Granted, with the Super Eagles counting on the talents of Odion Ighalo, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Paul Onuachu during those intervening years, there was little need for Akpom despite his impressive spells at Sint-Truiden and PAOK Salonika.
Even at the moment, there is no benching Victor Osimhen and Terem Moffi.
But with Peseiro’s backup forwards struggling, Akpom should be getting the nod ahead of Paul Onuachu and Ahmed Musa.
Onuachu was the top scorer in the Belgian league with 16 goals before leaving Genk, but he has been a shadow of himself since arriving in the Premier League. Ahmed Musa has struggled this season with no goals or assists, yet he still gets called up as the team’s captain.
Even more interesting is that Akpom’s contribution goes beyond being a goalscorer. Boro boss Michael Carrick has brought the best out of him by playing him as a supporting striker in the sweet spot between the midfield and the attack.
This is the same area where Alex Iwobi is the only player who has given the Super Eagles anything close to an acceptable performance over the last five years.
The point is the Super Eagles would benefit more from having Akpom available.
Overall, while Peseiro’s task is not made easy by the plethora of talented Nigerian strikers available to choose from, Akpom’s form and versatility should have earned him a spot on the team for the Afcon qualifier against Guinea-Bissau.
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