Is Nigeria’s Gernot Rohr channelling Pep Guardiola?
The Tremendous Eagles coach unfurled an uncommon free eight-inspired system that injected some intrigue into the second match in opposition to the Indomitable Lions
Within the October 2020 pleasant between Nigeria and Tunisia, Tremendous Eagles coach Gernot Rohr trialled an fascinating, daring new construction.
It appeared to go underneath the radar for many observers, and it’s not tough to see why.
For one factor, it was not very memorable, particularly after a first-half that noticed each groups discover the again of the web and Kelechi Iheanacho miss a penalty.
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It was, by advantage of the venue, atmosphere and digicam angle, a taxing match to comply with. There was additionally the truth that it adopted a disappointing pleasant a number of days prior, which completed in a limp 1-0 defeat by the hands of Algeria.
If this all sounds eerily acquainted, it’s as a result of quite a lot of the identical themes have been repeated on Tuesday when the Tremendous Eagles ran it again in opposition to Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions on the Wiener Neustadt Stadium.
Following a lone-goal defeat within the first assembly 5 days prior, few have been within the temper to tune in for a re-tread, and even fewer anticipated a leggy facet to out of the blue burst into life the second time round.
Nevertheless, Rohr launched some intrigue into the proceedings by rolling out the identical construction from that Tunisia draw. The outcome – a really daring 4-3-3 with Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho in midfield – evoked Manchester Metropolis’s ‘free eight’ idea in Pep Guardiola’s first title-winning season in English soccer.
On the base, Wilfred Ndidi offered an approximation of peak Fernandinho, finishing a central triangle with vertices shifting in reference to the place of the ball.
The concept appeared to be a possession-based sport, geared towards patiently working the ball by means of Cameroon strain and into the ultimate third; out of possession, the crew pushed proper onto their opponents, looking for to disclaim area and harry lengthy balls down the sector, which might then (in idea) be recycled to start one other possession part.
The outcomes have been decidedly combined.
There have been pockets of success, particularly within the second half when, after preliminary uncertainty, Nigeria’s build-up appeared a bit of extra fluid. Within the first half, probably the most fascinating rotations have been to be seen on the left: as an alternative of the left-back inverting, Alex Iwobi would often drop deeper, permitting Jamilu Collins to overlap and Moses Simon to pinch in-field.
On the proper, Ahmed Musa held the width whereas Abdullahi Shehu sat deeper and barely narrower and Iheanacho was oriented greater and performed nearer to Paul Onuachu.
The place it fell down, actually, was on personnel.
The centre-back pairing of Chidozie Awaziem and Valentine Ozornwafor finally saved the door shut, however have been unable to fulfil the calls for of the tactical concept each in possession (each) and out of possession (the latter).
Their incapability to play by means of the gaps as they appeared made the crew’s build-up even slower than it wanted to be, and too typically resulted in gamers receiving the ball with their backs to objective and underneath strain, as an alternative of going through ahead or on the half-turn.
Equally, the rusty Ozornwafor (seemingly prized solely for being left-footed) was sluggish to push up and shut down opponents when Cameroon tried to go over the excessive press, permitting his direct opponent to obtain the ball in area between the traces and both play a wall move or flip.
This allowed the Indomitable Lions to interrupt on an uncovered defence, and underlined the inherent danger with the construction as an entire: with out all models backing up the press and retaining compact in all phases, it may be fairly straightforward to play by means of.
It additionally didn’t assist that the crew was with out so many attacking regulars.
Upfront, Onuachu did little to upset the thought he performs worse as a starter, providing little by the use of link-up play when he got here deep and scant motion when he stayed excessive.
Width was all Musa held, being completely peripheral and shorn of the one asset that has constructed him a global profession: dynamism.
Iheanacho seemed brief on depth, unsurprising each contemplating the membership season is over and whenever you perceive his persona is unlikely to meld properly with skilled rigour always.
As if to make the purpose, the crew seemed that little bit sharper after the break as, first, Onuachu was taken off for Terem Moffi, after which Marcus Abraham got here on to play on the proper.
Ball retention within the last third immediately improved, and the Tremendous Eagles slowly seized management, having fun with one thing of a flurry late on to virtually steal the sport.
On the entire, even and not using a objective to liven the event, this provided much more curiosity for Nigeria from a tactical perspective.
It was Rohr doing one thing he has typically been accused of not doing: attempting new issues.
What’s extra obscure is whether or not that is an concept that was foisted on him by circumstance (do not forget that, for that Tunisia sport, he was equally handicapped when it comes to choice choices), or if it’s a template he intends to construct on within the medium time period.