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This Deserves Attention Too, Gernot Rohr

I don’t like movies. I am however surrounded by movie aficionados. It is hard to walk ten yards on campus without hearing people argue or discuss the beauty of film.

There are different reasons for these arguments. One intends to gradually build a story in the shortest possible span while the other tells stories that runs over a specific period. I always admit I’d watch a series over a movie.

It’s why I watch Billions, a series that is built around two protagonists; Bobby Axelrod and Chuck Rhoades, but has a lot of subplots with deeper undertones.

Take the subtle manner in which Kate Sacker and Bryan Connerty’s story is carefully explored from Season 1 till the latter is jailed in Season 4 and how he transforms gradually from Chuck’s trainee to foe. If that were a movie, I may not have spared my time.

However, forty-five minutes weekly isn’t the same as two and a half hours at once. Although I would have gained more hours watching one movie over the span of the ten weeks.

Attention is important in football. The ninety minutes of sweat and whether attacking or defending are subject to intense scrutiny by a fanbase that want value for money rather than watch Billions. It is a two way-thing. An expensive currency spent by everyone.

It is why there was a massive outcry when on the Blessed day of the past Sabbath, Nigeria lost disgracefully to the Barea of Madagascar. It was termed a disgrace. Much respect to the Barea, but nobody saw that coming except maybe Nicola Dupuis and his band of party poopers, Lalaina Nomenjanahary, the band leader.

Much had been said in the build-up to the match about what the final scoreline could be. No Nigerian at least was bothered about the eventuality. Most punters were only bothered on the number of goals Nigeria would score in the match.

How many? Three? Four?

Well, none came. Who was to blame?
Leon Balogun, who slipped for the first goal? Or unlucky Wilfred Ndidi who was the unlikely beneficiary of a deflected free kick? Or Ahmed Musa? Who took one touch too many with the goal gaping at his mercy? Or John Ogu? Who passed when Balogun called for the ball? The list grows further.

The microscope here falls on the coach, Gernot Rohr, our “Bryan Connerty” in this case. The German tactician is all but a darling in Nigerian football. However, the jury is still out on him.

Gernot Rohr
Super Eagles gaffer, Gernot Rohr

Since his arrival, Nigeria has qualified for the World Cup and returned to the AFCON after missing its past two editions but it is at crucial times questions are raised.

In Russia, Rohr was accused of being rigid in the build-up to the first game against Croatia. The Eagles lost 2-0 after fielding a 4-3-3, when obviously a 3-5-2 playing to the strength of Victor Moses, our best player, was the way to go with the talents of the team.

He simply stuck to his guns and the Eagles would lose albeit unfortunately. He would heed the calls of the media to switch to a 3-5-2. It worked with the Eagles winning against Iceland. The Argentina game was where once again he was shown up.

With the tie delicately poised, Rohr had refused to make a change when Bryan Idowu, the left wing back that day had run himself to the ground, putting in a massive shift shutting down Leo Messi. The goal that knocked Nigeria out would come down that flank late on.

The man obviously jaded didn’t hesitate to jog off when his number went up. The question? Why wasn’t he substituted earlier when the wave of attacks increased, given there was a more suitable option on the bench?

As every case, it would die down. Then came the small matter of the Super Eagles AFCON selection. With only 25 players in the preliminary squad and four midfielders selected, that was seemingly a forgiven following the sounds of warning that called for Kelechi Iheanacho’s exclusion.

The Leicester man was dropped subsequently despite being the face of what the future Eagles would be. In a squad with so many talented players, someone had to sit out. He was, selected and the metrics backed it up. He had the least minutes and goals relative to those selected.

It was surprising that unlike Morocco and Algeria later did, Gernot Rohr didn’t give his second team side an opportunity to create selection problems for him in the knockouts.

Djamel Belmadi and Herve Renard made northwards of five changes. Javier Aguirre kept his at four, albeit the same as Rohr, but that is simply because his side doesn’t have the wealth of talent Rohr possesses.

Samuel Chukwueze didn’t get a whiff in that loss, neither did Victor Osihmen nor Henry Onyekuru (both had thirty-five goals combined in the season past).

Ahmed Musa, simply didn’t come to the party and Odion Ighalo since that goal against Burundi has been anything but.
One wonders why, at 1-0 down, Rohr didn’t switch to the conventional 4-4-2, Nigeria has been known to favor. It surely should be an option given the squad, the team has. A team with four midfielders (well five we count Iwobi), has now become three (four), following John Obi Mikel’s injury.

The Arsenal man had a splendid game against Burundi but didn’t look comfortable in the subsequent games. The 4-4-2 would maximize Etebo and Ndidi’s midifield talents as well as the full backs.

Should Jamilu Collins return before Saturday, he should start at Left Back, allowing Aina play in his favored right back role.

The system would allow Aina, arguably Nigeria’s best player in the tournament so far, freedom to create overloads in attack in a wing play system which would suit the talents of Nigeria’s skillfull wingers, who drift in often.

The front two of Onuachu and Ighalo may lack creativity. However, Nigeria have always had that big forward who could hold play and lay off for a striker who can score. It is a system in which Ighalo has thrived in Shenhua, his club.

The talents of Chukwueze, Onyekuru and Osihmen don’t belong to the bench. It may be too late to use them as the knockouts have arrived, but Rohr may once again look to tweak things before he becomes the ultimate villain of a show in which he has been the likeable guy for most parts of its airing.

Cameroon come next on Saturday, He carries a near flawless record against them. Over to you, Rohr?

Author: For The Goal

You can keep in touch with us on most social media platforms @iamforthegoal

For The Goal
You can keep in touch with us on most social media platforms @iamforthegoal

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