Awaziem: can he go on to be an accomplished centre defender?

Super Eagles versatile defender Chidozie Awaziem has been on the news recently with his purposeful move to modest Portuguese Primeira Liga outfit Boavista on a one-year loan deal. This will make it his 5th club in 5 years and 4th country that the itinerant defender would be working in at that period having also played in France, Turkey and Spain. I am very delighted for Awaziem to have secured this move to the Portuguese Primera Liga. The next step now is for him to play regularly (as happened in Spain last term) so as to continue in this journey towards being a well rounded defender. Without forensically observing and analyzing Awaziem’s output, I won’t be able to make a determination as to his overall competency as a centre defender; I scarcely have the time to watch his club games week in week out. However, something that is a matter of public records is that Awaziem plays regularly as a defender for club and country – as centre back for the former and right fullback for the latter. Last season the 23 year old played a healthy 26 games in the Spanish La Liga and 16 times in the Turkish Super League the season before.

For Nigeria, the injury-induced absence of Shehu Abdullah has handed the right full back position in the Super Eagles to Awaziem on a platter of gold – a position he played more than 10 times for Nigeria last season (to which he often performed at least above average). Overall, the general consensus has been that he has dispatched his duties for club and country in a manner considered to be ‘acceptable’. Using the theory of ‘repitition being the mother of skill’, I have come to regard Awaziem as a decent multi-skilled defender based on his consistency and continuity over the past 2 seasons for club and country. Now, as a centre back, anecdotal evidence would suggest to me that Awaziem can be more trusted in that position for Nigeria if deployed as part of a back three. In that set up, his blushes could be spared more easily than if paired with just another centre back. He was ignominiously found out against South Africa in 2017 when paired with just Ekong however, he faired much better against Argentina in the 4-2 friendly when he had 2 other centre backs to work with. Playing just 2 centre defenders puts huge responsibility on each centre back which some are suggesting that Awaziem can’t be fully trusted with (just yet).

The calmness, composure, cool head and craft needed to command such a delicate department are attributes I think Awaziem would need to further enhance in himself if he is to be seen as a fully cooked, capable and crackerjack centre back. But I go back to the principle of repitition. Playing for Leganes (consistently) last season and featuring for Nigeria have helped him gain valuable exposure and experience – that is uncontestable. So, I can only see Awaziem as working his way towards being a very decent defender in seasons to come if he continues on this trajectory. Regular playing time at high level football should only make him add more weapons to his defensive armoury. This move to Portugal – if he continues to play regularly – should help him acuminate his skills further.

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