The Super Eagles’ midfield lacks creativity with its current anchorman Alex Iwobi not good enough for the job. These sentiments were espoused by former Prince of Monaco Victor Ikpeba who nowadays is the Prince of punditry.
Is it fair to suggest that Iwobi is not good enough for that position?
Iwobi sees himself as a centre attacking midfielder but if truth be told, some of his most memorable periods for Nigeria have come when he played in other positions.
For the national team, Iwobi has scored 9 goals and provided 4 assists in 48 outings. Five of his goals and two of his assists came when played as a centre forward and as one of the wingers.
In fact, some observers would argue – with some justification – that 2 assists (and 4 goals) in 24 outings as a centre attacking midfielder for Nigeria does not represent impressive returns from a player with whom much is (always) expected.
With this in mind, one can understand to a degree where Victor Ikpeba is coming from.
Iwobi has never been one to rack up the numbers for club and country (one reason why Arsenal fans didn’t mourn his exit and why Everton fans fume at their acquisition!). Sadly for the 25 year old, football is a numbers game where success or failure is judged by raw data and statistics.
More so these days with the mega bucks thrown into the game.
But fans of Iwobi are unperturbed. He may not be stacking up the figures but his passion, desire, patriotism, workrate and hunger in Nigeria colours will always endear him to them.
Plus, many fans are quick to point to Iwobi’s “hidden stats” as evidence of his immense value to the national team. These are number of chances the Super Eagles’ midfield create in matches (whether these result in goals or not) when anchored by Iwobi and his numerous pre-assists in build up to goals.
However, for analytical purposes only, if you compare Alex Iwobi’s output for Nigeria with that of Ghana’s Thomas Partey, you will see why pundits like Ikpeba demand more from the Everton man.
From either center or defensive midfield for Ghana, Partey has scored 9 goals and has provided 4 assists in all of his 30 international caps thus far.
His goals and assists (from a more withdrawn position) mirror that of Iwobi’s (who features further up the pitch) despite Partey’s lesser international caps.
And when you take Iwobi out of the picture, which other attacking midfielders does Rohr invite? You have Iheanacho, Aribo and Etebo who can play in that position but are they cunning and creative? Do they light up the atmosphere with jaw dropping moves?
Does our attacking midfield department have spark? Is it currently a conduit for creating bountiful goal scoring opportunities?
The caveat – I think – is that Gernot Rohr’s philosophy plays much emphasis on creating chances from the flanks. That is where the Super Eagles are most lethal.
And Rohr is getting results (which is what matters).
So, I think the attacking midfield of the Super Eagles is adequate enough for how Rohr sets out his team. And let’s face it, there are not that many “flair midfield players” available to Nigeria at this time.
We have to make do with what we have and build the team to maximize our areas of strength.
That is what Rohr is doing.