The dust is yet to settle on the Super Falcons' suboptimal performances in the just concluded Wafcon which meant they came back empty handed having been prior serial winners.
A player at the eye of criticisms-storm during the tournament was Gotham City FC forceful centre forward Ifeoma Onumonu.
The 28 year old arrow head, who recorded 1 goal, 1 assist and 1 pre-assist throughout the tournament, plays with her heart on her sleeves. So for effort and commitment, she gets 5 out of 5 for me.
But as a starting 11 center forward, I think perhaps other candidates might be best suited. The formation and philosophy of Waldrum for this tournament does not even suit Onumonu.
They play route one football (long ball from deep) and also through balls from the attacking and center midfielders. Both approaches require a super pacy striker like Rasheedat Ajibade, Michelle Alozie, Uchenna Kanu or the Asisat Oshoala of some years past (even this present one).
Onumonu is way too languid and slow to take full advantage of those balls. It is like asking Nwankwo Kanu or Paul Onuachu to race past defenders and latch on to through balls when you have Ahmed Musa or Olanrewaju Kayode on the bench.
Way too many, I mean way too many long balls (route one) from deep and delicious through balls from Ayinde and co. went to waste in the just-concluded Wafcon tournament because of Onumonu’s natural inabilities to profit from such balls.
One of those kind of balls led to Ajibade miraculously overtaking the defender before being hacked down by the onrushing goalkeeping for a Nigerian penalty in the group stages – nothing would have come from that ball had it been Onumonu.
So, very many potential penalties and dangerous fouls from our center forward sprinting to connect with through and long balls were missed in this tournament because Onumonu was saddled with the centre forward responsibility.
Against Morroco, when the North Africans were executing a passing-out-from-behind manoeuvre, an Ajibade or a Michelle Alozie would have reached the misplaced backpass from the right back at the same time with the goalkeeper thereby creating grounds for a potential penalty for Nigeria. But, Onumonu was too slow hence the goalkeeper managed to dive low and punch the ball away before Onumonu got closer.
It may seem that I am criticizing Onumonu but I am not. All I am saying is that the through ball, route one and high press strategy of Waldrum in this tournament just doesn’t seem to gel with her skill set.
When we play more formidable teams and play a 3-5-2 formation (as opposed to the 4-3-3 formation used at the Wafcon that somewhat isolated Onumonu) then she will shine a lot more.
Onumonu will definitely come to her elements as part of a twin strike force. She functioned well with Kanu by her side against Canada this year in a twin strike force set up.
Also, there is a subtle differences between “link up play” and “hold up play”. I am sorry to say that I don’t think Onumonu excels in “hold up play” (contrary to what many of her fans have been staying). She loses the ball many times and also needlessly leading to promising attacks breaking down too many times as a result.
But, her “link up play” is fabulous because she keeps her passes simple, provides pre-assists and also crosses for assists. But to run at the ball, shrug off a number of tackles, “hold up play” and then bring others in, (not always easy to do admittedly) she struggles big time, and the clips are out there to easily prove this.
Also, for the main number 9 in a group comprising debutants Burundi and Botswana, I had expected more than just 1 goal from her.
So, I love Onumonu for her commitment and dedication. But, for the 4-3-3 formation deployed in this tournament which relies on pacy strikers latching on to through balls and long balls from deep (for most parts) and being comfortable being isolated and still holding on to the ball long enough to bring others in, I don’t think this strategy and tactical formations bring out the best in Onumonu.
With the Wafcon behind us, Waldrum or whoever the next coach is will have to utilise a strategy that brings out the best in Onumonu, otherwise, the murmurs among her vociferous critics will continue.
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