Striker dilemma can be such pain for any football coach. It is one thing to have a plethora of attackers who are playing at the very top and consistently raking an impressive goal per game ratio; it is a completely different stuff when you have so many attackers whose stats are below average, not good enough for a struggling team and what’s worse? They seem to have lost confidence in their own abilities.
Over the years Stephen Keshi played with two sometimes three of Emmanuel Emenike, Brown Ideye, Osaze Odemwingie, Ahmed Musa, Aaron Samuel, Bright Dike, Shola Ameobi; while Emenike’s place is usually guaranteed, the others jostle for the other spot(s). Interestingly albeit on a sad note, all 8 strikers mentioned haven’t scored 20 goals combined in the on-going 2014/15 European football season. Each one of these folks offer pace and strength but not much up front; their goalscoring tallies for the national team doesn’t scream ‘exceptional’ while they have also suffered the axe one time or the other.
The qualifiers for Gabon 2017 Africa Cup of Nations will kick start next month and Stephen Keshi faces probably the worst striker dilemma since he has been in charge of the Super Eagles. Majority of these attackers are no longer the go-to-guy and some have been relegated to the bench in their various clubs; in the case of Bright Dike who played only 20 minutes for Toronto FC before he was loaned out late last month, he is only a squad member and Osaze has played four times from the bench all season due to injury.
Stephen Keshi has an option of sticking with these folks who haven’t delivered for their clubs with the hope that wearing the Green and White of Nigeria will inspire them. But in truth, our best moments have come when Keshi select players who play regularly for their clubsides in a particular season and there is no denying that consistency can be more vital than class without abusing the word. Hence, it will be acceptable if Keshi invites Odion Ighalo whose goals were enough to secure promotion from the English Championship, Anthony Ujah whose goals and performance persuaded Werder Bremen to secure his service for the coming season even before the end of the current campaign, IK Uche who hasn’t scored much but has done enough to start 24 times for Villarreal and coming off the bench another 6 times. If Bright Dike who played in the MLS did enough to convince Keshi sometime ago, has Obagoal done likewise with 17 goals and 13 assists last season, plus 7 goals and 2 assists from 8 games so far this season? Key stat: These four have 42 goals between them.
Or will Keshi go North of Africa for Emem Eduok who needs no introduction, Osaguona Ighodaro who was Top Scorer of the CAF Champions League until his Raja Casablanca side were knocked out of the tournament or Peter Ebimobowei, who hasn’t played much due to injury but averages a goal in every 2 games everytime he has played?
Mr Keshi’s go-to-guys are misfiring, but we have enough in our armoury and who says that cannot motivate the misfiring attackers?
by Tolu Olorunmoteni