By Clement Nwankpa Jr
Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr has been hunting for a veritable physical presence in the team’s attack reports naijasportsgrill.com.ng.
He has scouted extensively for that striker who will pose an aerial threat in the opponents’ box.
It pays to have different shades of players as formations could be tweaked according to the opposition and the flow of a game. The national team as presently constituted is filled with ball-playing strikers.
Rohr has less of physically-imposing strikers who play on defenders shoulders. Strikers who lurk around the box waiting to pounce on those aerial deliveries.
What he has in abundance are strikers who have the skill-set to be deployed even as wingers. Forwards with center of gravity, who are comfortable in deeper roles in the middle of the park.
Meanwhile, the Franco-German desires a real beast in the box.
For this reason, he had given opportunities to the likes of Anthony Nwakaeme and Simy Nwankwo.
The latter particularly came in hjghly-rated after his scintillating end to the Serie A 2017/18 season scoring six goals in his last eight matches. One of the goals was a worldie against champions, Juventus.
Standing at 6 feet, 6 inches ( an inch taller than Nwankwo Kanu) , Simy had the physical attributes Rohr was looking for. But while Simy had the knack to hold the ball up and play on teammates, as well as that bullish style, he shockingly isn’t good aerially.
His poor goals return was also an issue. Agreed, he had that high-scoring end to the season but he has not had that consistency all through his career.
That form coupled with the fact that no other striker offered the ingredient Simy presented, took the Crotone man to the World Cup. But he wasn’t exactly what Rohr was looking for. The desire had not been banished. Rohr may have taken Simy to Russia but the search hadn’t ended.
It was for this reason that then Ventspills giant striker, Adeleke Akinyemi had come into the mix soon after the World Cup. Six feet, two inches tall Akinyemi was scoring goals for fun in the colours of Latvian club Ventspils with notable strikes in the Europa League.
Rohr had met with Akinyemi prompting rumours that he would be invited immediately the team reassembled after the World Cup. But Rohr may have been deterred by question marks over the competitiveness of the Latvian League.
Akinyemi has since moved to IK Start in Norway but that much-trumpeted national team invitation is yet to come. Rohr, however, remains a keen admirer of the striker.
It is just a matter of time. Rohr is believed to be tarrying a while to be convinced that the lad can compete at the top level. He is still not convinced Norway is competitive enough.
Simy had gotten the nod earlier because of the A-class rating of the Serie A. Rohr was instantly swayed by that as he places premium on players who play in top leagues.
The big striker did not impress during the period he was in camp. His situation is made worse by the fact that he now plays in the Serie B with Crotone. His form has been drastically affected by the step-down in league.
Step in, Paul Onuachu. Like Akinyemi, Rohr has been discouraged by Onuachu playing for Midtyjlland in the Danish League. But Onuachu has been under the coach’s radar for the past two years, longer than he has been on Akinyemi’s case.
At 6 feet, 7 inches, he is taller than both Simy and Adeleke. For emphasis, he is as tall as Peter Crouch.
One feature that gives him the edge over Simy is his aerial prowess. Over the two years Rohr has been monitoring him, he has had remarkable return of goals.
This season particularly, he has scored 16 goals in all competitions (14 in the league, two in Europa) in 27 appearances. He has scored three in Midtyjlland’s last three matches as the club sit in second place in the Danish Super Lig.
In the absence of an option from the more illustrious leagues, Rohr has to settle for the giants in Scandinavian countries. Between Onuachu and Akinyemi, he has opted for the former whom he has scouted for a longer time.
Onuachu has also been more consistent at a more competitive level than Akinyemi. He has been one of the most dreaded strikers in Denmark for the past two seasons and has earned the national team selectors’ trust.
In fact, Onuachu had been in Rohr’s plans earlier than Simy. That Simy late blistering form in Serie A last season was hard for the coach to ignore. The thinking was that a player that could do all that against the likes of Juventus and Inter Milan should be top class.
Simy’s return to the national team may not be anytime soon. Onuachu has an opportunity to impress in the two March fixtures. Though Akinyemi has slowed down in front of goal at Start (he has three goals in 12 appearances), he will get the nod if Onuachu disappoints.
Meanwhile, Rohr’s search for a beanpole striker continues.