Awoniyi's Form With Union Berlin Offers Him A Route To Super Eagles Reckoning - 9jaflaver

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Awoniyi’s Form With Union Berlin Offers Him A Route To Super Eagles Reckoning

The striker has found his feet in the Bundesliga, and could in time prove the perfect deputy for Victor Osimhen at international level

If events in the last three Bundesliga matchdays are to be believed, Taiwo Awoniyi may very well be fitting to run riot in the German top flight.

The transition to professional football has been an unforgiving one for the 23-year-old. On the back of leading Nigeria to victory at the 2013 Fifa Under-17 World Cup, and starring two years later at Under-20 level, Awoniyi signed for Liverpool in 2015 with the world seemingly at his feet.

However, since then he has struggled for any sort of relevance at the club’s Melwood training ground. Instead, he has been palmed off on sundry loans all over Europe.

The success of that strategy has been modest: unable to properly put down roots, it has often been the case that Awoniyi has found his feet (and his form) too late during his loan spells to truly force the issue and convince anyone to stump up the cash required to extricate him from his contract with Liverpool.

Combine this with his inability to get a work permit, and his prospects in England have not been great either. He revealed recently that he discussed a departure with the Anfield hierarchy, and was somewhat disappointed at the idea of yet another year in a holding pattern. This time, his destination was capital club Union Berlin, who ended 2019/20 in an impressive 11th place following promotion to the Bundesliga at the beginning of the season.

Considering Awoniyi had toiled fruitlessly with a hapless Mainz in the same campaign, he could have been forgiven for being down on a return to Germany. Instead, the Nigeria international appears to have found his feet quicker than usual, and is now into a healthy rhythm in front of goal to boot.

Admittedly, some of that owed to the misfortune of injuries to both Joel Pohjanpalo and compatriot Anthony Ujah, which depleted Union’s striking options for the season.

However, after easing his way in via cameos in the first couple of matchdays, Awoniyi has picked up the slack for the overachievers, scoring twice and winning a penalty over the course of the last three matches.

Key to his good form has been a good relationship with manager Urs Fischer, with whom Awoniyi conversed before agreeing on a move to Berlin.

He has credited the 45-year-old Swiss tactician with providing him the right guidance, and likewise Fischer has placed a lot of faith in him by deploying him upfront, resisting the temptation to misuse Awoniyi out wide like Mainz did for portions of last season.

It is a simple alchemy, but it has been strikingly effective, and the centre-forward looks a player reborn. His finish in the derby against Hertha harkened back to his almost telepathic relationship with Kelechi Iheanacho at under-17 level, complete with a delicate through ball and a finish taken early to catch out the advancing goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow.

That derby reverse was only Union’s second defeat of the season, a game that clearly turned on a red card midway through the first half. Against all logic, Fischer’s side are just two points off the European places. It may be far-fetched to see them keeping this up, but if Awoniyi keeps putting them away, it may spark something close to magical.

It would also, justifiably, stir up debate as to his return to the international fold.

Despite having featured at every youth level for Nigeria, Awoniyi is yet to earn his bow for the Super Eagles. On account of the self-same instability that has plagued his club career, he has found himself completely shut out from the conversation altogether. Instead, the mantle skipped a generation: it is Victor Osimhen, who led the 2015 under-17 set, who now holds sway for the senior national team.

There is, however, a window of opportunity to be found in the paucity of options to deputize for the Napoli striker. Over the last two international breaks, Paul Onuachu, Ahmed Musa and Kelechi Iheanacho have all taken turns at filling in. All three have underwhelmed, lacking the physicality and movement required to make a mark; Osimhen’s boots, it appears, are too big to fill.

Awoniyi would appear to be eminently suited, however. While his all-round game is perhaps not as comprehensive as Osimhen’s, he nevertheless works defenders with and without possession, is adept at running the channels to unbalance the opposition, and is calm in front of goal.

It is an intriguing proposition, but that is all it can be just now. If Awoniyi keeps scoring though, soon it might not seem quite so fanciful.

source:- goal

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