Why Can't Onuachu Transfer His Blistering Club Form To The Super Eagles? - 9jaflaver

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Why Can’t Onuachu Transfer His Blistering Club Form To The Super Eagles?

The Genk striker is averaging close to a goal every game, but has struggled to command respect or minutes at national team level 

Going back to the late-80s, when the late great Stephen Keshi first made his way to Lokeren, the Belgian top flight has always proven a fruitful destination for Nigerian players.

From the aforementioned ‘Big Boss’ to Daniel Amokachi to Joseph Akpala to, more recently, the likes of Moses Simon and Henry Onyekuru, the Jupiler League has fulfilled an important function as a sort of ‘stepping stone’ before the big five leagues come calling.

As such, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Nigeria’s highest goalscorer in Europe so far this season is a regular of Flemish hunting grounds. With 12 goals in 13 matches, Paul Onuachu is currently running at close to a goal every game, and unsurprisingly leads the scoring charts in Belgium.

The towering striker was once more in devastating form at the weekend, scoring twice in the 5-1 demolition of Cercle Brugge, and drew praise from various pundits, not least of which was former Belgium international striker Gert Verheyen. His movement inside the box and powers of anticipation, in particular, have been the subject of special appreciation.

This has contrasted quite starkly with the perception of Onuachu with the Nigeria national team. Indeed, the 26-year-old is only two weeks removed from an international window where he accrued less than 30 minutes over two games against Sierra Leone, and this despite the absence of Napoli striker Victor Osimhen from the return leg in Freetown.

In fact, the former Midtjylland only made the list of invitees at all due to an injury to winger Simon, who was forced to withdraw at the last minute.

So, what gives? Why exactly is it so difficult for Onuachu to transfer his club form to the Super Eagles?

There are a few factors worth considering.

First, and most obvious, is the simple fact that international football provides a completely different set of challenges to club football.

The sheer level of expectation is different, and time on the training pitch is at a premium. These peculiar circumstances require a certain kind of mental and emotional fortitude; and that is without taking into account the importance of group dynamics, and how one player can – even unconsciously – affect the collective adversely.

There is little to suggest Onuachu is a prima donna, of course. However, it is important to acknowledge that soft factors can, in fact, be crucial to a coach’s decision-making.

In terms of the team’s on-pitch mechanics, things do not look altogether encouraging for Onuachu either.

A crucial consideration where selection is concerned is how the player in question fits into the whole. Under Gernot Rohr, Nigeria have always – with some exceptions – played with a lone striker leading the line, and that player, whether Osimhen or, before him, Odion Ighalo, is expected to put in a tremendous shift.

From running the channels to chasing down defenders to providing wall-passes and combining with the midfield; it can be a thankless task, and it requires a certain intensity.

Not a brief, then, for the languid stylings of Onuachu, whose 2.01m frame does not under-deliver on its targetman promise. The Genk man is certainly at his best with a certain kind of service which, until the recent addition of Zaidu Sanusi into the selection pool, simply did not exist within the Super Eagles.

The Porto man is an avid crosser, eager almost to the point of self-parody, and there was evidence during the October friendly against Algeria in Klagenfurt, albeit sporadic, that a link-up with Onuachu could bear proper dividend.

That, however, raises another question: is it even prudent at all for Rohr to rip up his side’s default playing style in order to extract the maximum from a player who, when all is said and done, is not the Super Eagles’ first-choice striker?

Perhaps Onuachu is a tad unfortunate, in that big strikers are often pigeonholed as the mythical ‘Plan B’, the axe behind the pane of glass that should only be broken in emergency situations.

Still though, Osimhen’s position as the national team’s starting centre-forward is richly deserved and justified, and it is to his parameters that the Super Eagles attack is currently calibrated.

As has been referenced before, international football does not afford a lot of time on the training pitch; even clubs, who have the players available and working every day, are hardly able to prepare two separate, coherent tactical alternatives.

To expect the national team to do that is rather unrealistic. Instead, the onus is on the player – in this case, Onuachu – to adapt to the extant system and find the means to be useful within it.

Therein lies perhaps the easiest path to relevance and appreciation within the setting of the Super Eagles. The alternative: keep scoring until you can no longer be looked over.

It may seem like a long shot, especially considering his competition is a once-in-a-lifetime striking talent on whom Nigeria have bet the house, but on the evidence of his performances so far this season, Onuachu seems determined to try anyway.

source:- goal

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