Who’s In, Who’s Out? How Nigeria Should Line up Against Guinea-Bissau


Following the disappointment of the 1-0 home defeat to Guinea-Bissau in the first-leg Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match, its expected Nigeria’s head Coach, Jose Peseiro will wring a few changes to the team; whether forced or tactical.

Here we want to examine the decisions that could seemingly bring a different dimension to how Nigeria approach the game, but with the directness and chance of better execution, which team lacked in Abuja.


In Goal and Defense


It is expected that the 24 year-old will retain his place as first choice. He didn’t make any errors last time around, but he keeps his spot due to the lack of better options on the bench.

His communication with the backline, against Guinea-Bissau, was poor and it left him exposed on a number of occasions.

Pair Ajayi and Omeruo, Start Bassey as LB

Injury has forced Kevin Akpoguma out of this leg of the tie, but his Center half pairing with Calvin Bassey suffered and largely due to lack of communication and leadership.

Akpoguma was the sweeper and the more ‘positionally disciplined’, however the head injury has ruled him out of the trip to Bissau.

In his stead as was the case on Friday, Oluwasemilogo Ajayi should take up that vacancy.

Ajayi is one of the best defenders in the squad and aerially is dependable. He is also quite steady and very intelligent in his defending.

He’d do better with Kenneth Omeruo as a CB pair. Omeruo, though one of the questionable names in the initial 23-man squad, however does come with experience and leadership.

The 29 year-old may have lost some pace, but his strength was never really his ability to outpace Striker. He is also intelligent in marking and is very expressive.

Calvin Bassey debuted as a LB for Nigeria and it was one of his better outing, he even has an assist to his name but – against Mexico – from a cross playing on the flank.

His strength and pace, coupled with his recovery rate helps the tactical plan to have a Wing-back who joins the attack.

Iwobi Can Play Deep and Bruno Needs to Prove He Deserves His Invitation

We’ve all applauded the versatility of best of Alex Iwobi this season, he was always at his best playing from behind the half way line, because of his pace, dribbling skill and ability to pick out a pass – though he could work some more on that.

But, the 26 year-old has earned plaudits for making the deep-lying playmaker role look so quite simple.

In the first leg, he played a slightly similar role, but with only Wilfred Ndidi to cover the middle.

That made it quite difficult to always go back and forth in transition – defend and attack – to truly focus on creating opportunities for the forwards.

With another defensive player to pair Ndidi, enter Bruno Onyemaechi, Iwobi needs only to focus on pressing and attacking in the final third and middle third – less the latter.

Onyemaechi is one of few versatile players who is capable of holding any position at the back and packs the strength to defend in the middle and provide good cover.

He is young, fast and this season has more game minutes – which means he’s fit and can be competitive.

Pairing Ndidi or Frank Onyeka in the middle (LDM) will compliment their defensive work and disrupt counter-attacking runs.

He has been invited a couple of times now, but is yet to get any minutes, this occasion and affords the Coach a good opportunity to make the 22 year-old earn his place.

Lookman Can Strike and Aribo is A Dependable Roving 10

Ademola Lookman has 12 goals and 5 assists in the Serie A this season, that’s the fourth best goalscoring record in league.

Interestingly, Lookman has been most productive when he played as a second striker – 9 goals and 2 assists.

His low center of gravity, speed and foot skills allows him put defenders on pressure, push them back and allows for space to shoot.

Although more likely to be considered a winger, his productivity is limited in that role for club or country, in contrast he has been deployed more as an SS (18 apps) at Atalanta and only 8 times was he not directly involved in a goal situation.

He plays in Italy as does Victor Osimhen, if the Coach doesn’t see that partnership as a match, he ought to try it out.

Matter of fact, it’s Lookman ahead of Terem Moffi and Paul Onuachu as SS – the latter as well as Kelechi Iheanacho are better suited as Center Forwards themselves.

Finally, we look at Joe Aribo. His numbers this season have been treacherous so to imagine he made the 23-man list is just as baffling as having an academy player warm the bench.

However, Aribo isn’t in the team to make up numbers, he is quality and that can only be expressed with the ball at his feet.

He isn’t the player Iwobi is and never was, but the 26 year-old is underrated for what he brings in terms of attacking dynamism.

Perhaps since Steven Gerrard, no Manager has been able to find his best position and so most simply go with whatever skill set he has that suits a matchday strategy.

Aribo becomes a necessity when the agenda is to attack, he is a relentless baller and can shoot – with technique and precision.

So here’s what this Super Eagles starting XI should look like: 4-3-1-2

Uzoho; Osayi-Samuel, Ajayi, Omeruo, Bassey; Ndidi, Bruno, Iwobi; Aribo; Lookman, Osimhen


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