As the 2021 African Cup of Nations (to be played January in 2022), the call for the sack of Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr has become the major headlines, but the question is, has the Super Eagles technical adviser failed?
Since Nigeria’s last set of matches for the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, many questions have been asked in media if Gernot Rohr is the man to lead the nation to glory at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, and also qualify for the Mundial in Qatar.
The Super Eagles qualified for the playoff round of the FIFA World Cup and will know their opponent in January 2022, but the performance in the group stage against Liberia, Central African Republic – losing to CAR in Lagos – and Cape Verde has raised lots of questions if Rohr really knows what he is doing.
The major calls for the German gaffer’s sack are not just about results, but other causes. Some say that the team is not playing attractive football, while others say the team has no identity, another school of thought believes Rohr is not bringing out the best in his players, and he is too dependent on some players while being biased towards others.
I agree with most of the schools of thought, but the NFF President, Amaju Melvin Pinnick and Rohr himself have both said the performance is not important, but the result is and is the team getting the results? Yes!
The 68-year-old German signed a contract extension last year and two major targets were said to be in the deal, which are for Nigeria to win the AFCON in Cameroon next year, and also qualify for the World Cup in Qatar. And based on these two targets, Rohr has not failed, because the Super Eagles are yet to play the Africa Cup of Nations – they have already qualified – and are also in line to play the Mundial because they are in the final playoff round. So, based on that, Gernot Rohr has not failed.
When Rohr was given the new contract, he told Super Eagles former media office, Colin Udoh, in an Instagram Live chat, that he was not scared of any mandate, because when he came, the team was in shambles, and he came and improved the team, while also accomplishing his mandates, so new ones would not be a problem for him.
If the German gaffer is to succeed and avoid biting the dust, here are a few things I think Rohr needs to improve on if he is to get the best out of his team, and possibly win the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon and also lead the Super Eagles of Nigeria to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Pick the best players for the team on form and merit, not favouritism. Some players like Samuel Kalu should not be anywhere near the team. He is bad for both club and country. Ahmed Musa’s time in the team is over. His last real impact on the team was in 2018. There was no logical reason for bringing back Odion Jude Ighalo to the team. Some players like Emmanuel Dennis Bonaventure, Taiwo Awoniyi, Chidere Ejuke are doing very well for their club sides, they should get an equal opportunity as others.
Be proactive while making in-game decisions. I believe anybody can set up a team anyhow, anybody can set up a starting xi, but what separates the best from the rest is the decisions they make in-game. From changing approach to switching tactics to substitutions. Game management is the major thing that cost us at the last World Cup and AFCON. Against Algeria, we had 2 substitutions left and a goal kick in the 92nd minute, Rohr kept the subs. Against Argentina, the same thing, he brought on 2 players after we conceded the knockout blow. He should be proactive, and not reactive.
We need more than three midfielders in the team. It has become a tradition for Gernot Rohr to invite just three natural midfielders for every tournament or qualifier. His midfield trio is always Wilfred Ndidi, Oghenekaro Etebo, and Joe Aribo, since Etebo got injured, he brought Frank Onyeka. When Ndidi was unavailable, he brought Innocent Bonke and stopped calling him since Wilfred got back. Rohr’s team always have 9 attackers and 9 defenders – it’s football, and not war.
Use friendly matches to test fringe players. The Super Eagles played a few friendlies, and Rohr used almost the same sets of players for all the friendly matches. There were five goalkeepers in camp, and only Maduka Okoye was in goal for all the matches. We know the likes of Ndidi and Victor Osimhen will start any day anytime, they are not needed in most of those friendly matches, test your “unknown” players.
Use the players in their best positions. The technical adviser is fond of using players in positions that are not theirs or not used to. For example, Kevin Akpoguma’s best position is the left side of a back three, but Rohr deployed him as a right-back, and it affected his game. Paul Onuachu, who scores lots of games for his club side Genk, is asked to fit into the team’s style. We need to get the best out of our players.
As things stand, Gernot Rohr has not failed his KPI – Key Performance Indicator – but if he continues with his approach, he may end up losing his job as the technical adviser of Nigeria’s Super Eagles, then, the battle on who will then be in charge for the World Cup playoff round in March 2022 will start again. For now, the German gaffer is still in line, and sacking him will not be based on his KPI.