The Super Eagles might resort to the 3-5-2 formation in the friendly against England. But is it the right tactic for the Eagles?
The Eagles attacked with fluidity when they utilised the formation in their 4-2 friendly win over Argentina in November 2017.
When one thinks of Eagles under the watchful eyes of Gernot Rohr, his favoured 4-3-3 system comes into mind. However, under certain circumstances, this particular system may not be the answer for Rohr men to pursue in Russia. There are three reasons:
1) Wilfred Ndidi’s role as a versatile midfielder cannot be fulfilled by any other player.
2) There is not one certain left back who is established enough to convince in the starting 11.
3) There must be at least 2 creative midfielders controlling the flow of the game. The Eagles might adopt the 3-5-2 formation in next weekend’s friendly against England, and if things go as planned, you can expect to see this formation at the Mundial.
How it works: This system is similar to the Italian style; however, I’m sure the Nigerian spin will be added, especially due to the fact that a clever tactician, Rohr, is managing the squad.
Defence: The defenders in this squad showed great commitment while on the pitch against Argentina, however, let’s face it; they’re prone to make mistakes. In the 5-3-2, there will be 3 definite centre backs at all times which will ensure stability at the back. Along with the back 3, 2 wingbacks will be hustling up and down the flanks to strengthen the back line and to add width in attack. This system allows a potential of 5 defenders when needed, but while attacking, it can commit the 2 wingbacks forward as well. The three centre backs will probably be Leon Balogun, William Troost Ekong and Chidozie Awaziem with the option of Kenneth Omeruo to fill in. The wing backs must be very fit and comfortable in attack and defense, Shehu Abdullahi will occupy the right wing back position. On the left side Brian Idowu will most likely start, however the young Tyrone Ebuehi seems suited playing this formation.
Midfield: In the 3-5-2, there is one strict central defensive midfielder, one versatile midfielder, and one attacking minded midfielder. Protecting the back line in the CDM role should be the Leicester City enforcer Wilfred Ndidi. Playing in the versatile role will be skipper John Obi Mikel. The final role in the midfield is the more attacking minded position. Oghenekaro Etebo or seems the logical answer, however, he seems to have lost his hierarchy and prominence in the squad. Perhaps Joel Obi or even John Ogu may be preferred to occupy this role rather than Etebo in Rohr’s mind.
Strikers: It’s always a risk playing with two strikers: the team will have two less defending players, it can be hard to identify a successful striking partnership, and it doesn’t offer the same width as other formations with one striker. The striking partnership already seems to be an issue within the squad. Kelechi Iheanacho will be looking to take his chance. It has been made clear that Odion Ighalo is for sure the one of two starting up top, however he could be paired with either Iheanacho, Victor Moses or perhaps Alex Iwobi.
Who will be the second striker in the formation? Rohr may look to emulate this with Moses or Iwobi, who will look to use their pace to link with Odion Ighalo and run at a defence on the counter.
Flaws of the Formation:
-In defense, one setback is perhaps the strength of the starting wingbacks. Both Shehu and Idowu can offer quality going both ways on the pitch, but will they have enough gas in their tanks to play a convincing 90 minutes of play? Their fitness and persistence will be tested.
– This particular 3-5-2 system can seem to be an issue for utilizing the great players of the squad. Moses has showed he can pay the CAM or striker role, but it’s undeniable he poses the greatest threat while attacking down the flank. This formation doesn’t offer a lot of width which is indeed a weapon in the Eagles’ toolbox with the likes of Iwobi and Ahmed Musa. The wingbacks will offer some support in wide positions going forward but will not be able to play in such an advanced role throughout the match as regular wingers would.
Overall, this formation could work wonders or it could be a style to forget, which is why Rohr will have the 4-3-3 system available at all times, as mentioned before.
In my opinion Ighalo, Mikel, Etebo and Moses are crucial players in the starting XI. If Rohr is to use the 3-5-2 formation, the following conditions should be met: Ndidi, being the best defensive minded midfielder, should start in the CDM role. Mikel should start in the CAM role: he is hungry to show the world he is still world class, and will have a great amount of freedom in this formation. Moses must be included whether he is a CAM or a “striker” but in order to utilize his talents, he should also be able to drift wide at times as well as playing the striker role.
It will be interesting to see how this formation will work out if utilised against England.