As the Super Eagles begin their quest for a 4th Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title, former Golden Eaglets coach Bunmi Haruna wonders if Nigeria will ever find a replacement for their legendary midfielder. field, Austin Jay Jay Okocha.
20 years after Nigeria still looking?
Jay Jay Okocha is widely regarded as one of the best midfielders to ever play for the Nigeria Super Eagles.
While several players have played this unique role for the Eagles, Okocha stands out with his unique ability to entertain and create for his teams.
Since retiring from international football 20 years ago, several players have tried to fill the void he left with little to no success. They include John Obi Mikel, Rabiu Ibrahim, Nosa Igiebor, etc.
Haruna, who is a licensed CAF B coach, believes Nigeria may have found a replacement.
“For Nigerians, the simple criterion for measuring a good number 10 remains Jay Jay Okocha.
“But football has evolved, the days when a team’s creativity depends entirely or largely on a magician is becoming a thing of the past as teams now know how to limit the influence of magicians.
“For the numbers 10 to be effective, most of the time they need time and space on the ball.
“But the modern game is now being played at a faster pace, with vastly limited time and space. This explains why the position is being phased out in modern games, ”added CAF coach B.
“Nowadays, most of the players with this type of quality are now mainly deployed as defensive midfielders.
“They are now playing this new role to help their teams play comfortably from behind, playing largely in their own half, where they can enjoy relative time and space on the ball.”
Haruna, who was part of the Golden Eaglets crew that won the WAFU 17 Championship in 2018, added that it’s not enough for No.10 to provide assists, they have to score goals as well.
“The modern number 10, besides being creative, is also expected to weigh in with a considerable number of goals.
“Today it’s not enough to give assists, you are also expected to be in a position where you could be assisted.
Nigerian Kevin De Bruyne
“A look at the current set of Super Eagles players will show you that Joe Aribo fits that description of a modern day number 10.
He plays simple during stacks but knows when to engage opposing players when he is in the opponent’s vital area.
“He has the athleticism of an African, armed with basic football tutorials from Europe.
“He shares a similar style of play with Kevin De Bruyne. Much like the Belgian, he can come from the wings, behind forwards or as a creative midfielder in depth.
“Although the latter is of higher quality due to some essentials he has added to his game (eg Kelvin is a dead ball specialist while Aribo is not), but the Manchester star City are a prime example of what Aribo should aspire to.
“Aribo has scored six goals and provided three assists for Rangers in 13 league games this season. Although in several positions, he has excelled especially when placed alongside a combative defensive midfielder, mainly Adjei Kamara of Rangers.
Aribo fits perfectly into Eguavoen’s playing style.
“Coach Augustine Aguavoen is known to enjoy playing two defensive midfielders in his lineup. While this is a great way to play, it’s important that he realizes that one of those midfielders needs to have the freedom to participate in attacking play.
“This is how Okocha played alongside Sunday Oliseh at the time and another good example is the combination of Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi at Leicester City.
“If that is not achieved, the Eagles will likely dominate possession in their own half while they are outnumbered in the attacking half, depending on the formation played.
What he must add
“Aribo needs to be given more responsibility or better said that way; he needs to be more responsible for the team by taking the bull by the horns when the team needs something more.
“These fast trackbacks, these extra yards covered, these altruistic passes, this ability to organize the team, communication, free kicks won in the opponent’s vital zone will be essential.
“He has to improve his quality to score from free kicks, however,” Haruna advised.
“He is in direct competition with fan favorite Kelechi Nwakali, Alex Iwobi and Frank Onyeka for a chance to play alongside Eagles premier defensive midfielder Wilfred Indidi,” Haruna concluded.
Do you think Aribo should start Super Eagles matches at CAN ahead of Kelechi Nwakali, Alex Iwobi and Frank Onyeka?