COMMENT By Seye Omidiora Follow on Twitter
The advent of modern football has brought about a series of changes to the sport, with managers, players and fans now seeing things differently to how they perceived them decades ago.
Target men are a dying breed, as head coaches have slowly moved away from the old-fashioned big man up front to strikers with slighter frames.
In Jutland, Denmark, a certain Paul Onuachu is seemingly changing the narrative, however, with his brilliant displays for Midtjylland this season, delighting fans at the MCH arena with his remarkable goalscoring feats.
Some might remember him from his giant-killing display against Manchester United in the Europa League in 2016, when he scored the winning goal in the last-32 first leg tie, helping the hosts to a 2-1 triumph.
However, while that strike may well rank as the biggest of his career to date, it’s his prolific form in the current campaign that’s returned him to the fore and set tongues wagging.
Since late February, the forward has eight goals in 10 top flight outings, with his goals throughout the campaign propelling the Wolves into the top six during the regular season as Midtjylland chase a Europa League place.
What’s particularly impressive is the level of consistency that 22-year-old Onuachu has managed this season, regardless of his youth and relative inexperience.
His form in the current campaign hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Super Eagles manager Gernot Rohr, with recent reports suggesting the German tactician is monitoring the forward’s displays.
A call-up to the national team may be likely in the near future, even if the powerful frontman has been overlooked from Rohr’s recently named squad.
The former Burkina Faso trainer has demonstrated a willingness to trial fresh talents and give new faces their opportunities in recent months—hotshots Olanrewaju Kayode and Isaac Success made their debuts against Senegal—while Rohr’s desire to build a squad around a core of young players means that Onuachu has a profile that suits Nigeria’s new revolution.
A few keen observers may feel having a target man in the squad could potentially defeat Rohr’s philosophy of vibrant attacking football with an ethos on intricate passing in the final third which requires nimble-footed players to implement.
However, it gives the manager another tactical option and an alternate style of play if the initial plan of playing on the deck isn’t working as expected.
Pretty football is appreciated by all, but what about when that doesn’t work?
Having a big striker in the Super Eagles squad will offer variety when a less direct approach fails. Having such an option off the bench—and particularly one who has been finding the net with such regularity—can only be valuable asset for the West African giants.
Of course, most physically imposing strikers may not offer excellent off-the-ball movement, but they do provide an outlet which the team can utilize when under pressure.
If you can’t play out from the back, go route one to the big man to hold up the play and bring others into the game.
Ultimately, winning football matches still remains the goal and even though there’s talk of “winning the right way”, mixing things up won’t hurt in the slightest.
Onuachu’s form for Midtjylland has certainly caught the eye, and with a few of the Super Eagles forwards either lacking in playing time—think Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi—struggling for form—Isaac Success [above]—or both–Ahmed Musa—a spot might just open up for the gigantic forward in the Nigeria squad.
Onuachu has refined the role of the target man at his Danish club this season, but has he done enough for Rohr to give him a call?