Enyimba can be forgiven for the previous season's performance in the Nigeria Professional Football League as the campaign ended abruptly. They can’t, however, be forgiven for not going all the way in the Caf Confederation Cup after going down to eventual champions Raja Casablanca in the semi-finals.
On the back of such disappointment, the People’s Elephant went about strengthening in the transfer market. Big names Stanley Okorom, Thomas Zenke, Chinedu Udechukwu have been signed, but the biggest arrival of all was Chukwuka Onuwa, who arrived from Mountain of Fire FC.
His move was one of the biggest during the transfer window, with Enyimba snaring perhaps the most creative player in the Nigerian top flight.
Onuwa’s move got the Aba faithful excited, and likewise the player, who joined to increase his chances of playing for the Super Eagles, having been overlooked numerous times while with MFM
“MFM has made me into the player that I am, but it is time to move on the next phase of my career”, he told Goal.
However, the diminutive midfielder has seldom seen action so far this season, often coming late off the bench. He got his first Enyimba goal against Remo Stars last weekend, and it was kind of a reminder of what coach Usman Abdallah is missing by not using the talented player.
Enyimba have not really been in convincing form this term, often struggling to win in Aba while performing even more poorly on the road.
In a season where big away results are popping up weekly, the two-time Caf Champions League winners are not taking points away, with only a goalless draw at Niger Tornadoes - a game they could have won considering the Minna-based side’s overall poor form - their best result on the road.
Why is Chukwuka Onuwa on the bench? Just hope the coach knows what he is doing oo— OnuWiz Okpanachi (@onuwiz) February 7, 2019
It's surprising that Onuwa is not being used enough at Enyimba; he’s the kind of player that should get right into the thick of action because he is a creative force. His short stature makes it easy for him to manoeuvre opponents, spot a teammate and deliver those killer passes that lead to goalscoring chances.
He didn’t score or assist much during his playing days at MFM, but he was an integral part of the Olukoya Boys’ slick and vibrant style of play. A look back at the build-up to Sikiru Olatunbosun’s screamer against Enugu Rangers on February 24, 2017 - which won the CNN Goal of the Week - is an example of his importance.
Abdallah has seemingly refused to use Onuwa because of his apparent lack of defensive attributes, but he can’t afford to keep the former Heartland man on the bench while Enyimba struggle to get results.
If the style of play needs to be adjusted to suit Onuwa’s attributes, then so be it, because his talent ought not be wasted.
The current abridged format of the NPFL won’t be forgiving if bad results persist. While Enyimba should be benefiting from their big signings, it is the likes of MFM, having lost key players like Onuwa, who are top of their group.
Onuwa has cited reigning Ballon d’Or recipient Luka Modric, Andres Iniesta and Jay-Jay Okocha as his role models, and it’s clear that he is hungry to achieve big things, which should in turn put Enyimba back on the map after four trophyless years.
Will Abdallah have the courage to give Onuwa the gametime he needs?