Why The Super Eagles Need Eberechi Eze
The Super Eagles of Nigeria sank to a new low during the last international break, playing out a couple of disappointing draws against Sierra Leone in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The results against the Leone Stars revealed a lot of gaping holes in the team, including a lack of drive and creativity from the middle of the park.
Former Eagles captain, Austin Jay-Jay Okocha touched on this issue in a recent interview, stating that the Eagles need more match-winners in the middle of the park.
“What the Eagles need now are natural midfielders who can create chances and change the course of a game,” Okocha said.
“We need midfielders who can run at defenders and pick their teammates with good passes”.
Okocha remains one of the finest No. 10’s in Nigerian football history, but since his retirement, the national team has struggled to effectively replace the former midfield maestro.
We have a collection of hard-working midfielders, including Wilfred Ndidi, Oghenekaro Etebo and Joe Aribo, but these aren’t the type of players that will take a football match by the scruff of the neck and open up tight defences. There is plenty of graft, heart and endeavor in the team, but not much creativity.
Perhaps the solution to this problem is Crystal Palace midfielder, Eberechi Eze?
Eze has mostly played as a left-sided midfielder in his short stint at Palace (and while at QPR), but he can play anywhere across the frontline.
The man himself feels he is most effective in the No. 10 role.
“I see myself as an entertainer, so someone you could look at and you enjoy the way he controls the ball, the way he touches the ball. That’s what I pride myself on”, Eze said.
“I’ll say as a No.10 directly behind the striker is where I feel most comfortable and free”.
Eze doesn’t have Jay-Jay’s incredible skills (let’s be honest, no one does!), but in terms of creativity, he is arguably an upgrade on our current midfielders. He is a proper ball carrier that likes to run and dribble past opponents, while retaining an eye for a pass. He’s also useful over a dead ball, as proven by his excellent strike in Palace’s 4-1 victory over Leeds United in November.
That is surely the first of many strikes in the Premier League for the young gun.
22-year old Eze was born in England to Nigerian parents. He has previously trained with the Nigerian national team, but is yet to represent the country. Instead, Eze turned out for England at U-20 and U-21 levels, and has been touted as a potential member of the senior England squad.
Having caught the eye at Championship side, Queens Park Rangers, for whom he knocked in 14 goals and contributed 8 assists last season, he moved to Palace for almost £20 million, and has made a steady start to life in the English Premier League.
The Palace No. 25 has made Roy Hodgson’s starting line-up in each of the last four league matches, scoring one goal and providing two assists.
Eze adds more balance to the Palace team, taking some of the pressure off talisman, Wilfried Zaha. If Hodgson can get both players to deliver their best football on a consistent basis, a top half finish is surely on the cards for the Eagles.
It may not be a bad idea to back Crystal Palace for a top-ten finish on betting sites in Nigeria!
Eze is still yet to decide on the country he wants to play for, stating recently that he’d rather focus on his youth and club careers for now, rather than bother about his senior international future!
We have already lost Bukayo Saka to England; hopefully Eze will not join the list of the ones who got away!
The Nigeria Football Federation have been criticized in some quarters for their incessant pursuit of Nigerian footballers in diaspora, but Eberechi Eze is definitely one worth the pursuit.