On Wednesday every week, The Mailbag will answer selected questions on African football(ers). Readers can send in their questions on social media by posting the hashtag #PulseSportsMailbag or by sending an email to email@example.com.
What even is a Technical Adviser, AFCON positives, striker roulette
Going by the questions sent in, Nigeria’s coaching situation is a major source of concern.
Without further ado…
I feel you are a little bit harsh with Eguavoen. What reservations do you have about his style or tactics thereof? Also, what positives can you take from Nigeria's AFCON display if any at all? — Ettedem Philip (via email)
Ah. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been accused of being “harsh”. It’s pretty much part of the branding at this point.
On a serious note though, my concerns with Eguavoen go back to his first tenure in 2006.
Much has been made of the fact that he led the Super Eagles to nine points then, but drill down and the performances themselves were unconvincing.
Nigeria barely beat a Ghana side wracked with injuries (you will notice they were a much-changed team when that year’s World Cup came around), struggled mightily against Zimbabwe, and needed Vincent Enyeama to keep the deficit against Senegal to one goal before Kanu came off the bench to change things.
Basically, whenever Nigeria came up against a good opponent, they struggled. That culminated in the disappointing exit to Cote d’Ivoire in a game where nothing seemed to work and the team looked out of sorts.
Sound familiar? Exactly.
As far as positives go, the biggest one really is that we have a group of players that can, you know, actually play. For too much of the last two years, that simple fact had started to get lost. That renewed awareness was, for me, the biggest takeaway from the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Who do you think is the better between Eguavoen and Emmanuel Amuneke? Do you think Amuneke stands the chance of leading the team to the World Cup if we qualify? — Kenechukwu Nnaemeka (via email)
Based on what I have seen of their respective bodies of work, I would have to say Amuneke. Let us not forget, the former Barcelona winger led Nigeria to success at under-17 level, before qualifying Tanzania for their first AFCON in 39 years. Eguavoen simply does not have anything remotely close on his resume.
From a coaching point of view as well, there is clearly a lot more rigour and technical input to the football Amuneke teams play. Eguavoen’s ‘express yourself’ ideology is fine, and it vibed well with players who had been repressed for so long, but it can wear thin pretty quickly. There is probably a happy medium between these extremes, but I would rather my team was over-prepared than under.
He is an abrasive character, Amuneke, and he is not greatly liked in the corridors of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), so that might count against him in terms of helming the Super Eagles in Qatar, should they get there. However, qualifying, to begin with, would certainly not harm his case.
What exactly is the job of a technical adviser? What will be the respective roles of Eguaveon and Amuneke? — Ndu Ka (@ndukaorjinmo on Twitter)
What do you think about the new Super Eagles coaching set up? It's puzzling how Emmanuel Amuneke can be chief coach and also first assistant (could you clarify his exact position?) — Ugomsinachi Onuowor (via Facebook)
I have put these questions together because they are broadly the same.
So, technically, a technical adviser is almost a consulting sort of role. It refers to someone brought in to advise on a specific area that is beyond the expertise of the team.
However, this is Nigeria, and we are a people given to honour before duty. So titles are important, even though they essentially mean nothing. If they did, then in this case Amuneke would be the one leading the team and taking charge of training sessions, while Eguavoen would be brought in to offer certain insights.
However, we have been here before, so we know better. Eguavoen remains in charge, and it is in fact Amuneke who has been brought in to provide technical support and input. Ironic, isn’t it?
Do you think the present coaching crew is equipped enough to steer the Super Eagles in (the) right direction? I ask this because I saw in Eguavoen a lack of tactical depth against the Tunisians. He look completely lost when Nigeria was a goal down. My second question is: who would you choose as your first choice striker between Oshimen, Dennis, Awoniyi & Sadiq? — Yaariv Apeji (via Facebook)
This is a difficult question to answer, so I will try to be careful with my wording, so I communicate what I think adequately.
In terms of the composition of the crew, even with a few reservations (Joseph Yobo’s internship), I do believe there is enough expertise there to lead Nigeria.
You are correct: Eguavoen’s tactical acumen has been a clear area of weakness for a while and had been flagged long before the game against Tunisia. His team simply seemed unprepared to respond to an opponent whose tactical approach was easy to telegraph.
However, that is what the drafting of Amuneke is supposed to address, and I believe the former winger has the depth and understanding to contribute in that regard. Where I have some doubts is the harmony and delineation of functions within the group, as some sources have suggested Eguavoen did not back the decision. If there is going to be dissension, then the entire purpose of it all is defeated, and that scuppers everything.
Basically: Eguavoen + Amuneke can be money, but only if the house is not divided against itself.
As for the striker question, there can be no debate that Victor Osimhen offers the broadest range of abilities and is the only one of that quartet with genuine world-class potential.
Thank you to everyone who sent in questions for this week’s mailbag!