Nigeria’s Super Eagles may have defeated Guinea-Bissau on Monday, but Jose Peseiro still has much work to do.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles redeemed themselves—to an extent at least—with their 1-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau on Monday, although Jose Peseiro still has much room for improvement before next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast.
The West African giants were hardly convincing as they began to bounce back from last week’s defeat in Abuja, and while they’re not yet qualified for the Nations Cup, it would take a specific set of permutations for them to miss out.
Here are the areas Peseiro needs to get right during the upcoming international breaks if Nigeria are to stand a chance at the Afcon.
During this international window, and indeed, in 2022, Peseiro largely stuck to a 4-4-2 formation that doesn’t necessarily get the best out of the talents available to him.
At times, it’s appeared like blind faith to a single approach, with the head coach seemingly unwilling to experiment and slow to change a strategy in-game when his beloved formation is not proving effective.
Given the players Nigeria have currently, it’s hard to argue that the 4-4-2 is—on paper—the way to exploit them, and certainly, under Peseiro, this classic formation isn’t working out.
Changing the formation should also help the midfield take control of contests, a crucial route to winning games against both Africa’s top sides and the would-be lesser lights.
Being part of a midfield two leaves Alex Iwobi with too much defensive responsibility, and the Everton man wasn’t able to influence contests as he can in the Premier League.
He looked more impressive when given more capacity to advance forward on the right side later in the second match between the two sides, and needs to be moved out of the middle.
Unless Wilfred Ndidi can return to top form—and fitness—Nigeria will struggle to get the better of their opponents in the heart of the park, particularly with only two men in there.
He kept a clean sheet against Guinea-Bissau, but Francis Uzoho’s concentration and even handling wasn’t flawless across either fixture, and there are still many who are unconvinced that he’s the answer between the sticks.
The two local keepers called up by Peseiro for the double-header—ostensibly for experience and to put pressure on Uzoho—are hardly likely to emerge as credible threats to the No. 1 jersey.
Uzoho is suspended for the next international break, so Nigeria need to find a solution, and Maduka Okoye’s ongoing inactivity at Watford has become a serious problem.
It was inevitable that Peseiro would promote Moses Simon to the starting XI for the second match against Guinea-Bissau, but it was telling that it was Samuel Chukwueze who was retained rather than Ademola Lookman.
The latter has proved he’s a much greater goal threat than the former in Serie A this season, but he was still the fall guy while the underwhelming Chukwueze kept his place—only to put in a disaster class in Bissau.
It’s time for Peseiro to drop Chukwueze, to let the wideman know he’s not infallible, and to let some of Nigeria’s other wideman get their chance to impress.
With Chukwueze and Lookman both cutting inside, Osimhen was starved of the service—in the first game at least—that could have got the best out of him.
Nigeria’s best bet of winning the Nations Cup is to devise a strategy—similar to Napoli’s approach—to get the best out of their superstar centre-forward.
At the moment, Peseiro is ignoring this, and employing his widemen as inside forward is absolutely not the way to feed Big Vic.
It was telling that—even though he missed several—the introduction of Moses Simon for the second match at least led to a brighter offensive display.
Perhaps a 3-5-2 formation, with adventurous wing-backs, could also simultaneously solve the Eagles’ deficiencies out wide and through the middle.
While Gernot Rohr was occasionally criticized for being too passive on the touchline, Peseiro comes across as far too nervous and excitable.
It’s good to see his passion, but there’s also the concern that his fitful demeanour translates to jittery performances from the players.
Peseiro needs to calm down, and demonstrate the kind of cool authority and leadership that transmits to his players that he’s in control.