Could Iwobi emergence prompt Rohr to rethink Mikel’s Nigeria role?

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It was Alexander Iwobi scooping up Man of the Match honours as Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners over Leicester City on Monday.

He may not have got on the scoresheet, or played dreamy threaded passes like teammate Mesut Ozil, but Iwobi’s quick movement, economical passing and stirring all-round showing proved more than enough to win him the award ahead of the German.

It was a carryover from the international break, where the young starlet warmed his way back into Nigerian hearts with commanding performances over two legs against Libya, as the Super Eagles all but cemented their place at next year’s Africa Cup of Nations.

The three-time champions now need only one point from their next two games, one of them at home against Seychelles, to seal their place in Cameroon. It would be a disaster of catastrophic proportions if they fail to secure that point.

However, that is not Gernot Rohr’s pressing headache for now.

Of more immediate concern for the German is what to do about the dilemma presented by Iwobi’s newfound form at the tip of his midfield three.

That position is usually reserved for captain John Mikel Obi. During qualifying for the World Cup, the veteran midfielder excelled in the role, creating and scoring goals.

Things changed a bit at the World Cup when Nigeria lost their opening game to Croatia, and fans clamoured for Mikel to be dropped into a more deeper role.

Rohr obliged, switched tactics, moved Oghenekaro Etebo higher, and the Super Eagles coasted to a fine win over Iceland.

Iwobi was the loser as he dropped to the bench and never quite found his way back into the starting lineup.

Rohr continued with the same tactics against Argentina and it brought the Nigerians seconds away from the draw that would have taken them through to the Round of 16.

Back in the Nations Cup qualifiers, Rohr returned to his trusted 4-3-3. However, with Mikel and Iwobi missing, Kelechi Iheanacho slotted into the position against Seychelles.

However, on his return to the team, Iwobi was handed the spot, and how he grabbed it!

The Arsenal man controlled both legs of the fixture, in Uyo and Sfax, leaving Rohr gushing, especially after the return leg

“He can go everywhere, he is free offensively and he has the inspiration to give good passes.

“We have our wingers who can come to the midfield and then play the counters,” Rohr added. “We have Etebo and [Wilfred] Ndidi, two wonderful players.

“We have also John Ogu who came in and did well. So now, I think we have the right way to pay good football and be efficient.”

Good football and be efficient; as sweet as that sounds, it presents problems for when Mikel returns, possibly against South Africa.

The team in Libya was energetic, quick and direct, as Iwobi flitted and floated everywhere between midfield and attack.

Mikel is not the quickest, and while he compensates for his lack of pace with quick, visionary passing, he does tend to slow down the offence.

If Mikel does return against the very mobile South Africans, Rohr will have a decision to make.

Naturally, his captain will start. That’s a certainty. So the question is how does he resolve his personnel issue? Keep Iwobi high up and drop Mikel down the pitch? Or drop Iwobi altogether?

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