Stephen Kenny Must Make Real Changes To Address Ireland's Attacking Woes

Stephen Kenny Must Make Real Changes To Address Ireland's Attacking Woes

Gary Connaughton By Gary Connaughton

Gary Connaughton reporting from the Aviva Stadium

Just when it looked like momentum was building for this Irish team, all of that has been sapped away after their fixtures over the last few days.

Two games, two 1-0 defeats, and two huge blows to this side's hopes of putting together a run in the UEFA Nations League. It is a competition where Ireland have struggled greatly over the last number of years, something that seems unlikely to change in this current iteration.

Of course, football tends to be quite a difficult game if you don't score any goals. Stephen Kenny's side defended to a reasonable degree against both Armenia and Ukraine, with a long range goal and a moment of madness from a free-kick undoing them in each fixture respectively.

The issue is very much at the other end of the pitch.

Ireland looked completely toothless in attack in both games. While much has been made about this managerial team's attempts to bring the Irish national team into the 21st century in terms of their style of play, our only real threat continues to come from the same blunt instrument: lumping crosses into the box and hoping that Shane Duffy or someone else can stick their head on it.

There is a place for that, especially with the aerial talent in this squad. However, it is the lack of alternatives as things stand that will have supporters concerned.


It is fair to say that there has been a fairly consistent theme when it comes to Ireland struggles in the final third. They seem to lack the ability to break down deep lying defences, especially if they don't score early in a game. That was the case in Armenia, who were glad to soak up pressure at the back without ever really giving up any chances.

However, last night's match was perhaps even more concerning.

Ireland faced a team who employed a high line, leaving plenty of space to exploit in behind. Not only that, but they often left 2v2 situations at the back as their centre backs matched up with Callum Robinson and Chiedozie Ogbene.


The home side came close to exploiting this on a couple of occasions early in the contest, but after that initial burst there was little sign of any creativity in threatening areas of the pitch. The players seemed to either run offside, fail to hit relatively straightforward passes, or run into trouble. By the end, it was 'operation launch ball' once again.


Energy was lacking in the side. For the second successive game, Jeff Hendrick struggled as the Irish midfield was overrun for much of the second half. He tired and then struggled in possession as a result, something that is not surprising when you consider how little football he has played this season. His legs were never likely to cope well with 180 minutes of football over the last five days.

Stephen Kenny has attempted to craft a system of play for Ireland, something the players have become increasingly familiar with over the last 12 months. As a result, he has stuck with players he knew well for these last two games.


However, some of his selections in recent games should be questioned in light of the team's struggles in front of goal.

Chiedozie Ogbene is a certain start considering his form for club and country this season and merits his place. It was also encouraging to see Troy Parrott start in Armenia, even if he did struggle in Yerevan.

Kenny is a huge fan of Callum Robinson and he has been Ireland's most likely goalscorer in recent times. In saying that, he has had a very difficult recent spell at club level. He scored only two goals since the start of January and found himself in and out of the team at West Brom.


In contrast, Michael Obafemi scored 12 goals in his final 15 appearances of the season. Will Keane also scored 26 goals in the campaign, admittedly at a lower level.

Considering Robinson's struggles in Armenia, perhaps one of those two should have started that game? Or maybe he could have played one of them alongside Robinson and put Jason Knight in midfield in place of a clearly underperforming Jeff Hendrick? The enforced introduction of Dara O'Shea aside, Kenny also opted to make no changes until the 69th minute despite the obvious struggles on the pitch.

Sometimes, loyalty can be blinding.


These are issues will be have to be addressed ahead of the game against Scotland on Saturday.

Changes are surely on the horizon. Ireland will have to switch things up in some form for that fixture. Considering how wedded they are to their current system, that is likely to come in the form of personnel.

Obafemi is surely worth a start up front, while Festy Ebosele's energy could be a real asset at right wingback. Jason Knight could perhaps be pushed back into midfield.


Ireland may lack the 'natural goalscorer' that can make such a difference in international football, so perhaps it is time to capitalise on the in-form forwards that are in the squad?

If they draw a blank once again at the weekend, they will be staring firmly down the barrel of relegation.

SEE ALSO: Ireland Player Ratings As Kenny's Side Suffer Another Nations League Defeat Against Ukraine


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