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Who Should Replace Jon Walters In Ireland's Team? We Examine The Three Best Options

Who Should Replace Jon Walters In Ireland's Team? We Examine The Three Best Options
By Balls Team
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Ahead of Ireland's crucial Group E game against Belgium at 2pm on Saturday, the main point of contention among Irish fans is "who exactly will replace Jon Walters?"

Walters is Ireland's top scorer in the 2015/6 season; notching four goals for Ireland in the season. But Ireland will miss more than just his goals - his tireless work-rate and defensive capabilities also come into play.

Here at Balls HQ the debate has been raging all day with a multitude of different replacements mooted. Below are three different alternatives offered up by the Balls.ie team.

 

Paul McNulty

I think the best course of action would be for Martin O'Neill to play Stephen Ward at left-back and move Robbie Brady into midfield. It makes sense on a number of levels. Ward played 37 times for a successful Burnley team in the Championship this year and comes into this tournament at a high level of form. He's proven in the big games - he started in the 1-0 win over Germany in October and as he proved against Belarus in Ireland's last pre-Euros game - he has an eye for goal too.

Freeing Brady into midfield - even central midfield would give Ireland a ball-player to complement Wes Hoolahan - our best player against Sweden. Joey Barton said on his TV3 debut on Thursday night that he has played against Hoolahan a few time and "his problem is that he has been very good or very bad. He's not been in the middle and that's been his problem."

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Having another creative, natural footballer in midfield who can pick out a pass is a hedge against that. Hoolahan went off against Sweden with a tight calf - and two games in the space of five days are not going to help that, particularly as he is 33. Personally, I'd like Brady to be played in the centre of midfield but even if he was put on the left - his possesion-based game is exactly what Ireland will need in the white heat of battle. Glenn Whelan, James McCarthy and Jeff Hendrick can provide the brawn - let Brady provide the brains. James McClean should be left in reserve - he's the perfect impact substitute.

Mikey Traynor

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While I commend the effort that James McCarthy and Jeff Hendrick put in covering the wings from central positions against Sweden, I think it was clear that we need more cover out wide as if teams are being shut down through the middle, they will attack from out wide. Martin Olssen caused us all sorts of problems, that's a major worry.

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Cyrus Christie is someone I would like to see trusted in this situation. In that famous win over Germany the young Derby defender was outstanding and had Marco Reus marked out of the game. Starting him against Belgium would allow Seamus Coleman to shift further up into midfield where not only would he have more freedom to do what he did for Wesso's goal, but also help out defensively.

This would see a shift to a 4-5-1, with Hendrick operating from the left, but losing big Jon Walters means we need a different approach, and if Hoolahan and Hendrick can get up in support of Shane Long, it would be the system I would be most confident in with a view to getting a result.

Gavan Casey

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Going against the grain here - largely because the two lads 'baggsed' picking the far more appealing aforementioned options before I got a word in. That leaves me with two options; start James McClean on the right-hand side of Ireland's midfield, or start Aiden McGeady at all. And fuck it - I'm going to play devil's advocate here.

Like all of you, I've seen Aiden McGeady do some truly appalling things on the football pitch, both for Ireland and at club level. Appalling, appalling things. I was just 12 years old last time the outgoing Everton man completed a cross.

But you're up out of your mind if you think James McClean - effective as he can be - has the ability to consistently cut in on his left foot from the right wing without being halted instantly by Jan Vertonghen. McGeady, at least, will find touch consistently - offering Ireland some much-needed respite and, crucially, territory near the Belgian corner flag. You can't counter-attack when the ball is in the stands, particularly with the abominable standard of ball-boying on display in France so far - a real blight on the tournament.

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Jokes aside, if it came to it, I feel McGeady would at least offer Ireland width against a Belgian midfield distinctly lacking athleticism bar 'Ferret-Head' Radja Nainggolan; we saw against Sweden that we are capable of passing through a bank of four when we draw two of the four wide. McClean's natural inclination, to my mind, would be to come inside, which would negate that.

So there's the rationale from the Balls evening shift. Let us know who you think would be the most suitable candidate to replace Big Jon, and how you'd fit that replacement into the team. And light a candle tonight. It's all going down in Bordeaux tomorrow.

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