HOW WILL ALEX IWOBI’S ABSENCE AFFECT NIGERIA’S CHANCES VS. CAMEROON?
The 21-year old has been ruled out of the crunch World Cup qualifying double-header, and the national team need to move on without him
Nigeria are set to face Cameroon in their third Group B match of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in Uyo this Friday, before playing the return leg in Yaounde three days later. The Super Eagles may be sitting pretty at the top of their group after amassing six points from their opening two matches, but the absence of Alex Iwobi due to injury is a major blow for Gernot Rohr.
The German coach has made the Arsenal man a big part of his plans, but will now have to figure out how Nigeria cope without one of the key figures in the nation's New Generation.
Iwobi hasn’t been a constant feature for Arsenal this season, making just one appearance as Arsene Wenger continues to favour a 3-4-2-1 formation which has starved the Nigerian of game time but hasn't dimmed his brilliance.
The wonderkid brings fluidity to the Super Eagles thanks to his blistering pace and intelligence on the ball. His presence is one of the key reasons for the national team's resurgence, as evidenced with excellent showings in the victories over Algeria and Zambia.
CSKA Moscow’s Aaron Samuel has been drafted in, but isn't a direct replacement for Iwobi. Instead, Rohr will turn to Ahmed Musa, Moses Simon and Victor Moses as available options in wide areas.
Moses will most likely get the nod to start as he’s been top notch for the national team in recent fixtures, scoring twice in the 3-1 victory over the Desert Foxes last time out and consistently playing at a high level for Chelsea.
Musa, by contrast, has been frozen out of Leicester City, failing to make any of the matchday squads. He has also failed to bring the needed spark to the Nigeria attack in recent times so this puts him on the back foot.
This leaves Simon as the most viable option to start opposite Moses. The 22-year old has played five times for Gent this season but has been in and out of the side under Rohr. Clearly, the KAA Gent wideman is still to fully convince Rohr of his merits.
Iwobi and Moses would have been the first-choice widemen against the Indomitable Lions as they complement each other well, but we're set to miss out on seeing this -- and potentially the chance to see Iwobi and the returning John Obi Mikel start a match together for the first time since the Algeria game.
Regardless of the setback, the entire team needs to be at their best to ensure the perfect resumption of the qualifiers. Against Africa's champions, it's a blow, but will Rohr be able to unearth another hero among his talented young selection?