Sport Soccer

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Steven Reid: Ireland must keep it tight early on and then let Longy's pace loose in the second half

Steven Reid

Steven Reid

I have an idea what the discussion will be in the home dressing room around 7.20 this evening. Good footballers are never defeatist. Sure, they'll know this is going to be the second hardest game of the qualifying campaign. The toughest will be the away game in Germany.

But while the lads will understand why they are outsiders, it won't stop them from believing. Personally, I've never gone into a top level fixture convinced that coming away with nothing is inevitable. It's always possible if you approach it with the right attitude.

The message will be simple -- stay in the game as long as possible. That's the key when you are the underdog and that's where it went so wrong in the Euros, where early goals were the problem.

When you're looking to stop a superior force, the last thing you do is give them the early initiative. Once you allow them to settle, it's dangerous. If Ireland can stay in it tonight, then our confidence will grow and so will the volume levels. We must start well. Otherwise, we'll be in real trouble.

The perception we had of Germany before we played them in 2002 and 2006 was full of the old stereotypes -- efficient, big, strong, hard to beat.

They're hard to beat now because they keep hold of the ball for long periods. Joachim Loew called time on the careers of some elder lads and has developed a young side, while changing their style of play in the process.

I'm encouraged by the fact that Giovanni Trapattoni is preparing to counter that by changing our approach. Anyone could see that we struggled in midfield during the Euros. Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews were completely outnumbered and it wasn't just a simple case of the opposition fielding three central midfielders.

When you come up against the better teams now, the rotation is mesmerising. The days of the out and out wingers are gone. Now, you see teams flooding the midfield, with the wide players constantly drifting inside. It can be tough when you don't have the support to cope it and, in Poland, Whelo and Keith were powerless.

The switch to 4-3-3 gives us a bit more flexibility. I'd imagine that Keith Fahey will be sitting most of the time, with Keith Andrews and James McCarthy taking it in turns in an attacking role. We always need one of the three to be thinking of finding an advanced position or else Jon Walters will be isolated from the game completely.

I know that when Robbie Keane was ruled out, there was a call for Shane Long to replace him, but we have to respect that Jon is a solid Premier League player. I've come up against him a few times and he's a pest, he doesn't give you a minute's rest and I think we need someone with that attitude.

We have to try and push the Germans back so we get Simon Cox and Aiden McGeady on the ball in areas where they can hurt them. There's no point in having Coxy and Aiden pushed back into our own half, but I do fear that what has been sold as 4-3-3, may end up as a 4-5-1, especially knowing how Trap thinks.

As for Longy, he's in the form of his life. I know that from seeing him every day at West Brom and if we can stay competitive into the second half, then he will be a serious option off the bench. The Germans are without a couple of their regular defenders. Per Mertesacker isn't that mobile and if he's tiring they can play it in behind for shane, whose genuine pace will give them a real headache.

Defensively, I have mixed feelings about the manager's selection. I just cannot understand why Marc Wilson hasn't been a serious part of the discussion, considering his assured Premier League status. To be fair to Stephen Ward, he's put in a good couple of years at Wolves. But Marc is established at the highest level and, even if there's no vacancy at left full, he can fill in all across the back four or as a holding midfielder.

Seamus Coleman's inclusion appears to be a positive statement. One aspect of a three-man central midfield is that it allows the full-back to get forward in a manner that wouldn't be possible in a 4-4-2. In this system, Coleman should be able to attack in the knowledge that at least two of the midfielders will be sitting there and screening.

Germany's weak point is their defence and, perhaps, the manager is recognising this by opting for Seamus ahead of Stephen Kelly.

With all the attacking flair our visitors possess, inviting them onto us for 90 minutes would be playing with fire. Trap's alterations for tonight suggest that he might have taken one or two of the harsh lessons from the Euros on board.

We'll know for certain later tonight. A draw would be a fantastic result.

Irish Independent

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