Sport Soccer

Thursday 22 March 2018

Steven Reid: Picking Sammon a mistake, it should've been Hoolahan

REPLACING Robbie Keane was the biggest decision facing Giovanni Trapattoni ahead of tonight and I'm afraid he might have taken the wrong option by selecting Conor Sammon.

I don't think he's the player best suited to filling the void left by Robbie's unavailability. Perhaps the manager feels we need to be more direct to create more chances, and while I am concerned that we might struggle to break Austria down, I fear our front two tonight are in danger of becoming isolated.

Conor and Shane Long played up front together against Poland, and I think the result of that game has perhaps coloured the history of what actually happened when they were on the pitch. They were isolated for long periods without a link player between midfield and attack, and Poland dominated possession. If Austria go with five in midfield tonight, then they are capable of controlling the match.

Trapattoni will ask Conor and Longy to work hard and drop deeper to support the midfield, but I think you're in danger of blunting the latter's natural threat if you ask him to do that. As a defender who plays with him every week at club level, there's nothing better than seeing Longy as the last man when you're under a bit of pressure.

He's a great 'out' ball who can run in behind and stretch their defence. I like him as that No 9, he can win headers all day and leads the line. For me, you need a link player to support him; asking Shane to do it blunts his effectiveness.

I'd prefer to see Wes Hoolahan (right) or Simon Cox as Longy's partner.

I spoke about Wes before the Sweden game and I haven't changed my stance; he's a Premier League player who will not be fazed by this kind of challenge. I'd involve him from the start. Coxy is also an attack-minded operator who can do both jobs, in terms of being a third midfielder and a second striker.

Even though he's only been called in as cover, I'd favour Kevin Doyle over Sammon as well. Without doubt, he'll be champing at the bit to prove to Trapattoni that he was wrong to drop him. He'll have a point to prove, and I think combining him with Longy would give us a better balance.

Our home form has been relatively poor under Trapattoni and I can understand why. When the priority is on building a team with a defensive solid base with counter-attacking potential then you're always going to be better suited to away games.

It's difficult to change that approach overnight and suddenly become an offensive force on your own turf. Until now, I think the manager has been relying on Robbie to bail him out a little bit, and Damien Duff's absence will be felt too. If you look back over the last couple of years, the midfield haven't exactly been chipping in with too many goals.

James McClean is capable of providing that threat but too often we see him getting on the ball in the defensive third, not the attacking third. He has to vary his play more too. It's been well documented that his second season has turned out to be difficult for him, and as a full-back who has prepared to take him on, I do believe he has become a little predictable.

Too often, he tries to go outside and get it onto his stronger left foot, when I feel he's got the pace, the power and the ability to drive inside and give the defender something to think about. We saw glimpses of it on Friday and that's hopefully a sign of things to come.

Seamus Coleman is another asset and if we're going to try and take the game to Austria then his overlapping skills will have to be utilised, even if it means that Marc Wilson may have to be a little bit more conservative on the other side.

Ultimately, much will depend on our effectiveness in the centre of the park, where it's no surprise to me that Glenn Whelan is restored. James McCarthy had his best game for Ireland on Friday and that was a major positive. I couldn't believe Trapattoni said beforehand he wasn't a creative player. Maybe he does it for the right reasons but there's been so many examples that I don't subscribe to that point of view.


James is a creative player, not in the sense that he'll go on mazy runs and open a defence that way, but he's got a brilliant range of passing and decent vision. He can sit when required as well, and is effective in that role.

However, he's another one that can do damage if he can get himself into the right areas. Sometimes, in a home game like this, where there is serious pressure to register a victory, lads can be a little fearful and shy away from the ball. This young team can't fall into that trap tonight.

A draw on Friday was a great result, but two draws would not represent a good return from the week. This is a must-win game, and I'm not sure that our approach from the start is best suited to achieving it.

Trapattoni brought in Hoolahan with 15 minutes to go against Sweden and I'd like to see him given a longer stint here. A link player can give us the options to hurt Austria; if we hit on that formula earlier then I believe we can pick up the three points.

Irish Independent

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