Amid increasing clamour from fans and pressure from Super Eagles coaches to change his game for the national side, a defiant Paul Onuachu has declared: “I’m my own type of striker”.
After scoring 27 goals in all competitions this season including a league-leading 25 goals for Belgian side Genk, it is safe to assume the towering 26-year old striker understands his game completely.
For context, Onuachu has scored more league goals this season than Borussia Dortmund’s wonderkid Erling Braut Haaland, Lionel Messi, Harry Kane, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah.
While coaches at Genk understand how to deploy Onuachu to his devastating best, the same cannot be said about the national team where an ongoing debate over how he fits into Gernot Rohr’s tactical set up has intensified after a series of anodyne performances from the striker.
Rohr, who prefers pacy strikers and wants his forwards involved and running down channels, warned Onuachu publicly last year to modify his game for the national team or risk losing his place.
But that comment appears to have had little impact on Onuachu who’s more of a target man and the beanpole forward insists he will remain true to his style of play.
“I’m my own type of striker,” Onuachu said ahead of Nigeria’s game against Benin Republic. “I’m not the one that runs deep or runs to the space a lot, I’m more of a box striker.”
Rohr has made clear just what he thinks of the former FC Midtjylland striker after placing Onuachu on a standby list in his last two squads, with the striker only making the main squad on both occasions as a late replacement for unavailable players on the main list.
Rohr’s initial decision to place Onuachu on standby for the Eagles’ upcoming 2021 AFCON qualifiers against Benin Republic and Lesotho drew widespread ire especially as captain Ahmed Musa was called up despite being without a club for more than five months.
Explaining his decision, Rohr hinted he had lost patience with Onuachu’s inability to build on his blistering start to life in Nigeria’s green and white and was therefore looking to give other deserving forwards an opportunity with the national side.
And after just one goal in eight appearances for the Super Eagles, Rohr might be justified in trying other options. Onuachu understands the demands of his position and says he is always looking to score for the national team.
“Of course, as a striker, you always need to score whenever you are being called upon,” he said.
“When I have the chance to play, definitely I’ll have it in my head to score one and all that and if it doesn’t come, we will keep working for the next one.”
Nigeria lead Group L with eight points and need just a draw to book their spot in Cameroon. They take on the Squirrels of Benin Republic at the Stade Charles de Gaulle in Porto Novo on Saturday, 5 pm Nigerian time before facing the Crocodiles of Lesotho at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos three days later.