Why Stephen Kenny needs to turn to youngster after toothless Irish displays

Stephen Kenny didn’t get off to the ideal start as Ireland boss, with the side picking up just a single point from their two Nations League games in September.

Whilst they are no longer meaningless friendlies, these fixtures weren’t too important for the country, with the focus on the play-off against Slovakia in October as Ireland chase a place in Euro 2020.

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Of course, looking at Betfair, which has the football odds from today’s events and the upcoming tournaments, shows just where the Boys in Green are on the international stage, as they are 325/1 outsiders to win the competition.

That highlights just how far below the elite Ireland are and obviously there is no expectation on Kenny to deliver trophies. Instead, his remit will be to build an exciting squad that is capable of competing at tournaments and maybe pulling off shocks – and he will be tasked to do that in a stylish way.

In terms of the performances, the draw against Bulgaria and the defeat to Finland showed glimpses of the more attractive approach that Kenny wants to implement but it wasn’t great. Even though that’s understandable, given the disrupted pre-season players had and the fact the new boss has barely had time to get his ideas across, it’s clear that Ireland need to improve in the final third.

And, one way that could be done is by bringing Michael Obafemi into the fold. The Southampton striker was a surprise omission from the squad and his reaction to the news on social media suggested he wasn’t too happy to be left out.

Despite Kenny insisting the decision was tactical and that he has no problem with the tweet from Obafemi, it’s not going to have done him any favours with the management.

However, the 20-year-old was right to be bemused, because he has shown in the Premier League that he is a bright talent and he has qualities that should benefit the Irish national team.

Importantly, he has the pace to run in behind the opposition defence, along with sharp movement, which can make Kenny’s team a threat on the counter-attack. That also gives the side an outlet because he can turn the opposition and relieve pressure if the team are forced back.

The major concern with Obafemi is his goal return but that can be put down to his age and his lack of minutes for club and country from the start. But, he is becoming an increasingly important member of Ralph Hassenhutl’s squad and Kenny needs to give the forward a chance on the biggest stage.

Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that Ireland just don’t have enough quality in the final third currently but there is promise with those coming through. Troy Parrott and Adam Idah are highly-rated, with the exciting Aaron Connolly starting the two previous games and Obafemi should join the trio in leading this new Irish era.

With no players really staking a claim in the Nations League games, it’s down to Obafemi to force his way into Kenny’s plans by performing in the Premier League and if he does that, he could be the striker that takes Ireland to Euro 2020.

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