Former Republic of Ireland striker Stephen Elliott has joined Football Saturday to assess Ireland’s Nations League campaign and some of Stephen Kenny’s standout performers.
The Republic of Ireland picked up four points from a possible 12 in their last international window, in a culmination of matches that saw emotions swing between highs and lows.
Stephen Elliott joined The Football Show virtually yesterday with John Duggan, Dan McDonnell and Johnny Ward in the studio to reflect on the lessons to be learned from the Nations League.
Much like football itself, the campaign should be judged as “a kind of two-half game”, says Elliott, who, after the disappointment of the openers Areminia and Ukraine, is away from the last games against Scotland and Ukraine “full of positivity.”
“Overall you would have to say it was a success because the manager was able to turn things around in the first two games,” he said.
“Before games, I was watching games with the form we were in and you watch the game against Armenia thinking it was almost a guaranteed win.
Then obviously the game against Scotland, you think it could be a draw, and I just didn’t expect us to beat Ukraine after seeing them against Scotland in the playoff game .
Coming away with four points isn’t the worst result and like I said, coming out of the last two games the way we did is the thing that fills me with positivity.
Another note of positivity among the fans was the emergence of new breakout stars who combined for sensational goals – Michael Obafemi, Troy Parrot and Nathan Collins.
“In the game against Scotland, Obafemi was electric. He had one of those days when everything was going well for him and he was a bit unplayable at times. Even the assist for Troy’s goal was very good, but his goal was out of this world and you’re not going to see much better than that in international football.
The only disappointing thing is that he wasn’t able to maintain that form in the game against Ukraine after picking up a slight injury, but no, there’s something to work on there.
Elliot points out that the chemistry between the two is what has brought their talent to the fore, as well as how they have matured as players lately.
“We didn’t always see that from Parrot when he came on the scene, which is probably expected too because he’s still just a young boy and learning.
I think we saw in those games the fact that he had a full season of first-team football under his belt.
It showed in the positions he held and that he was a focal point for the team. I thought he was really good.
This question of the impact of first-team football is still one that lingers in the middle of the back line, with Collins and Shane Duffy both vying for center stage.
If he’s going to go with a back three, Nathan Collins is the guy who should be the center of that back three. It’s not even on the ball, I just think he’s ready to get up and play a little higher up the pitch. It sends a message to the rest of the team,” says Elliott.
“In September it depends on who regularly plays first-team football. If Duffy doesn’t play, is he going to play it anyway? I guess Duffy is going to play somewhere, but if he doesn’t play at the football regularly, I think it’s a risk to put them there.
“If Stephen wants to change our style of play, he has to look at how we can improve.
I think if he really wants to implement this into his setup, he needs to start turning away from players who can’t do what he wants to do.
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