Cork's Adam Idah is perfect for Stephen Kenny’s Ireland system 

Ireland – who have found the net fifteen times in their last eight games – are a team who have finally found their attacking groove after struggling to score for a number of years.
Cork's Adam Idah is perfect for Stephen Kenny’s Ireland system 

Norwich City’s Adam Idah celebrates and own goal by Everton’s Michael Keane during the Premier League match at Carrow Road, Norwich..

A successful international window concluded two weeks ago with the Republic of Ireland beating Lithuania and drawing with Belgium, a result which knocked the Red Devils off the number one spot in the FIFA rankings.

The team scored three times in these two friendlies and they had four goals ruled out for offside against Lithuania.

Ireland – who have found the net fifteen times in their last eight games – are a team who have finally found their attacking groove after struggling to score for a number of years.

In their last UEFA Nations League campaign, they scored just once, a header from Shane Duffy to equalise against Bulgaria in injury time. Ireland only found the net seven times during Euro 2020 qualifying. 

This was a marginal improvement on 2018, when they scored just four goals in nine games.

Stephen Kenny has rejuvenated the Irish attack with a 3-4-2-1 formation, which changes into a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-3 depending on the opposition.

One question going into the 2022/23 Nations League campaign, is what role Adam Idah will play when he returns from injury.

The Norwich City striker is currently out with a knee injury and he is expected to miss the reason of the season.

Before his injury, Idah was a regular starter for Ireland under Stephen Kenny, who promoted him from the Under-21s in 2020.

The striker was also playing well at club level and he even scored his first Premier League goal for Norwich last January.

When he is back on the pitch, it could be September and the Ireland coach may have finalised his team selection by then.

2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier Group A, Baku Olympic Stadium, Baku, Azerbaijan 9/10/2021
2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier Group A, Baku Olympic Stadium, Baku, Azerbaijan 9/10/2021

The good thing for Idah is that the system Kenny plays is ideal for his attributes and he could very easily slot in as the focal point of the attack.

His role in this team can be best understood in the formation, which prioritises possession and being able to play out from the back. The idea for this system came from former Irish coach Anthony Barry, who also works with Chelsea as a coach. Him and Thomas Tuchel use a varied 3-4-3 and together they conquered the world.

The system was key to Chelsea’s victory in the 2021 Champions League final and their run to the 2022 Carabao Cup final. This system involved three central defenders, wing backs, ball playing central midfielders, and a striker playing off two quick forwards.

Together with Stephen Kenny, the duo starting implementing this system in 2021 and by the end of the year, it was proving to be a success.

Ireland closed out the year by going unbeaten in their last six games. Idah started four of these and he was brought on as a substitute in one, against Portugal at the Aviva Stadium.

During this run for Ireland, Idah often played as the lone striker with two attacking midfielders, like Callum Robinson and Chiedozie Ogbene.

The striker has also been paired with Aaron Connolly up top, like in last September’s World Cup qualifier against Portugal in Faro. This was a defensive use for Idah as he was tasked with holding the ball up and to make room for his strike partner. This was very successful on the night, as he created the space to allow Aaron Connolly in to win a corner, which John Egan scored from.

What Stephen Kenny did that night was no different to Inter Milan under Antonio Conte. The Italian coach played Romelu Lukaku up front with Lautaro Martínez during their run to the 2020 Europa League final and in their 2021-21 Scudetto winning season. It’s a system that involves immense concentration, a major piece of Idah’s skillset,.

Idah’s versatility also on show that evening as he went from being a lone front man to having a partner.

Kenny’s most recent tactical switch has been playing a withdrawn striker with two wingers playing off the forward. This was used last week against Lithuania at the Aviva Stadium. Will Keane was tasked with stepping back and breaking balls down to Callum Robinson and Chiedozie Ogbene. He was substituted late in the game for Scott Hogan, who was given the same job.

This is a similar system to how Tottenham Hotspur played under José Mourinho during the 2020-21 season. Under the now Roma boss, Harry Kane played a deeper role by receiving the ball before putting into the path of Son Heung-min. The forward would run between the lines before charging onto Kane’s balls.

Adam Idah and Will Keane, right, during a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Adam Idah and Will Keane, right, during a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Tottenham enjoyed a lot of success with this formation in the first half of the 2020/21 Premier League season. Not only did they go into the Christmas period chasing Liverpool at the top of the table, but they also reached the final of the Carabao Cup. This was in addition to topping their group in the Europa League, a feat which saw fifteen goals scored.

Idah; with his natural height of 1.9m, has the perfect build to retreat back. He also has experience of playing with Callum Robinson, Chiedozie Ogbene, and Aaron Connolly.

In the last few months, Idah has played for Ireland as the lone front man and alongside Aaron Connolly. Wherever he played, he played well and performed his duties impeccably.

The challenge for Stephen Kenny once the forward is back from injury is to find the best way to maximise Idah’s skill set inside the new look Ireland attack. The good thing is, the Ireland boss has time ahead of the next major qualifying tournament.

This will be held in 2023 and Idah will be 22-years-old by then, with even more experience under his belt.

Until then, Ireland have plenty of opportunities to continue to adjust and tinker with their team.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo WISA

Read all about the monthly winner’s and more.
Click Here

EL_music

Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more