Yesterday afternoon, Stephen Kenny named his 27-man Irish squad for the upcoming Nations League games in June. In the squad, he named 8 forwards. Not all of these players are the same however. For example, Chiedozie Ogbene is a completely different player to Will Keane. But how are they different? Obviously, they play different positions. But even players to play in virtually the same position are different players, like Troy Parrott and Callum Robinson.

Ireland play with 3 up top, 1 of which is a central striker with 2 in behind him. The player on the left tends to play in the inside left position and the width from that side generally comes from the wing back. On the right however, it is more fluid. As it is usually Ogbene and Matt Doherty on that side, Ogbene will sometimes go wide and Doherty will be the one to come inside, or Ogbene will stay inside and Doherty will provide the width. The left of the 3 then tends to be more of a creative player, we have seen Jamie McGrath play there on a number of occasions. Whereas on the right, it tends to be Ogbene who provides width and opens up space for Doherty or Jeff Hendrick to push into. We have seen a number of different combinations but based on these, it is crucial that we do have a creative player in that front 3, otherwise we really struggle to create chances. For example, for the away game in Luxembourg, the side struggled until the introduction of Jason Knight.

With this in mind, what do our current crop offer us and what do they actually do?

Callum Robinson

The West Brom forward has been in the goal for Ireland recently. In the last three international windows, he’s picked up 6 goals in 6 appearances. This is despite not scoring any in the last window. At club level, he’s scored 7 times and provided 9 assists. These stats pretty accurately describe what sort of player he is. He isn’t purely a goal scorer, but he isn’t purely a creator either. He’s a bit of both rolled into one. Robinson usually occupies the area edge of the penalty box in the inside left channel. See his 2 goals away against Azerbaijan. Both were strikes from outside the box, the first being a first time shot into the top corner. The second however is more indicative of his strengths. He receives the ball in this area, dances past the defender and curls it into the bottom corner.

Credit: Sky Sports Football Youtube channel

Credit: Sky Sports Football Youtube channel

Credit: Sky Sports Football Youtube channel

Robinson is a very technically gifted player and excels in these situations where there isn’t a lot of space. Being able to make that tiny bit of space for himself before passing or shooting himself is crucial for Kenny’s side, especially if we are looking to be patient with our build up and trying to break down a team who sits back. He has also played centrally for us which when he does so, he will drop off like a false 9 to create space for those in behind him.

Troy Parrott

Parrott has enjoyed a breakout season of sorts in league 1 with MK Dons where he registered 8 goals and 6 assists. The majority of these have come after the turn of the year where he has really established himself in the MK Dons side. He played as one of the outside forwards in a front 3 like Ireland. And like Robinson, he also has been a creator and goalscorer for his side this season. Despite this, they are quite different players. Parrott is a much more aggressive runner and dribbler, but this isn’t to say the technical ability isn’t there. And he prefers to drive into space without the ball, or at defenders with it. Like for his first goal for Ireland against Andorra last summer.

Credit: Sky Sports Football Youtube channel

Parrott picks up the ball about 30 yards from goal, and he powers all the way to the other side of the penalty spot inside the area before shooting across goal. This aggressive running style draws defenders to him and therefore opens up space for others to exploit. Also, a physically stronger player than Robinson which again draws players in duels where he is more likely to win and he has still retained his killer instinct in front of goal from his youth team days. Parrott’s also become a bit of a man for the big occasion. He scored a last minute equaliser against Don’s rivals Wimbledon and scored in their playoff semi final against Wycombe Wanderers. For Ireland, in that Andorra game, which was a must win for Stephen Kenny, we had just gone down 1-0 before Parrott grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck by scoring twice and he scored the late screamer against Lithuania in March.

Chiedozie Ogbene

Right winger Chiedozie Ogbene has been a revelation since his first cap against Hungary last summer. Since then, he’s scored 3 in 7 for the boys in green and has become a firm fan favourite. He enjoyed promotion with club side Rotherham, picking up an assist on the last day of the season for fellow Irishman Georgie Kelly to seal promotion back to the championship. He has played mainly at wing back this season for Rotherham rather than a position further forward like he has done for Stephen Kenny. He brings raw pace with a knack for goals which Ireland have desperately lacked over the years. Ogbene frightens defenders with and without the ball, most clearly seen in the home game against Portugal where he ran PSG’s Danilo Pereira ragged and was a constant thorn in the side of the Portuguese defence. A willing runner to open up space for others as well as getting into the position to receive the ball himself. It isn’t just his pace that does this though, its also his footballing brain which sees these opportunities. Twice in the first half, he got into the box where you would expect your number 9 to be. Causing panic the first time where goalkeeper Rui Patrício had to parry before almost scoring with a header soon after.

Ogbene is also key to Ireland’s press without the ball. In the second half, it was his pressure which caused the Portuguese player to slip in his own box and gift a chance to Ireland. Callum Robinson forced Nunes into Ogbene’s path, where his presence forced the slip and created the chance.

Credit: FAI Youtube channel

He almost capitalised in the first half too, on a loose pass back to the keeper but just couldn’t get there in time.

Michael Obafemi

Arguably Ireland’s most in form player at club level, Obafemi has scored 12 goals this season for Swansea in the championship as well as 3 assists too, which works out at 0.53 goals per 90. He has a been a revelation so far in 2022 and deservedly has been included in the squad. He’s a proper number 9, getting himself into goalscoring positions and then scoring,].His pace and power are obvious, but his finishing and movement are what make him the player he is. His performance in the south Wales derby against Cardiff show this, and also that he is clearly confident and enjoying himself. He scored twice in this game in what was a momentous day for the club, and celebrated in front of the Cardiff fans. The second finish is particularly impressive, surrounded by Cardiff defenders, he manages to find the top right corner.

For this goal against Bristol City, you can see his movement. Cyrus Christie has the ball on the right hand side of the box, Obafemi spots the space at the back post before anyone else and powers into it to score.

Credit: Swansea City AFC Youtube channel

Credit: Swansea City AFC Youtube channel

Scott Hogan

Another goal poacher, Birmingham City’s Scott Hogan has notched up a respectable 10 goals in the championship this season, he is yet to get off the mark for the national side however despite having a goal ruled out for offside against Lithuania in March. The 30-year-old is an expert at getting himself into the right place at the right time to direct the ball home. Kenny may feel this influence could have a huge impact on some of the younger forwards. But Hogan isn’t in the squad to be a mentor. He’s there to be goal threat. And if we are struggling to finish chances, we arguably don’t have anyone better than Hogan to do that and we saw Kenny throw him on in the Lithuania one. Of his 10 goals this season, all 10 were in the penalty area, 4 of which were inside the 6-yard-box. According to stats website, Hogan has completed 8.1 passes per game, which indicates exactly what he does, he isn’t in a side to help too much with the build-up, he’s there to score goals. He’s an expert at getting in front of his man at crosse. Birmingham City are a side who put a lot of crosses into the box and Hogan has reaped the rewards from this.

Here, in a game against Derby County, Hogan realises that Jason Knight’s positioning isn’t quite right, and he takes advantage of this to meet the cross and steer it past the keeper.

Credit: Sky Sports Football Youtube channel

Credit: Sky Sports Football Youtube channel

Will Keane

Fresh off of winning the League 1 top scorer award and promotion back to the championship for Wigan, Will Keane has been named in the latest Irish squad. Finishing the season with 26 goals and 7 assists, he has mainly played as an attacking midfielder for Wigan this season but has also played up top. He’s averaged 27.4 passes per 90, which shows how involved he is in the sides build up, he is so much more than just a goal scorer. The former Manchester United player is a tall physical presence which, without Adam Idah, Ireland’s forwards arguably lack which is obviously a benefit. It allows the side to switch to a more direct approach if the current one isn’t working. It would be wrong to reduce Keane to just this however. In Wigan’s away game against Plymouth, the ball is passed into Keane who is in the attacking midfielder position, first time, he turns the ball behind the defence with a lovely soft touch into the path of his teammate who finishes. This ability to play off of one touch can speed up our build up and help us to break through defences.

Credit: Plymouth Argyle Youtube channel

CJ Hamilton

CJ Hamilton has received his first international call up for this round of nations league games and he most likely is somebody many Irish fans haven’t seen play before. He is a pacey, left footed winger who plays on the left and the right with a good cross. This season, he has registered 2 goals and 4 assists in 24 appearances. In his press conference, Stephen Kenny said that he was a left winger when describing him before saying he can play on the right too, which may suggest that Kenny is likely to deploy him on the left. When playing on the left, Hamilton acts as a conventional touchline winger. He stays really wide providing the width needed when attacking. Its really interesting then to think about what sort of possibilities can be opened up by this. Whoever’s playing left wing back could underlap inside, or maybe we could see Josh Cullen push higher up.

Hamilton picks up the ball out wide on the lift, he uses his pace to get to the byline and crosses for the assist.

Credit: Blackpool FC Youtube channel

Credit: Blackpool FC Youtube channel

Festy Ebosele

Another first call up, this time, its 19-year-old Festy Ebosele. This season, his performances at Derby County have convinced Udinese to sign him in the summer. Ebosele’s biggest strengths are his dribbling and pace. He beats men with ease in his best position which is on the right wing. He also, like Hamilton, provides width when attacking. And like Ogbene, he draws defenders in, creating space for others. He does tend to stay wide more often than Ogbene which means that the wing back on that side will be underlapping and coming inside more often. Ebosele loves to go on the outside of his man and beat him that way rather than cutting inside which obviously means he creates a lot of crossing opportunities.

Here, against Hull city, Ebosele stands up him man, and then beats him easily, on the outside, from a standing start.

Credit: Hull City Youtube channel

He gets to the byline where he outs a low cross in which bounces around before him teammate finishes.

Credit: Hull City Youtube channel

As we can see, Kenny has many different options which he can select him front 3 from, and this list does not even include Jason Knight or Alan Browne who can both also play in the front 3 as a more creative option. He has pace in abundance and loads of natural width with traditional wingers, as well as inside forwards such as Parrott and Robinson.