Paul Onuachu, Victor Moses at career crossroads in Europe
Paul Onuachu will be hoping that his first start and maiden goal for Belgium Pro League side Genk -- both of which arrived last weekend in the 2-1 loss to Sporting Charleroi -- kick-starts a process that ultimately sees him become the attacking spearhead of both the 'Blauw-Wit' and Nigeria's Super Eagles.
Onuachu, 25, moved to the Luminus Arena from Danish side Midtjylland in August, having impressed Genk with a haul of 45 goals in the Superliga across the past three seasons.
For a man who stands 2.01m tall, it's little surprise that Onuachu is a powerful aerial presence and scores plenty of goals with his head -- as was the case against Charleroi last weekend, when he got across his marker to meet a cross with a diving, glancing effort.
However, there's far more to his game than just being a battering ram for long balls and crosses: He has a surprisingly deft touch for a man of his size, and is a composed finisher with either foot. Onuachu is also excellent with his back to goal, able to drop off from forward positions and link play with his midfielders and wide men.
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Genk coach Felice Mazzu generally favours a 4-3-3 formation (or a slight variation thereof) in his tactical set up. This works well for Tanzanian Mbwana Samatta, who is a more versatile and mobile striker able to drift out to wider areas and interchange positions with his fellow forwards in a way that doesn't play to Onuachu's strengths. That's not to say the Nigerian cannot feature in a 4-3-3, only that such an attack will be more predictable with him as the centre-forward compared with Samatta.
Yet if the service from out wide is top notch, the Nigerian's heading ability is such a potent weapon that it is difficult to defend against. To that end, the key men for Onuachu's progress at Genk will be regular full-backs Casper de Norre and Jere Uronen: Their ability to overlap provides most of the width for an otherwise narrow Blauw-Wit team, and their crossing will be the main source of scoring chances for the Nigerian. Indeed, Uronen provided the assist for Onuachu's goal against Charleroi.
A possible and interesting alternative for Mazzu would be to play a more traditional 4-4-2, in which Onuachu and Samatta are strike partners: The former's ability to hold up the ball would give the prolific Tanzanian (five goals from six Pro League appearances this season) the freedom to run in behind off the last shoulder, or look for space in the channel between centre- and full-backs.
Onuachu gets his next chance to impress on Saturday night, when Genk host KV Oostende in a match broadcast live on ESPN. The Nigerian's direct opponents will be centre-backs Wout Faes and Goran Milovic, with the latter more likely to be his challenger for aerial dominance given the defender's 1.95m frame.
Becoming a regular for Genk will also greatly serve Onuachu's international ambitions, as Nigeria have no established spearhead. Odion Ighalo retired from international football after the recent 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, in which Onuachu featured as Ighalo's 'understudy. The Genk forward is vying now with the likes of Victor Osimhen, Anthony Nwakaeme and teammate Stephen Odey for the Super Eagles' No. 9 jersey.
Belgium Pro League on ESPN in Africa (all times CAT)
Friday, Sept. 20
8.30 p.m.: Kortrijk vs. Mechelen - LIVE on ESPN
Saturday, Sept. 21
6 p.m.: Sporting Charleroi vs. Sint Truiden - LIVE on ESPN
8.30 p.m.: Genk vs. Oostende - LIVE on ESPN
Victor Moses needs to convince Fenerbahce to spend big
Victor Moses is likely to return from a thigh injury when Fenerbahce take on Ankaragucu in Istanbul on Saturday, and the Nigerian needs to start convincing his club that he is a worthwhile investment for the long term.
News broke last week that Fenerbahce are reluctant to turn the player's current loan deal into a permanent transfer when the current season closes in May next year, despite having an option to do so. This would see Moses return to parent club Chelsea with just 12 months left on his contract at the English Premier League heavyweights.
The Istanbul giants notably failed to qualify for either of the UEFA continental competitions (and thus lose out on a significant source of income), while they are also facing major sanctions after failing to meet Financial Fair Play targets. All of this means that Moses' 85,000 euros-a-week wages and a transfer fee likely to be somewhere in the region of 11.5 million euros is perhaps too steep a price for Fenerbahce.
Yet Moses is an influential player for the Yellow-Blues: He racked up four goals and one assist from 16 appearances across all competitions last season, after his January move from Chelsea, and he began 2019/20 with a penalty and an assist in a 5-0 win over Gazisehir on August 19.
The former Nigeria international has not played since, due to injury, but his return provides a chance to remind Fenerbahce of his skills while providing a measure of relief for coach Ersun Yanal, whose team has won just one of the three matches in which Moses has been unavailable.
Yanal has used Deniz Turuc and Alper Potuk as the right-sided attacking midfielders in his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, but neither offers the dynamism or the pace of Moses. The Nigerian brings a natural balance in his tendency to search for space out wide, which complements the inclination of Cape Verdean Garry Rodrigues on the opposite flank to drift infield and link with striker Vedat Muriqi. This in turn gives more space and passing options for playmaker Max Kruse, making Fener a more potent attacking unit.
Moses also brings greater defensive stability: After all, he thrived as a right wingback under Antonio Conte at the Blues, and does not hesitate to support his full-back when Fenerbahce are out of possession. Moses' flank is very much a point of strength for Fenerbahce when he is present in the line-up.
The 28-year-old has talked of his enjoyment of Turkish football, and he will be loathe to uproot his life again, with his wife and children having made the move from London to Istanbul alongside him back in January. If he wants to stay in the Super Lig and remain on the books of Fenerbahce, then he must simply make himself irreplaceable and give the club no choice but to spend big on his talent.
Turkish Super Lig on ESPN in Africa (All Times CAT)
Saturday, Sept. 21
7 p.m.: Fenerbahce vs. Ankaragucu -- Delayed on ESPN (Sunday, 1 a.m.)
EFL Championship on ESPN in Africa (All Times CAT)
Saturday, Sept. 21
1:30 p.m.: Leeds United vs. Derby County - LIVE on ESPN
4 p.m.: Cardiff City vs. Middlesbrough - LIVE on ESPN
Eredivisie on ESPN in Africa (All Times CAT)
Sunday Sept. 22
12:15 p.m.: Heerenveen vs. Utrecht - LIVE on ESPN
2:30 p.m.: Emmen vs. Feyenoord - LIVE on ESPN
4:45 p.m.: PSV vs. Ajax - LIVE on ESPN