Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Midfield: Nigeria's G.O.A.T. Players (Vol. 2)

This is the second volume of selecting the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T) of Nigerian players. On July 18, I came up with the G.O.A.T. that included the goalkeepers and defenders. Below are players who made that list (Details can be found here):
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Selected Starters

GK:  Vincent Enyeama

D:    Uche Okechukwu
D:    Christian Chukwu
D:    Stephen Keshi

Honorable Mentions
My choice, admittedly subjective, are Emmanuel Okala, Yisa Sofoluwe, and Taribo West.
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This is now the time to select the midfielders, using the indices that were used for the July 18 selections. Our task is to select the four best midfielders of all time. The players that we considered are the following: Muda Lawal, Jide Johnson, Mikel Obi, Augustine Okocha, Sunday Oliseh, Henry Nwosu, Daniel Anyiam, Sam Garba, Haruna Ilerika, Chibuzor Ehilegbu, Sylvanus Okpala, Etim Esin, and Sam Okwaraji. All are names that frequently come up in debates about Nigeria's G.O.A.T. players. I left out Nwankwo Kanu, Finidi George, and Emmanuel Amuneke primarily because they will be evaluated as forwards in Volume 3 of this exercise. 

I eliminated Jide Johnson and Daniel Anyiam early. Jide was a steady player during his relatively short career of five years but there were better players on his team. Anyiam was a very good player over the 12 years that he played, but he was not always the outstanding player on the teams that he played. Ehilegbu, though outstanding, played a mere 10 games. That is not enough to be considered among G.O.A.T. players. Same goes for Etim Esin and Sam Okwaraji who both played in about the same number of games. That left the rest that I compared below in Table 1. Note that because midfield players are two-way players I do not only look at goals conceded by the team but also goals scored by the team in order to measure their relative effect on their teams. Exceptions are players who were solely defensive midfielders in their national team careers (left out scoring stats) or solely attacking midfielders (left out defensive stats). I then added personal scoring stats for each player.

The final 8 players (see Table 1) were evaluated on both subjective and objective criteria as specified here. It was not an easy decision but I strongly believe that Muda Lawal, Sunday Oliseh, Augustine Okocha, and Obi Mikel are the G.O.A.T players in Nigeria's midfield. The surprise selection for me is Sunday Oliseh. Subjectively, I would not have included him among the top players in midfield even though he had a strong career but his numbers won me over. Though, numbers, we must be aware, are team statistics but we assume the player considered for G.O.A.T. is often (not in all cases) largely responsible for generating that number. 












Ilerika, whom I put under Honorable mention, also had strong numbers (see Table 1 & Figure 1), but I could not put him under the starting squad because he had one great tournament (All Africa Games in 1973) but had become secondary in the midfield thereafter during an era that Muda Lawal was widely regarded as Nigeria's midfield star. That Muda's efficiency is lower than Ilerika's is as a result of playing in several era and his stats are adversely affected by playing with the poor national teams of the mid to late 1980s. Moreover, I have just one opening for an attacking midfielder and Okocha takes that position ahead of Ilerika.




















Obi Mikel is the second currently active player that I have picked as a G.O.A.T. and I believe he is deserving. Subjectively, I do not believe Nigeria has ever had a greater passer of the ball. The closest is perhaps Muda Lawal but even Muda was not as good as Mikel in keeping possession. 

So here are the updated selections of Nigeria's G.O.A.T players:


Selected Starters

GK:  Vincent Enyeama

D:    Uche Okechukwu
D:    Christian Chukwu
D:    Stephen Keshi

MF:  Sunday Oliseh
MF:  Mikel Obi
MF:  Muda Lawal
MF:  Augustine Okocha

Honorable Mentions
My choice, admittedly subjective, are Emmanuel Okala, Yisa Sofoluwe, Taribo West, Haruna Ilerika, and Henry Nwosu.

Volume 3 comes up next on the three forwards who made the G.O.A.T. team.