Our Belgian midfielder Funso Ojo has certainly divided opinion since his obscure arrival from Holland this summer, but I wanted to explore whether some of the criticism aimed at him is warranted.
I know a number of fans who are starting to question the former PSV starlet, seemingly unsure whether he has the ability to dominate and run the Iron’s midfield. I’d like to serve up a different argument – ‘Are we using Funso Ojo in the correct way?’
If we look at Ojo’s qualities we see a midfielder with bags of energy and unbelievable stamina. If I was a betting man, I would say he is in the top three players to cover the most ground during a match. Some would say this guy is built to be a high pressing midfielder just like N’Golo Kante, Blaise Matuidi or Casemiro to name a few. Of course, he is not of the same standard, but he certainly could be a League One equivalent!
I have heard negative comments about Ojo’s forward passing, or lack of, but how can we pass judgment over this when he has no outlet ahead of him? He comes deep, like a holding midfielder, to take the ball from the center halves but there is little movement ahead of him. He doesn’t have anybody alongside him to pass to, to drive the team forward and doesn’t seem to have been given the license to do this himself.
In my opinion, he isn’t positionally aware enough to play the holding midfield role and he doesn’t possess the same self-control, as for example, somebody like Bish, to play that role – but this isn’t to say he isn’t good enough to play at all.
Do you remember a midfielder at Arsenal called Alex Song? I was listening to a podcast this week where they were telling the story of when he first came to Arsenal. He was branded a ‘negative midfielder’ and one of the main criticisms was that he never took the ball on the half turn – a bit like our very own Funso Ojo.
So Mr Wenger devoted time to Song and coached receiving the ball on the half turn, which helped Song to drive that team forward. This brings me back around to my opening question ‘Are we using Funso in the right way?’, or is he simply not good enough?
Is Funso Ojo the driving force we so badly desire? Could he be the missing link that will enable this team to become more fluid in attack? With a bit of coaching I believe he can be that guy. Then, when he finally gets the opportunity to play those penetrating passes and given the license to get forward as more of a box-to-box midfielder, he can be the victim of that type of criticism.
Why can he not be part of that first wave of high-pressing football we are craving? Joining Madden, Morris, Holmes, Hakeeb, Hopper or Novak and winning that ball higher up the pitch. Causing the opposition to make mistakes.
I think the Iron faithful need to look at the bigger picture and consider that Funso – who can prove to be a brilliant acquisition – is a victim of misuse rather than anything else.