At 34, Robbie Keane has kicked off what is likely to be his final campaign in an Irish jersey. 135 caps and 62 goals; his record speaks for itself. But the Tallaght native is no longer the force he used to be, and judging by the Georgia game, his name does not inspire fear amongst the defences of Europe.
Moving to LA Galaxy in 2011 was seen as the beginning of the end for Keano, as the lower standard of the MLS was deemed below the striker. For a regular Premier League player to now be pitting it against American defences, the demise of his career was nigh. But Keane kept going, helping Ireland to the European Championships for the first time in 24 years.
He pitched in with six goals during the unsuccessful 2014 qualification campaign. However, at 34 there are question-marks surrounding the ability of Ireland’s captain to still produce on the international stage, and with Martin O’Neill building a young team, perhaps it is time for Keane to go.
After the Georgia match, the game-plan Ireland are trying to implement was clear. By attacking out wide, the wingers were sending high balls into the box. Standing at 5’9”, Keane was clearly struggling. Having seen Robbie Keane play live on a host of occasions, this writer was always impressed by his sheer presence underneath a high ball, despite his stature.
By backing into opponents, Ireland’s record goalscorer used his low centre of gravity to his advantage. If a defender pushed back, Keane would fall forward, and invariably win the free. However, a great deal of strength was required to hold off an opponent. Past his physical prime, the former Inter Milan, Tottenham, and Liverpool (among others) player no longer possesses his aerial threat.
Ireland in recent times have always boasted riches when it comes to wingers. Now is no different. Picking from the likes of Aiden McGeady, Anthony Pilkington, James McClean, Robbie Brady, and hopefully Jack Grealish, Martin O’Neill is likely to continue to make full use of this strength and encourage crosses to be whipped into the strikers.
In Shane Long, Jon Walters, and Kevin Doyle, Ireland have several options other than the 34-year-old, who are well versed to cope with the high balls.
When looking at the World Cup, the ‘weaker’ sides who excelled against major powers had a common theme – one striker. The likes of Costa Rica, Iran, and USA found great success in deploying 4-4-1-1 systems. If O’Neill were to look for inspiration going into next month’s Germany tie, a 4-4-1-1 is the way forward.
Being pinned back, Ireland would need a target man who is willing to put in the hard yards up front, and most likely Wes Hoolahan sitting in behind. When sending high balls to a striker up against the German defence, Keane is not your man.
Against Georgia, our record goalscorer looked slow. This was the type of game that the Keane of old would have taken by the scruff of the neck. With Germany, Scotland, and Poland on the horizon, the LA Galaxy player is not the solution.
An Irish legend, he owes the country nothing, but it is time to say goodbye.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.
Read More About: aiden mcgeady, anthony pilkington, FAI, international football, irish football, jack grealish, james mcclean, Jon Walters, kevin doyle, LA Galaxy, Martin O'Neill, robbie brady, robbie keane, shane long