Finidi wants Super Eagles to emulate Manchester City’s attacking football

Nigeria head coach Finidi George has said he wants to see the Super Eagles play an attacking brand of football that is akin to that of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. George has been in charge of the national team for over two months, first as a caretaker and currently as a substantive coach.

While he hasn’t had many training sessions with the team to implement his philosophy and style, he has been around the Super Eagles long enough to know their strengths and weaknesses. George served as an assistant to Jose Peseiro and was part of the Portuguese manager’s backroom staff that oversaw Nigeria’s second-place finish at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024) in Ivory Coast.

Although the West Africans are blessed with abundant attacking talent, there is a feeling that Peseiro’s conservative tactics often held them back. Now at the helm as the national team’s head coach, George is looking to chart a different path. The 53-year-old showed flashes of the style he wants to implement when Nigeria faced Ghana and Mali in international friendlies in March.

Finidi George wants Super Eagles to emulate Manchester City’s attacking football
Photo by Enyimba media

Finidi George promises attacking football from Super Eagles 

Bigger tests await George and the Super Eagles as they prepare to take on South Africa and Benin in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Nigeria will play against Bafana Bafana at home on 7 June and have another away fixture against Benin three days later.

Many Nigerians will be expecting the team to play well and also win the two games to boost their chances of making it to the World Cup, having made a winless start to their qualifying campaign after drawing with both Zimbabwe and Lesotho.

George has, however, embraced the expectations of the fans, insisting that he wants to win by playing attacking football. The former Enyimba coach said he has always been used to expansive football after playing in the Netherlands, and revealed that he is a huge fan of the Dutch style of play.

Further explaining how he would want to see his team play, George said he wants them to emulate Premier League champions Manchester City by not only dominating possession, but also regrouping to reclaim the ball immediately after they lose it to their opponent.

“I like to play attacking football. My best time [as a footballer] was in Holland, and we know that the football Manchester City plays today is the Dutch style, total football. You try to keep possession, but once you lose the ball, you try as much as possible to get it back immediately, but that is defence too,” George said at a press conference on Thursday.

Finidi George plans to outdo Jose Peseiro’s second-place finish at AFCON

Despite failing to win any of their opening two World Cup qualifying matches, Nigeria still have a good chance of advancing as they sit just two points behind table-toppers Rwanda and one point below South Africa.

This means wins in their upcoming matches against Bafana Bafana and Benin would give their qualification hopes a huge boost, but George is already looking beyond reaching the World Cup. The 53-year-old was tasked by the NFF during his unveiling to qualify the team for the World Cup, but he insists he’s unfazed by the challenge.

George noted that aside from the NFF’s targets, he also has his personal goals and that included surpassing Peseiro’s legacy with the Super Eagles by leading them to AFCON glory in Morocco next year. 

“There are two things here: the NFF’s and my personal targets. I’ll tell you, I’m not scared of anything. Sometimes I might say things that look unreal, but my target is to win. To qualify first for the World Cup and win the next AFCON. We already have a silver medal, I have to do something bigger,” George stated.

Finidi George sticks with Troost-Ekong as Super Eagles captain

George also addressed questions on picking a new captain after assuming the role of substantive head coach. William Troost-Ekong is currently the Super Eagles’ skipper following Ahmed Musa’s absence, and the PAOK defender led by example during the AFCON in Ivory Coast.

Troost-Ekong helped Nigeria to keep four clean sheets in seven matches and also scored three goals, leading to him being named in the Team of the Tournament and also being adjudged the Player of the Tournament. 

The 30-year-old is, however, yet to feature under George, having been ruled out due to an injury he sustained just days after the AFCON. George said the hierarchy of the captaincy remains the same, emphasising that Troost-Ekong would wear the armband if he were on the team, and that Kenneth Omeruo remains his deputy. Further speaking on who will lead the team in the absence of the aforementioned duo, George said he will allow the players to choose their own captain.

Finidi George wants Super Eagles to emulate Manchester City’s attacking football
Photo by Icon Sport

“Looking at the present squad, we have to see those that are older and capable. We’re not stripping Ekong of captaincy according to some reports. I cannot do that. Ekong is our captain, Omeruo also is our captain, as well as Musa,” he said. 

“If they’re not around, we’ll look at those that are available and the players will agree on their captain, not me as a coach. They have to be comfortable with that person, my duty is to make sure the team has a good frame of mind and good tactics.”

Finidi George goes for continuity in picking squad for South Africa, Benin matches

Meanwhile, George has retained the core of the team that played at the AFCON in naming his Super Eagles squad for the World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin. Troost-Ekong was not included in the list despite returning to training recently, while Francis Uzoho has also been dropped, with Maduka Okoye taking his place.

In defence, the usual suspects Calvin Bassey and Semi Ajayi have also made the list and are joined by Benjamin Tanimu, Sadiq Ismael and Chidozie Awaziem. Nigeria’s midfield options for the upcoming matches also include Wilfred Ndidi, Frank Onyeka, Alhassan Yusuf, Alex Iwobi, Raphael Onyedika and Fisayo Dele-Bashiru.

Eight forwards complete George’s 23-man squad, with Victor Osimhen and Victor Boniface complemented by Terem Moffi, Nathan Tella, Ademola Lookman, Paul Onuachu, Samuel Chukwueze and Kelechi Ihenacho. George’s promise of attacking football means he will first have to get the balance right when choosing his Super Eagles starting line-up from this star-studded squad. 

Finidi wants Super Eagles to emulate Manchester City’s attacking football
Emmanuel Ayamga

Emmanuel Ayamga is an Asante Kotoko fan and a passionate sports journalist with a little over five years of experience writing about African football.

His articles and features have been published in renowned news media like The Guardian, DW, Al Jazeera and Sportskeeda. His bylines can also be found in the UK journals World Soccer Magazine and These Football Times.