Kevin Kilbane says that Ireland’s midfield trio of Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane and Jeff Hendrick are putting the team under pressure due to their unwillingness to get on the ball.
Former Ireland international Kilbane was on Monday’s OTB AM and said that Ireland’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Denmark on Friday highlighted the failings of Ireland’s midfield trio and the strain it was putting on the rest of the team.
“I was actually quite disappointed with Hourihane, Hendrick and even Glenn Whelan and their reluctance to receive the ball.”
“It was on so many times from Enda Stevens and Seamus Coleman where they check back into midfield and if they give the midfield the ball there's a chance then to switch the play", Kilbane explained.
However, rather than receiving the ball and manoeuvring their bodies to switch the play, Kilbane noted that more often Whelan, Hourihane and Hendrick simply return the ball to the area of the pitch it came from.
When the midfield does that, Kilbane argued, “it condenses the play and it allows Denmark to set up again.”
“Sometimes when there's a man up your backside you are going to have to get the ball and you are going to have to take it and free up other players.”
“So often, I felt, there were times to pass forward and there was no real demand on the man with the ball. 'Give me that pass, give me the ball!', that's what I'd be looking for.”
“Whoever is playing in those positions in midfield you need to be willing to take it and they weren't putting demands on each other to receive the ball.”
Kilbane commented that this lack of desire to get on the ball and distribute it will be noticed by McCarthy and his staff, particularly, Kilbane noted, by Robbie Keane who as a player always demanded the ball off his teammates.
“When I was playing left back in the side with Robbie Keane if I didn't pass it forward to him and get him in the game early he would be on your case. He used to get on your nerves because he’d be in your ear constantly telling you to give it to him.”
“No matter where he was on the pitch, whether he was under pressure, there might even be two players on him, he wants the ball to be played into him but if he lost it then that's his responsibility and he’ll take that."