Keith Andrews and Robbie Keane who both sat out today's training session. INPHO/Donall Farmer

Middle management: Irish eyeing midfield change to deal with Özil threat

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni may tinker with his trusted 4-4-2 formation for the Germany clash on Friday night.

IT TAKES SOMETHING out of the ordinary to force Giovanni Trapattoni to rethink his tried and trusted 4-4-2 system.

A squad stripped bare of its usual suspects by injury and the imminent arrival of Real Madrid playmaker Mesut Özil in Dublin appear to be doing just that.

Germany’s danger man, Özil was the major talking point again as Trapattoni’s assistant Marco Tardelli spoke with the media following today’s training session in Malahide.

All of the indicators from Gannon Park still point to a 4-5-1 formation and a three-man central midfield for Friday’s World Cup qualifier at the Aviva Stadium, with captain Robbie Keane likely to fly solo up front on his 122nd international appearance.

It is a change partly intended to deal with Özil as the extra midfielder would allow Trapattoni the option of a man-marker to stifle his creative threat. Unsurprisingly, Tardelli remained coy when asked about Ireland’s plans.

“Giovanni speaks always with the press, not with me,” he smiled. “We know the first 11, Giovanni knows the first 11. I think tomorrow Giovanni will speak with us.

“We have another day for training and we will decide tomorrow.”

The man-marking option remains very much under consideration, but Tardelli also stressed the importance of retaining possession if Ireland are to have any chance of competing against the country ranked second in the world.

“We will have three in midfield maybe and we will need one midfielder to look very well at Özil because Özil is the best player in the midfield.

“I think we need to play before and when the ball is with the German players, we can press the play.

He added: “Sure Özil needs a man that will press him. That’s normal, he’s a good player. For us it’s very important for us to play football against Germany because if we play good in midfield, it is possible for us to retain possession.”

A 4-5-1 formation will place additional responsibility on Keane as the lone striker, provided he recovers in time from the knock which saw him sit out today’s session.

Ireland have options, Tardelli explained, to support their captain in attack and then to make changes from the bench if necessary.

“I think Robbie Keane [will] give us what he has and after is possible to change some players. We know it’s very hard for Robbie to play alone up front but he is not alone, he’s with 10 players.

“We have the striker with Robbie Keane, we have Cox, we have Walters. I don’t know who will play in the first 11. Surely we will have two strikers on the pitch. Maybe one striker can play wide and just one up front, but we will have two strikers. Also McGeady can strike, can score goals.”

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