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Vera Pauw defends 3-5-2 system as Ireland ponder how to best use Katie McCabe

They face a must-win match against Georgia on Tuesday evening.

Vera Pauw pictured during the Slovakia game.
Vera Pauw pictured during the Slovakia game.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

VERA PAUW has defended Ireland’s 3-5-2 system and says they are debating “every single day” how to get the best out of Katie McCabe and other key players.

The Arsenal star started last week’s match with Slovakia at left wing-back but appeared to be given more attacking licence as the encounter wore on.

McCabe eventually scored Ireland’s crucial equaliser with a clinical finish to earn the side a point against Slovakia at Tallaght Stadium.

That spectacular moment prompted debate as to how Ireland can get their star player into those types of positions on a more regular basis.

The Dutch coach initially addressed Ireland’s 3-5-2 formation, before going into detail on McCabe.

“It is not my system, it is a system to get the best out of our players. For example, there is a lot of debate about Katie’s role and I appreciate that because we are debating that every day, how to get the best out of her and every player. Some players are more serving and some players are more leading, and Katie is definitely a leader in that. We don’t want to take her creativity away, her driving force away.

“But it is not for nothing that the new coach of Arsenal has tried her on the left-wing, has tried her attacking, at right striker and she ends up as the left defender again, because Katie is so strong in getting there. If she is already there we don’t get half as much out of her or even somebody suggesting in the centre, believe it, we have tried that of course. We want to win too, huh?

“But at this moment, it is really the best position for her to get the best out of her.”

Pauw also dismissed any suggestion that McCabe was defensively at fault for the concession of the early second-half goal last week against the Slovaks. Ľudmila Matavkova was afforded far too much space on the right wing, and her dangerous cross was converted by Martina Surnovska, but the manager emphasised it was the result of a collective rather than individual failure.

“Everybody wanted to do better after half-time, every player wanted to give their all. So the whistle went and we went boom! Ireland is going in a different mood and this is fantastic. But then the ball is going to the other side and everybody was shifting over. And the agreement is not to go over the spine of the pitch because then you can’t cope with the space that is left on the other side. And that is what happened. The whole midfield and defensive line and the attackers — Katie was the only one in position, actually.”

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Asked about plans for the system against Georgia tonight (kick-off: 7pm, live on RTÉ), Pauw responded: ”It depends where the opponents are occupying the pitch. We will play in a way that has the same principles as what we play but getting more players around the penalty box.” 

Pauw confirmed Courtney Brosnan would retain her place in goal for Tuesday’s game, though Ireland will definitely be without Heather Payne, who has had to return to the US owing to college commitments, and HB Køge forward Kyra Carusa is expected to take her place in the team. The Irish boss suggested that may not be the only change to the starting XI this evening.

“You might need some different players for that because they have different qualities and they can bring something different to the game, so that’s what we’re looking at.”

Asked whether this Ireland team were still a work in progress, Pauw added: “Yes, we also need to be realistic where we stand. We thought it was worse in the first half [against Slovakia] than it actually was. We created eight clear chances in the first half. And it was just a step too late or a step more in front, and that is the most difficult part to develop, so against an opponent who only lost 2-1 to Finland, maybe we expected too much, and we had hoped that we could convert one of those chances. 

“We need to be a little bit smarter, for example, the open chance for Lucy [Quinn] to get into the half of the opponent and getting offside. That was a clear opportunity and if we were a little bit smarter there, we are already a huge step forward, but that comes from getting into those situations. We are confident we are on the right track and there have been moments where we have shown more than we have before, but it needs to be more constant so we shouldn’t be so frantic when we get under this huge pressure in midfield.” 

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Paul Fennessy

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