Walter Mazzarri has urged Odion Ighalo to be ready if and when his chance comes to force his way back into the starting XI.
The Nigerian, who was undroppable this time last season, sat unused on the bench on Saturday as Mazzarri opted to play with a lone striker. As a further kick in the teeth, Ighalo then saw himself overlooked in favour of Stefano Okaka late on when the head coach opted to replace Troy Deeney. Once Isaac Success is fit, Ighalo could realistically find himself as fourth choice.
“There is no message [to Ighalo],” said Mazzarri. “What I do is watch my team during training; I study the next opponent and then I take my decision on what is the best team. Ighalo has been very professional and accepted the decision without any issue. Ighalo, when he played, even when he didn’t score, he played well as the whole team have done. When we lost and played badly, he played badly with the whole team. He has to be ready when his moment comes.”
Mazzarri, who has shown himself to be a tactically flexible coach, opted for one out-and-out striker against Leicester last time out, a move that allowed Roberto Pereyra, Etienne Capoue and Nordin Amrabat more freedom in midfield. It’s hard to see Mazzarri persisting with just one up top, especially when he has rich attacking resources like Okaka, Ighalo and Isaac Success at his disposal. It’s likely to be a ‘horses for courses’ approach.
“To say we play with one or two strikers is very difficult to confirm because if you take into consideration Amrabat, he comes here as a forward who is playing as a winger so sometimes we are playing with three strikers. Now we are playing with two strikers. But if it’s one striker or three strikers – it doesn’t matter – it’s about the performance.”