Michael O'Neill

Michael O'Neill
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Michael O'Neill

Current Club/Country: Northern Ireland.

Previous Clubs/Countries: Shamrock Rovers, Brechin City.

Honours: N/A.

It is difficult to judge his style of play and tactics, as a manager of a minor nation he is very rarely able to go out there and play the way he would want to. If, indeed he does want to play a more expressive style. His Northern Ireland team plays a variable 4-5-1 system, which usually revolves around two central midfielders with one either behind them as a holding midfielder or in front as an attacking midfielder. That is usually Steven Davis, now on loan at Rangers from Southampton, as a playmaker, either deep-lying or advanced.

The play is not expressive or attacking, it is about being defensively organised and compact, hard work and keeping it tight. As managers, mostly, tend to develop one style and tweak it throughout their career, I think we can assume that O'Neill would not suddenly play Cruyffian football like Pep Guardiola, should he be given access to players like that.

That means that his career will be limited in what it can achieve, as has been shown recently by Jose Mourinho's experiences, the level to which you can take a team purely by being compact, organised and playing not to lose is no longer top of the tree. Players at the highest level want to play with enjoyment and attacking freedom. The better players will not take being stifled to get a result they believe they could get by playing to win.

Most difficult of all to judge is his ability to change games through subs, when Northern Ireland are not blessed with talent to bring on to a game. However he does seem to lack ideas when he has to go out and get a win, rather than just holding out to pick up points. There is no real ideas about taking the game to an opponent to cut through their defence.

To me O'Neill is a younger Roy Hodgson, extremely competent in producing solid performances and capable of drilling lesser players into producing team performances beyond the sum of their parts. However that next step to becoming a team that goes out and takes on other teams head-to-head looks to be out of his reach. Right now he is in a job that perfectly suits his skillset and he would be mad to look to leave unless the offer is absurd.

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