September 28, 2021

I had to be on guard with Eze at QPR – Onuoha recounts time with new Crystal Palace singing

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The Anglo-Nigerian attacker was praised for his talent during his time at Loftus Road

Former Queens Park Rangers defender Nedum Onuoha has narrated how he had to be on his guard because of the trickery of Eberechi Eze who secured a move to Crystal Palace on Friday.

The 22-year-old Anglo-Nigerian began his senior career with the Rs in 2016 and featured 112 times, scoring 20 goals and providing 13 assists. His goals were often breath-taking thanks to his technical abilities which are often problematic for defenders.

Onuoha was one of the defenders who fell victim of Eze’s tricks during training sessions while the former Manchester City man was with the London outfit between 2012 and 2018.

“The kids would break your back the way they played… such free-flowing and exciting football,” Onuoha told The Athletic

“It’d be respectful — we’d jab them, they’d jab us back — but that’s when I knew the young guys coming through at QPR were an exciting new generation. I could see their shining ability.

“They were always up for trying to take something away from us. If we won, we’d often be scraping a result, whereas they’d deserve to win every time they did. They had the work ethic and mentality. And Eze was always the main man.

“I’d played a long time by the time I came across him and seen lots of talented players, but I always had to be on my guard with him in training because he’s so good at manipulating the ball. He’s quick, but not rapid. He’s quite strong, but not the strongest. And yet he could find a way past anybody.

“It’s the way he moves. The defender would move as well, find himself off balance, and then Ebs would be away. It’s a skill that not many people have. Others have the stepovers, the skills, but he’s quite flexible to be able to move in whichever way the moment brings.”

Onuoha – who now plays for Major League Soccer side Real Salt Lake City, went on to describe how best Eze can be utilised in attack, saying he is someone who is ready to listen to instructions and also someone with positive comments regarding his attitude.

“He’s got the potential to play anywhere across a front three. But, with some players, unless you find a team with the right formation or approach, talents like his can go wasted,” Onuoha continued.

“He is not one to stay wide. If he can play in a team that uses three forwards — where those widest come inside, to try and link the play — as opposed to two wingers and a striker, he’ll do well. Or as a No 10.

“He already reads the game so well, but just needs a better understanding about how to play that position. You just need to coach him the right way because he is someone who will listen. A really nice kid. An infectious smile. I don’t know anyone with a bad word to say about him.”

Eze will hope to make his Premier League debut when Crystal Palace host Southampton at Selhurst Park on September 12.