Hit Georgia where it hurts
Unlike the ultra-defensive Gibraltar, Mick McCarthy can expect Georgia to adopt a more orthodox 4-1-4-1 formation that held Switzerland scoreless for close to an hour last Saturday.
Having lost their opening game, manager Vladimir Weiss won’t want to head into the next round of qualifiers on the back of two consecutive defeats. Expect the visitors to get numbers behind the ball, swarm the middle of the pitch, and look to the counter-attack in an effort to come away from the Aviva with at least a point. Against the Swiss, Nika Kvekveskiri was stationed in front of the Georgian back four with Valeri Qazaishvili and Jano Ananidze operating on either flank in support of lone striker Valerian Gvilia.
Countering that trio’s influence and using the wings to create scoring opportunities will be pivotal to Ireland’s chances of success.
Tellingly, both of Switzerland’s goals came from the right flank in Tbilisi. If selected, full-backs Seamus Coleman and Enda Stevens must play key roles in getting forward as often as possible and drawing their opponents out of position to create space for Ireland’s strikers.
Infuse the team with confidence
Two days of unwanted headlines for the FAI overshadowed Mick McCarthy’s first game back in charge. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing as Ireland’s performance in securing a 1-0 victory has done little to inspire confidence ahead of Georgia’s visit. Now more than ever, Ireland need to deliver a positive display in front of their home support and set an optimistic tone for the remainder of the qualifying campaign. Yet issues that blighted Martin O’Neill’s tenure were still evident as Ireland lacked the self-belief and conviction to move the ball at pace against inferior opposition on Saturday.
Amid a disjointed 90 minutes, McCarthy praised Conor Hourihane and Jeff Hendrick for their contributions. Both players set the tempo in midfield and were at the hub of Ireland’s best moments. Hourihane and Hendrick are at their most effective when playing on the front foot. Ireland’s winner against Gibraltar was a case in point with the Aston Villa playmaker releasing David McGoldrick and the Burnley midfielder then getting on the end of the move to score. Hendrick’s ability to keep things simple and supply Ireland’s wingers coupled with Hourihane’s set-piece delivery will be crucial to unlocking the Georgian defence.
Get the best out of our strikers
Sean Maguire cut a forlorn figure when substituted with 17 minutes to go on Saturday.
The Preston North End striker will be desperate to break his international duck against a Georgian back four that conceded 24 scoring chances and two goals at the weekend.
The same is true of David McGoldrick even though the 32-year-old claimed an assist for Hendrick’s winner in Gibraltar. Neither McGoldrick nor Maguire managed a shot on target against the 194th-ranked country in international football. Neither forward will be of much use to Mick McCarthy unless the Irish manager devises a tactic to exploit their goal-scoring abilities.
James McClean and Robbie Brady are capable of delivering quality crosses into the penalty area.
The same is true of Ireland’s central midfielders so the positive effect of getting Ireland’s strikers on the scoresheet should not be underestimated ahead of tougher examinations next June.