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Ireland v. Armenia - inexplicably Simon Cox replaces Robbie Keane ahead of Shane Long

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Shane Long has scored three goals in seven Premier League appearances for West Brom this season.

Simon Cox has scored zero goals in two substitute appearances for West Brom this season.

Simon Cox will start for the Republic of Ireland ahead of the nation's crucial final qualifier against Armenia on Tuesday night.

The logic there is clearly flawed.

Of course soccer isn't like American sports, soccer statistics are basically irrelevant. There is too much that happens around the field for any player to be defined by how many clean sheets, assists or goals that he has.

Therefore, it makes sense that Cox is starting for reasons that don't appear on the statistics sheet. At least, it would make sense if there were any reasons that appear on the field.

Cox, playing upfront along side Kevin Doyle, will likely drop into space between the striker and midfield. Cox will look to get on the ball and link up play between the central midfielders and Kevin Doyle.

The problem with that unfortunately for Ireland is, that their best ball players, who could take advantage of Cox's abilities, are sitting on the bench. With Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews in central midfield ahead of the likes of Keith Fahey or James McCarthy, there is a lot more graft than craft supporting Cox.
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Couple that with Kevin Doyle's recent struggles, despite his goal against Andorra. Doyle's biggest strength is his ability to win the ball in the air or hold it up. He won't benefit largely from the invention of Cox.

Cox would work well in a team full of players that love to pass and move the ball such as McCarthy, Fahey and Seamus Coleman. However with Damien Duff and Aiden McGeady outside, Whelan and Andrews inside, Shane Long is simply the better option.

Armenia come to the Aviva Stadium with a must-win mentality. They will not be sitting back waiting for Ireland to take the game to them.

Therefore the speed of Shane Long on the counter, especially working off Kevin Doyle, would seemingly be the much better choice to replace the injured Robbie Keane.

Cox may have been the better choice if Armenia were coming to Dublin to sit back and hold out for a draw; With the team potentially having to chase the game, they will instead be pushing up and leaving space in behind for the Irish strikers to run into.

Long and Doyle know each other from their time at Reading. In fact both players were signed from Cork City in the Eircom League. Long is considered the better player at West Brom, playing regular Premier League matches opposed to Cox who regularly sits on the bench.

On such a big occasion, Long also has the edge in experience which could prove vital. Cox has scored two goals in five games, however those goals both came in the Home Nations Cup. Long meanwhile has scored six goals in 22 international appearances, with a lot of those appearances coming from the bench.

Giovanni Trapattoni has never been scared to stick to his own beliefs. He does not bow down to the pressure of any media or fan desires. To this point he has, for the most part, gotten away with his stubborn style of play and reluctance to incorporate change into his lineup.

That style did get Ireland to a playoff situation during their last qualifying campaign. Hopefully, the same will happen again this Tuesday.

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