A-League review: Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar toothless in possession
It's Monday, so here's the good, bad and ugly from Round 10 in the A-League.
Sitting Off: An Exercise in Rationality, Part 1
If Western United's 2-0 win away to Brisbane Roar on Friday could be summed up in one moment or phase, it was in the 30th minute. Alessandro Diamanti tries a first-time pass to Aaron Calver but Brisbane recover possession. Jordan Courtney-Perkins plays to Rahmat Akbari, who quickly defers to Jay O'Shea. After conceding possession, Western United are scrambling defensively. It's here Aidan O'Neill has the opportunity to step into vast amounts of space centrally, which could then force Dario Jertec to commit in an attempt to stop the ball.
Instead -- in fear of a nosebleed and/or dressing down from Brisbane coach Robbie Fowler -- he shuffles backwards. This eventually leads to play spreading out to Scott Neville, who crosses to nobody in particular. Calver then heads away.
Even by A-League standards, 40 crosses in a single match are a lot. Considering the Roar had over 70 percent of the ball, that the only shots on target came from the dead ball is frankly damning.
Opponents prior to Western United have played in a similarly reactive manner against the Roar this season. Defending and countering against this Brisbane side is arguably the most logical thing to do, especially if Fowler's men are chasing the game. Quite simply, it's because the Roar are not dragging opposition defenders out of their positions. On Friday, the fact that Jertec and Jerry Skotadis played through the middle before Besart Berisha made it 2-0 in transition -- as opposed to Brisbane's nauseating tendency to play across the middle -- was fitting.
Sitting Off: An Exercise in Rationality, Part 2
On the subject of teams with little reflection of a plan against a low defensive block, Perth Glory were relatively comfortable 2-0 victors at home to Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday. One cannot ignore the likelihood the shoe could have been on the other foot, had Mitchell Duke hit the back of the net in the second minute. Considering the amount of traffic in the penalty area in that instance, it was a fine effort. As the game settled and energy levels naturally dropped, though, so did the Wanderers' ability to create a substantial threat. Then came Gregory Wuthrich's opener in the 18th minute in that scramble.
One would ideally not want to concede at all, but if there is one team in the A-League to particularly avoid conceding first against, it's the Glory under Tony Popovic. The opposition's functionality in possession is also worth consideration, but they can capably sit and absorb pressure. Ultimately, it is little surprise Perth are two wins from three in games where they opened the scoring. Coincidentally, the game they did not win was in the opening round against Brisbane, following Roy O'Donovan's last-minute equaliser.
With respect to the Wanderers under Markus Babbel however, the pattern continues. Much like Brisbane, give them the ball and they'll give you chances.
Again, after a heavy defeat and questions raised over the team's capabilities on the ball, Melbourne City responded in the best manner possible.
Their 4-0 win over Newcastle Jets on Sunday was, in a word, mature. With the likes of Denis Genreau and Adrian Luna in the starting lineup, they looked far more purposeful in possession than in the previous week's 3-0 loss to Perth Glory. However, something lingers with regards to City coach Erick Mombaerts' selection. Would this have been the case had Rostyn Griffiths and Conor Metcalfe actually been available to start?
As evidenced on Sunday, Genreau and Luna unquestionably make the team function on the ball, at least in relative terms. Yet in the event of every player being available, Mombaerts seems to prefer Griffiths and Metcalfe paired with Josh Brillante, which creates a significant trade-off. It's something to look out for heading into next weekend's Melbourne derby where, for once, City are the favourites.
Gone in five minutes
Jack Clisby and ball watching make for a more iconic A-League pairing than Matt Simon and the substitute's appearance. Yet, the magnitude of an error so early in Sydney FC's 1-0 win over Central Coast on Saturday has to be put into perspective. It was top vs. bottom on the A-League ladder coming into the clash at Kogarah Oval. The defining aspect of Sydney's season so far has been just how clinical they are. Within five minutes of commencement, from a break in play, the minutes, hours and days that go into match preparation are then thrown into a heap.
However, it is not the first time Central Coast have conceded due to Clisby's body shape and distinct lack of defensive awareness this season. Although there are questions to ask about the team's composition in relation to the following 85 minutes, with or without Tommy Oar, this aspect is primary. However much the Mariners can threaten teams in stages -- and they did threaten Sydney as the match progressed -- it means little when such fundamental errors are made.
Devlin and Steinmann ... nice
Wellington Phoenix deserved more from their 0-0 draw at AAMI Park on Saturday. Sensing the gloom from Melbourne Victory players post-match, they knew it too.
Where the Phoenix tended to break down with the final pass, the Victory found it a struggle just to get to 25 metres within the opposition goal. It's for this reason, evaluation of Cameron Devlin's first start for the Phoenix needs some perspective. Migjen Basha and Jakob Poulsen were very poor for the Victory -- again -- and that was not something exactly dictated by the opposition.
Outside of Kristijan Dobras' expulsion, though, Devlin had a positive impact on the game. It was a selection influenced by availability, with Alex Rufer's injury, but the 21-year-old gave the Phoenix a different element to their phases of possession. Next to Matti Steinmann, the two were given specific licence by Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay to make timely advances. Given varied attributes and preferences, the two gave the visitors flexibility, which then further integrated Ulises Davila and Reno Piscopo.
Their verve proved a significant collective contrast to Melbourne Victory, who were visibly low on confidence. Or something else.