HOW TO BEAT: Newcastle Jets

Welcome to this week’s ‘How To Beat:’ – a weekly tactical preview of Western Sydney Wanderer’s opponent and how they can be beaten.

This week – Newcastle Jets. Let’s get right into it.

OPPONENT

Newcastle Jets – Round 5 – Friday 23rd November 7:50pm (Spotless Stadium – Homebush)

GAMES ‘ANALYSED’

HAL Round 3 – Newcastle Jets 0 – Melbourne Victory 1
HAL Round 4 – Newcastle Jets 1 – Sydney FC 1

WHAT HAPPENED?

HAL Round 3 – Newcastle Jets 0 – Melbourne Victory 1

Quite the end-to-end match this one and was quite a spectacle to watch. In the opening 45 minutes; Newcastle were the better side. They overran Melbourne’s midfield and forced them wide when they had possession. Ugarkovic was able to find either Hoffman, Jair, Vargas or Petratos with ease and allow those forward players to create their own opportunities.

Jets, like us against Brisbane & Phoenix, employed a bit of unpredictability to throw Victory off their game. They mixed their attack with crosses, sublime passing and chances from outside the box. Jair has the ability to stretch the opposition wide and then find an available man inside the box in order to cross to.

When I mentioned this match was end-to-end – both sides avoided building up through the middle third of the pitch. It was often scrappy and difficult for either side to stake a foothold in this area. Often, you would notice Honda staying on the byline (though it may have been a result of the experiment by Kevin Muscat to find how his team finds its rhythm – more on that next week) to receive the ball and create opportunities. His space was often limited by the Jets who closed down the opposition quite effectively with pace.

In fact, the Jets avoid playing out from the back. Too often the Jets would find Hoffman as early as possible. He was obviously their target man. His job was quite simple – head it down in to space to find the pace of either Jair, Vargas or Petratos to catch the opposition on the counter or on the break.

In the second half, Victory found their footing in this match, they started playing the ball a bit deeper inside their own half and forced the Jets to chase.

This was smart by the Victory; the Jets players were caught chasing the ball and this resulted in them giving up their shape. It also created channels for Victory to penetrate. This was evident in Terry Antonis’s goal from distance – build up play from the back and drag a few players out of position. It also didn’t help that Jet’s full backs stood off him not expecting him to shoot.

HAL Round 4 – Newcastle Jets 1 – Sydney FC 1

Unlike the Victory fixture, the Jets started this match on the back foot. Easy to do when your opponent is Sydney FC.

Sydney FC found a lot of space by switching the ball between the two wings in their build up play – this pulled the Jets out of shape and led to Sydney’s first goal coming from a switch via Paulo Retre to Rhyan Grant who crossed to find Brosque open who put his header away. To be honest, Glen Moss & Topor-Stanley should have done better here.

When Sydney FC try to play out from the back, the Jets default to a 4-2-4 shape and put a lot of pressure on Sydney’s backline to cough up the ball early to enable the pace of the Jet’s front line. Though, Sydney FC have been quality this season and are able to find either Brillante or O’Neill who then link up with either Grant or Zullo to get around the two Jets midfielders in to space.

In the opening 15-20 minutes, the Jets haven’t been pumping the ball up to Hoffman, they’ve been fancying their chances in playing through the midfield, then playing the long ball over the top. This is smart as Sydney will relinquish the middle of the park as they enjoy their strengths down the wings.

One thing we must note is to not lose possession in our own third or the middle third of the pitch. With the numbers that the Jets commit forward in a 4-2-4 formation and the pace they have, they are able to get in behind the oppositions defence and cross early hoping to find a player available for a shot on target. This happened a few times against Sydney FC.

Early in the second half, the Jets realised where they went wrong in the first half – they started penetrating through the middle with the ball on the deck. This opened up Sydney FC a bit more and allowed the Jets to play more of a penetrating passing game. Opportunities came to the Jets more fruitfully in this manner.

One thing you have to give credit to the Jets for is that they fight for the game. They had a sniff in this match against Sydney FC and it turned out to be the game they could claw it back to prevent another loss. A lovely header from a set piece providing relief to the Newcastle faithful.

WHAT WE NEED TO DO

We need to make the Jets chase the ball. Tire them out and drag them out of position. Doing this will create channels in order for us to find our wingers, Riera or Baumjohann.

Switching flanks in our build up play will enable us to use our width and pace in getting around the Jet’s middle two in their 4-2-4 formation. Crisp passing and link up between Baccus, O’Doherty & Baumjohann can see us create some chances.

DEFENSIVELY

Structure.

Structure.

Structure.

Did I say ‘structure’? If you’ve been an avid reader of “How To Beat:” this season, you will sorely know how much I harp on about structure in our defence. I’ve criticised the team this season in the amount of space there is between our centre back pairing and the wing backs (leaving our CB’s isolated). I’ve criticised the team in the manner of how much space there is when the ball carrier is playing out from the back and is searching for a player available but is way too far apart.

Well, this time around, we’re going to be tested by a target man with three above standard forwards behind him in Petratos, Jair & Ronny Vargas. This rings alarm bells in my mind; if Hoffman is able to keep either Hamill or Elrich occupied, that leaves Baccus to fend for himself (if O’Doherty, Risdon & Llorente are caught too far forward). This is further unaided by the ability by Ugarkovic to find that through ball that will unlock our defence.

It may be wise to play the offside trap if the Jets are playing it long to Hoffman and keep the distance between Riera and Hamill rather compact in order to choke out the Jets from finding players in space. The Jets were caught offside 6 times to Sydney FC’s once last round.

Unfortunately, Patrick Ziegler is another week away from returning to the match day squad. Another make shift centre back pairing will be used in this match – expect Elrich to partner Hamill as Tongyik is still out nursing injury for a further three weeks.

OFFENSIVELY

Patience, discipline and possession is required for this match. If our build up in attack results in Topor-Stanley clearing the ball like an old-school sweeper – so be it. Take the time, drag the opposition players out of position and tire them down – if they open up the chances for a long range shot (a la Antonis) – take it – it’s been two weeks in a row where Glen Moss has conceded two relatively poor goals and he’s there to be tested.

I also feel Riera should play off the shoulder of Topor-Stanley. Make the run in to the box and pull back to create space for himself. Nikolai was caught a couple of times in this manner against Sydney FC and was lucky not to concede more in this fashion.

The more unpredictable we are, the more it will help our cause. The movement by Kamau, Fitzgerald, Baumjohann & Riera against the Brisbane Roar in the first 30 minutes is a great example of efforts that should be repeated. The movement between the two flanks will also prove fruitful.

IN SUMMARY

The Jets are coming in to Round 5 with a score to settle. Their results this campaign thus far have been two draws and two losses. The fight back draw against Sydney FC will have provided the Jets with confidence after they needed to get back in the match after conceding early. The Jets may also be buoyed after last season’s success and that they haven’t been able to repeat the same this season – they will be out looking to fix this.

Also, every team has had a week off as a result of the international break (of which you can view my How To Beat: herenever letting you down), which obviously means teams have buckled down after the first four rounds and reviewed how they have been travelling – this will be a tough match for us requiring discipline.

NEXT WEEK: Melbourne Victory – Round 6 – Saturday 1st December, 7:50pm – Marvel Stadium, Melbourne.

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