HOW TO BEAT: Sydney FC

Welcome to what will be a new weekly feature on aroundthebloc.com.au where I will be previewing our weekly A-League fixtures. Expect this every Friday morning prior to the A-League round.

I hope this will be of value and enjoyment to you as the reader – so feel free to critique and comment or even email us at feedback@aroundthebloc.com.au with your thoughts and opinions.

OPPONENT

Sydney FC (HAL Round 2 – Sydney Cricket Ground – Saturday 27th October at 7:50pm)

GAMES ‘ANALYSED’

FFA Cup Semi-Final – Western Sydney Wanderers 0 – Sydney FC 3 (06/10/2018)
HAL Round 1 – Adelaide United 1 – Sydney FC 1 (19/10/2018)

WHAT HAPPENED?

FFA Cup Semi-Final 

For the first 45 minutes – WSW were the better side. Why was this?

In episode ‘703 – Riff Derby‘ – we discussed that WSW owned the midfield battle – this enabled both Keanu Baccus & Kosta Grozos (#NoGrozosNoParty) to dictate the play and create avenues to distribute the ball to Raul Llorente & Josh Risdon,  our attacking midfielder; Alex Baumjohann and our wingers in Roly Bonevacia & Jaushua Sotirio.

By owning the midfield we often caught Sydney FC’s full backs (Rhyan Grant & Michael Zullo) too far forward. This isolated Sydney’s centre back pairing of Jop van der Linden & Alex Wilkinson and forced Sydney FC to drop one of their defensive midfielders in Brandon O’Neill (more often) or Joshua Brillante to help. A lot of this attacking threat was also catalyst by Alex Baumjohann who attracted attention for other players to be opened up.

Going in to half time – things are looking rosy. Cue the second half and Steve Corica makes a decisive tactical change in getting both Buhagiar & Le Fondre to drop deeper. By having both strikers drop deeper this created a square four in order for Sydney FC to win the midfield back. This enabled them to begin countering and eventually dominate the game.

The less spoken of the second half the better. Though I will revisit what WSW will need to do defensively to prevent this from happening again.

HAL Round 1 – Adelaide United vs Sydney FC

This was an enjoyable match to watch tactically. Through out the match, both commentators; Simon Hill & Robbie Slater, mention that in the second half neither team has had a chance on goal (with exception to Le Fondre’s goal against the run of play). This summarised this match so well.

Both teams in this fixture weren’t willing to give an inch to each other. At times, you notice Sydney FC players (Brillante, Zullo & Grant) giving away petty fouls in their own half due to the frustration they were experiencing in facing Adelaide’s possession.

Defensively, Sydney FC set up in a 4-4-2 formation and aren’t wide at all. They play as a block and allow a bit of width for their opposition to explore – they don’t like being exploited through the middle and would rather the opposition cross the ball from the wings.

Their transition from attack to defence and defence to attack is organised and timely. In fact – there was only one instance that I noticed where they were caught out defending in their own half where Rhyan Grant was caught way too far forward and allowing Isais (who had a strong game) to distribute through the middle and creating a chance for Halloran to have a shot on target.

What I’m trying to say here is that Sydney FC do not give away too many opportunities. In fact; it took a fantastic goal by Scott Galloway to spot Andrew Redmayne off his line with a well-timed curling shot right in the top corner to get one over Sydney FC just before half-time.

Offensively, Sydney FC were a bit uncharacteristic in comparison to the FFA Cup semi-final. With Sydney FC down Trent Buhagiar who is out due to an ACL injury, they didn’t exhibit the speed they showed in the semi-final. Alex Brosque, now 35 years of age, was leading the line with Adam Le Fondre.

Sydney FC’s pace was reliant on their fullbacks in Rhyan Grant & Michael Zullo in this match and that showed as Sydney FC were using their width when attacking. As I mentioned with Sydney FC defending as a compact 4-4-2, Adelaide also defending compactly. Both teams exhibited opportunities down the wing.

This also means that Sydney FC are effective in going through the middle (FFA Cup) and the wings (HAL Round 1). Their goal was an against the run of play where Adelaide were arguably a bit too comfortable in defending that allowed Zullo to find Ninkovic who timed a great pass through to Le Fondre to tap it home against Paul Izzo.

WHAT WE NEED TO DO

This is going to be a tough game for us as Sydney FC is well organised. I know I sound like a broken record but what they do isn’t ground breaking – it’s simple and effective – defend in a compact shape and choke the opposition down the wings and win the midfield battle and counter with the opposition caught up far too forward.

DEFENSIVELY

We need to frustrate Sydney FC just the same way Adelaide did last Friday night. Defend as a compact unit. We can expect that from Oriol Riera who will drop deep but we need to see our midfielders get more compact along with our full backs. We can’t allow Sydney FC to find space centrally to pass too.

In saying this, we want to suffocate Sydney FC down the wings – this will take something that my old coach used to call a “quarter pitch press” – basically shifting the compact defensive structure of the team to the side of the field that the opposition is attacking though with three players being focus on the oppositions distributor. Keanu Baccus has a lot on his plate.

Sydney FC will still defend in a compact 4-4-2 – we need to stretch their shape and create avenues in the space we create.

OFFENSIVELY

We need a defensive midfielder who will sit back and be the shield in front of our defence. He will be our distributor but I want to see our 8 & 10 working hard off the ball to create space to receive the pass.

We need to win the midfield battle – if this means both our wingers in Roly Bonevacia & Jaushua Sotirio need to play a bit more centrally to create a pentagon 5 around Sydney’s square of 4 – so be it.

The added benefit of this overlap is that our full backs (either Raul Llorente or Josh Risdon) can explore space down the wing to cross and provide to Oriol Riera. They may also use available width to cut in earlier and find Baumjohann.

BUT – NOT BOTH AT THE SAME TIME.

I say this as we often give the ball away cheaply and if we give it away cheaply with both our full backs forward (unlikely anyway) – Sydney FC has space and pace to counter effectively. They also have quality in their weight of pass and first touch in players such as Siem De Jong & Milos Ninkovic.

I’d also like to see our front line rotate – we need to drag both Wilkinson & van der Linden out of position. We saw last Friday night that Adelaide did this with great effect by the efforts of Isais finding space and Halloran pulling players out of position. This match may even require Riera to play closer to Baumjohann when in Sydney FC’s final third.

IN SUMMARY

This will be an interesting match – it will be good to see WSW capitalise on the mentality woes and grab this match and suffocate and frustrate Sydney FC. It can be done – but it will require a massive workload on what is an injury-stricken WSW squad and require brilliance and understanding from those will play in that midfield.

NEXT WEEK: Wellington Phoenix – Round 3 – Saturday 3rd November 5:35pm (Westpac Stadium)

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