I’m not on the pod this week but I’m bursting with excitement after the result over Central Coast on the weekend. If anything, I’m not even sure if doing an article is the right avenue in which to discuss as I might find myself lost for words!
A 2-0 win away from home is always positive but what I truly enjoyed the most was the manner in which it was achieved. Saturday night looked to be the first true defined manner in which Gombau’s style is being displayed.
Possession, frustrating the opposition, alternating the flanks; It was something I truly and thoroughly enjoyed. I can not express it more than that.
Let’s discuss possession. I know when I was sitting amongst the faithful in the non-active bay that there was some groans and impatience in the manner in which we play from the back. Calls for direct passes and generally ‘running them over’, it was great to see the Wanderer’s stay resilient to Gombau’s word as we further developed our system. As the team further learn, we will grow accustomed to the new direction.
Thwaite, Aspropotamitis, Baccus and to a lesser extent Janjetovic, were the conductors in this match. Thwaite & Aspropotamitis directed the flow in which flank to penetrate. If Thwaite had possession, he had to assess the opportunity in which to supply Llorente, Cejudo or Bridge in going forward and much the same with Aspropotamitis with Risdon, Kusukami & Bonevacia.
One thing that was notable about this match in comparison to the Sydney Derby was the time our back line was given in holding possession. This was something that I was truly interested in before this match. Against Sydney, we were pressed high and coughed up possession to Sydney’s rampant and direct style. Against the Mariners, it was going to be more of a philosophical debate about the best way to play the beautiful game.
The Mariners did share some techniques with Sydney, such as diagonal runs/passes and getting in behind our wing backs from winning possession against the run of play in the centre of the park. This is something that Gomabau will need to work on as Hoole and De-Silva we’re able to find opportunities in an equal man attack against either an over-committed back line or a flat back line.
In attack, our formation enables us to have these 3v3 opportunities. Something I discussed on the podcast last week with Stephen. We have a left flank with Bridge out wide (not my preference), Cejudo in CAM (again, not my preference) and Llorente as WB and we have a right flank with Jumpei out wide, Bonevacia in CAM and Risdon as WB. We also have a middle 3 of Santalab as ST, Cejudo and Bonevacia as CAM.
By having these ‘clusters’ of 3 players, we try to create opportunities to pull the opposition out of position and create opportunities to penetrate down either wing with the final ball in to the middle. By having 3 different sets of these ‘clusters’ we can probe the Mariners through either flank and through the middle. In fact, our first goal (although unconventional to this system) was via the left flank against the run of play and the second goal was through the middle in a 3v3 scenario.
As was evident through out the match was the constant switching to either flank. We’d penetrate via the left flank and not find an opening, this would then result in the ball being played back to Thwaite or Baccus and transitioning to Aspropotamitis to find joy down the right and vice-verse.
We looked to utilise the right wing far more often in this match than the left. The right wing ‘cluster’ of Jumpei, Risdon & Bonevacia looked to exhibit more understanding than that of players on the left. Whenever Aspropotamitis built up possession from the back, Jumpei would go from the wing to a more central position and become the first player to be available for the pass. Jumpei doing this move, enables Risdon on the wing to beat his man out wide or enables Bonevacia through the middle to create an overlap. Jumpei had a good match and was often looking frustrated at Aspropotamitis to get the ball to him more often or quicker than what was being delivered.
Down the left flank, the same understanding didn’t look to be exhibited. Bridge out wide didn’t have a bad match but I feel he looks more suited to a CAM role than what Cejudo is. Cejudo when played more centrally so far this season looks a little lost. This was the case in this match as the link up between Cejudo, Llorente and Bridge was often too stretched or left for only Bridge and Llorente to face 3 Mariner’s players going forward. This resulted in possession being played back to Thwaite or even Janjetovic to make the quick switch.
Whilst on Janjetovic, this was one of his best performances. He looks comfortable playing an advance sweeper position and can read the structure of the formation well. His goal-keeping was also superb and it was great to see him rewarded with a clean sheet.
We also can not forget Keanu Baccus in this match. I can’t remember a young player being able to walk in to the starting line-up and feel so at home. Distributed the ball well and created cover for Thwaite & Aspropotamitis. You could see that he frustrated Danny De-Silva and he was well-rewarded with Man of the Match.
My main concerns for our formation is the height in where our wing-backs are positioned when building out from the back. When either Thwaite or Aspropotamitis have possession, too often, Llorente & Risdon are too high up on the wing to receive the ball. That channel is well defended from the opposition’s front line. By having Jumpei move more centrally in this match, he created an outlet and immediate transition and options in which to move forward down the right flank. Something we did not see down the left as an option, this often exposed Thwaite and forced him to make a pass under pressure or concede possession.
Something that has been discussed on forums and social media is the frustration in holding possession in the latter stages of the match. I can understand those wanting to go for the jugular but I was quited buoyed to see Wanderer’s keep to the game plan and have some ‘smarts’. By this point, the Mariner’s were down to 9 men and were chasing a 2 goal deficit. By Wanderers maintaining possession across the back line, it forces the Mariner’s to pull out of the already sacrificed shape to win the ball.
What’s brilliant about this is, if a Mariner’s player becomes frustrated and tries to win possession, it opens up considerable space behind him for the Wanderer’s to attack. To Mariner’s credit, they didn’t lose their cool, in fact they waited to see if the Wanderer’s would lose possession on their own accord, which did happen on the one occasion where a misplaced pass forward from Baccus under pressure gave the Mariner’s opportunity.
To finish, I thoroughly enjoyed this match and I can not wait to see how we will play against Newcastle on Friday night. It’s been six games under Gombau and the rate in which we are learning this system is very comforting.