The Best and Worst of Wanderers vs Brisbane Roar (Rd 14)

A-League Round 14 vs Brisbane Roar – 05/01/2018 Suncorp Stadium
2-0 Win

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Best and Worst series where the Wanderers back up their win last game with another W away to Brisbane.

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Best – This Graphic Lies
The graphic of the lineup shows our typical 4-3-3 formation, but in reality it was more a 4-4-1-1 with Santa and Riera alternating. I noticed Riera dropping a lot more than Santa so I see that as more a fitness thing. Riera is not one dimensional and can indeed drop a bit, like he did last week to provide another outlet. Bonevacia was suspended, Cejudo and Risdon injured. This meant Llorente was pushed to an unfamiliar right back position which didn’t see him bomb forward as much as normal. Lustica gets his first start and a few youngens make it to the bench. Positive lineup for what will be a busy week of games.

Best – Riera Again
He’s the real deal folks. Sure, he has been quite the last month, but that was due to a new system, then injury, then coming back from injury. But the last 2 games have seen 2 starts, 2 goals and 2 assists. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Riera is that striker we’ve been lacking since Juric left. He is a threat in the box, he drops deep to be another outlet, he finds players free on the wing very quickly and he continues his run. Watch the replay of his goal. He drops deep, finds Lustica on the wing immediately, then runs into the box to finish off the loose ball that Santa was unlucky not to score. His decision making is quicker than what you see from most local talent. He probably should have had a hattrick with the chances he had but again, you give this guy service and he’ll score.

He also has multiple hands in the second goal and sets up Bridge for the second week in a row.

Put all the conspiracy theories away. It annoyed me that the Fox pundits asked Cornthwaite about the disruption with Riera and Gombau yet again. They still are trying to push this apparent “spat” between the player and new coach. Its rubbish. Take everything at face value as was explained at the time. There is no problem between them both. You can also see how the players celebrated that they are in it together. Riera scores and goes straight to Santa. Bridge scores and goes straight to Riera. This is a team playing for eachother and not themselves. Good signs.

Best – Hold Possession, Then Strike
That second goal was sublime. I counted 19 passes before Bridge scored. The entire team was patient in their build up, trying to probe through the Brisbane defence. Riera has a nice self nutmeg to create space for Baccus, Young should have dealt with that ball over the top, no one rushed the move. Riera saw the opening, releases Bridge and we score. This is what Gombau promised. It was beautiful to watch. Every pass had purpose and wasn’t aimless. More of this please.

Best – Scotty Cameo
We all know that Lachlan Scott got thrown in the deep end last season. Poor kid was signed up to be 3rd choice striker and was hoping for a few cameos. Before he knew it, he was the starting striker because Bulut didn’t work out and Santalab can’t back up 90 minutes every week. He could have failed miserably but he didn’t. He didn’t completely swim, but he definitely didn’t sink. He held his own, scored a few goals in the A-League and ACL and showed promise.

This season we’ve only seen Scott once, when he started the derby. Trial by fire again and it was lambasted by the press. This week he was on the bench – since Santa and Riera started. Scott came on for Herd which pushed Lustica back into the middle. It meant we had arguably 4 strikers on the park – Riera, Santa, Scott and Bridge. Amazing. Scott played down the right wing and I have to say, it was arguably his best every game for us. He took on his man, he linked up really well with Riera and Santa. He should have had 2 assists if it weren’t for Young’s goalkeeping.

Why was Scott so effective? My theory is, is that there was absolutely no pressure on him. Normally he is the lone striker and has to perform and all the pressure is on him to lead the line. This time, we’re 2-0 up, and all the other senior strikers are on the park. He just had to see out the final 20 minutes on the wing. No pressure whatsoever. And it worked brilliantly. This is what we expected from Scott last season. A few cameos, ease him into the squad. No pressure. We’ll see more from him in the short term since we’re short on wingers and we have a packed schedule coming up. He didn’t hurt this chances at all and let’s hope he is learning from the likes of Riera and Santa to progress his game.

Best – Vedran Saves Us Again
Yet again Vedran has a blinder to win us the points. Apparently he has made the most saves out of any keeper in the league. Personally…that isn’t a great stat. It means your defence isn’t doing their job and the last man in gloves has to save the team from conceding. Look at last year’s stats at SFC and Vukovic hardly made a save – its what prompted Arnie to say things like “Vuka won’t have to make a save tonight” – but when he was called upon he delivered.
Vedran saving our bacon every week is not a good sign for the team. The defence isn’t tight enough and one wonders what a better team could have done.

Take nothing away from him though. He made a bunch of crucial saves and headers waaay out of his box. He was immense and he definitely has improved in the past month or so. Most goals aren’t howlers from him, its the defence letting him down.


Shameless plug

Worst – VAR Hates WSW and Santa
If not looking at the ball and lining up an opponent with your elbow, making contact and making him bleed in the box is not a penalty, I don’t know what is.
Maccarone elbowed Santalab blatantly in the mouth, the ref seemingly was looking directly at it. No penalty give. I don’t recall VAR checking it either. Minutes later VAR checks a supposed handball by Thwaite in the WSW box. This is not consistent at all. I know they’ve scaled back the VAR jumping in after a couple weeks ago, but how much more blatant can you get?
Thankfully it didn’t affect the result but I thought these kinds of instances were what the VAR was for.

The ref again, was not consistent also. Santalab early in the match gets clotheslined and its barely a foul. A few seconds later Herd kicks the ball away a microsecond after the whistle goes and he gets a yellow card. Its frustrating and annoying seeing these inconsistent referring performances week in and week out.

Best – Gombau Flexibility
Some of us were a bit pessimistic in what Gombau’s approach could be. Was he like Ange in that he had Plan A and Plan B was “do Plan A better”?
I personally thought this, that he was a but pragmatic and not flexible. I was proven wrong this week. Despite the graphic, the team set out in a 4-4-1-1 with Baccus/Herd in the middle, Lustica and Bridge out wide and Riera behind Santa. Of course, most of those players rotated around to make it difficult for the opposition. When Scott came on it was almost a 4-2-4. A far cry from a 4-3-3/4-1-2-3-1 or whatever Gombau is doing usually.

This told me that Gombau recognises the schedule this week with a game on Wednesday at home to Adelaide and then away on Saturday at Wellington (thanks FFA). He has a couple of injuries in Cejudo and Risdon. He has Baby Baccus, Aspro and Sotirio away on international duty. He released Melling and Jumpei. He has to get the remaining squad firing and winning points this week. So instead of forcing players into a formation that they may not fit, he actually tweaked the formation to suit the players available. This is a welcome change.

There’s no point in trying to force a square peg in a round hole. Gombau should now know the capabilities of his players and if he has to tweak formations a bit away from his preferred to get the best out of his charges, then so be it. It shows he is flexible and is learning to work with what he’s got. It also means we’ll still see some cohesiveness and positive play from the team.
It be interesting to see what he does in the coming week.

Best/Worst – 2 Wins But Not Really Tested?
Let me start off by saying, I am extremely happy that we are seeing improvement in the team every week. That’s all we ask for. Josh stated as much in last week’s episode. He just wanted to see progress. These last 2 results have been exactly what the team and fans have needed.

But.

Let’s have a look at whom we’ve actually beaten. A Melbourne City team that is still trying to work out how they want to play under Joyce and a Brisbane team with almost an entire Starting XI sidelined with injury and whom have been relatively poor all season. The real test now is seeing how we can back up these 2 positive results against a tough Adelaide on Wednesday night coming off a 3-0 away win to Perth. Expect some squad rotation. Bonevecia will be back, probably Risdon too. COYW.

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