Monday, September 17, 2007

Sydney vs Wellington - Post Game + Extras


Well, theres enough said right there to why things didn't work. For the last time, our squad was 'born' to play a back 3! Within that back 3 HAS to be Milligan. Rudan and Poppa are too slow and too shit! All season their distribution has been WOEFUL! Fyfe is not a right back... Zadkovich is not a left back... but hey lets not let little technicalities like that stop us from continueing with this system. For all of the praise I give Zad when he plays for the Olyroos, all I want to do is rip him when he plays for Sydney!

The passing from midfield was slow and 'built up' but didn't go anywhere. I usually love watching this sort of play but it was just lethargic and dare I say it, boring. Did we miss McFlynn? Probably not.... At least Casey was something different and scored Sydney's goal from a good piece of persistence in challenging for a bouncing ball, followed by a composed finish. Shocking wasn't it! Got nothing good to say about Corica or Brosque.... Patrick tried hard I suppose???

For all the negatives going on in Sydney, I am happy how far Wellington have come. I still don't agree with NZ being part of our competition and the crowd numbers wherever they travel across Australia show I am not alone but Ricky Herbert has done a top job in getting his team of 'so so' players and turning them into a competitive side. Also well done in finding Daniel and especially Felipe! Yes it was poor defending for his goal by both Milligan and then Poppa but god did he take his opportunity well!

Now for something that Hamish said to me after my last post:

There seems to be something deeply philosophical in Sydney's problems. In the bowels of Sydney FC's culture, planning and administration, the assumption that Sydney is somehow a key, flagship club that is naturally good, needs to be permanently dropped. I suspect Culina is there actually, and is desperately assessing his options of re-engineering the whole team. The rules of the league make this very difficult for a coach.

I whole heartedly agree with the sentiment that Sydney as a club believes that they are better than everyone else and can just show up and do well needs to be dropped and I think after a few more bad performances at least the players will start to realise this. Since before V1, the media has talked Sydney up and up and now just cutting them down lower and lower. They certainly are good at writing their own headlines....

As for Culina re-engineering the whole team, his hands are tied until the end of the season. Before the WCC Qualifiers in year 1, Sydney signed their 'big name' players to 3 year deals on WAY too much money for what they are worth just to get it done with the aim to play in that tournament. We are talking $300 000 + deals for the likes of Zdrilic and to a slightly lesser extent, Talay. I suppose they acheived their goal by qualifiying for that tournament and winning V1 but we (and a different boardroom) are paying for it bigtime now with old, lethargic and non performing players. Next season I expect a squad clearout and to just start from scratch. I just pray that Culina doesn't get the chop before then....


Friday, September 14, 2007

Sydney vs Wellington - Pre Game

Expecting an absolutly WOEFUL crowd tonight. I will be happy if we get 10 000 to be honest.... Its raining, Its a Friday night, Its NZ...... Yes they are typical Sydney excuses I know. :(

As for on the pitch I am feeling much more positive. My optimistic tip is 4-0 Sydney but 2-0 is probably more realistic. We have plently of players coming back from injury and international duty and it's time to start our season properly. I expect 3-5-2 as follows:


This seems to be the formation that Branko is settling on and Juninho still being injured seemingly makes it easier to pick the midfield. I see no reason to rush him back into the starting lineup this early in the season against shit opposition. I personally think he OR Corica need to be played alone in that attacking midfield role anyway. It just makes the side so much more balanced but neither deserve to be benched. A happy selection headache to have anyway.

Fyfe, Middleby or Zadkovich will be fighting for the wingback slots. I would go with Zad and Fyfe but this reluctanty forces Middleby to the bench when he definitely doesn't deserve it. Poppa might start on the bench since he is still recovering from an injury which could see Fyfe go into the back 3 and leave room for Middleby to slot in at wingback but who knows.

Talay and Mcflynn pick themselves in midfield...

Patrick is obviously now at the top of the pecking order up front (which is a worrying thing in itself) but the big positive in his selection is how Brosque plays off him. He has been waisted for 2 seasons playing alone up front and playing off someone is where his best work is done, previewed by his performance against Adelaide in round 2. I expect big things from Brosque from now on.

Well I'm off to the game. COME ON SYDNEY!


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Olyroos vs Lebanon / Socceroos vs Argentina

Am I the only one that was much more interested in watching the Olyroos qualifier rather than a friendly? Sure it was Argentina but I feel a better connection with the group of A-League young guys that make up the core of the Olyroos than I do for the 'EPL superstars' and 'Arnie's mates' that played in the first team. Especially in a qualifier with a significant goal at the end being Beijing.

The games ended:
Olyroos 3 Lebanon 0
Socceroos 0 Argentina 1

Since there was such a gap in class between the two sides in the Olyroos game I don't have too much to say about the performance or the result but I'll give a quick overview. With Leijer's suspension, Arnold Opted for Mclenahan in defence while Djite came in for Williams in a tactical switch seeing us line up as follows:


I was happy to see a change in formation and although I don't buy into the rubbish that by having just one striker up front means you are not attacking but this formation saw a little less caution and we scored 3 goals from it. Sarkies, Celeski and Ward seemed to be all over the shop in midfield. Having Chinese commentary on a less than ideal quality stream didn't really provide me with a great source to go by but lets just say it looked something like that.

The first goal came from more excellent work from Topor-Stanley attacking down the flank and saw him provide a perfect cross for Ward to 'karate kick' home. It is really refreshing to see an Australian match with good quality crossing but this team certainly are getting it right with Hyphen and Sarkies the standouts in this department.

The second saw more good work from Hyphen, storming down the wing and then turned into a team goal with Sarkies, Djite and Bridge laying short passes for each other before Bridge finished nicely. Was great to watch and just showcased the type of football this team is trying to produce every match.

The second half saw the Olyroos not go for the killer blow which was definitely frustrating when we still have to get results in both Beirut and Pyongyang and goal difference becoming so important after Iraq's 5-0 shalacking away in Lebanon, but meh, I am satisfied with this result and the way we played. Lebanon tried hard but are clearly the weakest team in the group and our defenders had no trouble at all dealing with their attacks.

The main substitution worth mentioning was Williams for Djite. I have only seen Williams be deployed as a wide attacker either from midfield or out wide in a front 3 but tonight saw him play more central in a front 2. He passed with flying colors and capped his night off with a goal with a sharp finish, lunging in and taking the ball from a defender and then slamming it across the keeper low. The bemused look on the keepers face said it all. Great finish!

Not much else I want to say about this one so I suppose onto the Socceroos vs Argentina which I only really saw bits and pieces of so don't read too much into what I have to say.

The makeshift side means not much can be taken out of the game but a few things I noted from the pieces I saw were: Carney's vast improvement in his defensive duties at left wingback. I was a big sceptic about how he would handle this position but he is going from strength to strength. Had a great game on arguably the best player in the world in Lionel Messi.

The other positive was Archie Thompson. Whether playing in front of his adoring Melbourne fans lifted him or not he showed he wasn't out of his depth in international football when given a chance and was involved in a lot of short, quick, pass and move stuff which is a great sign for Australia. Watch out McDonald!

The football looked a lot better in the conditions of a cool Melbourne night rather than a hot and humid Bangkok afternoon with the players obviously a lot more comfortable.

One last note on players is what has happened to your distribution Lucas Neil? Long ball after long ball after long ball. But it's ok, Milligan will slot in soon ;)


Monday, September 10, 2007

Perth vs Sydney - Worst Round Ever?

I got called into work late yesterday afternoon so unfortunately missed the game. I don't have FOX and the few saviors that usually cap the A-League for me on Aussie Torrents are caught up doing the Rah Rah World Cup. Match reports and fans opinions that I have since read seem to tell me that I saved 90 mins of my life by not watching it so I will change the direction of this post to pushing for breaks during international weekends.

442 seems to sum up the round pretty well with their headline "Worst A-League Week Ever?" Whole bulks of squads were made up of players that have hardly had a sniff at this level and even to the extent of using State League players straight up. I understand that the FFA has broadcast commitments as well as the problem of forcing an overlap into the seasons of other codes but surely this week has proved that some sort of a compromise has to be reached.

I love international football, whether that be the Socceroos or any of the various youth sides but the obviously bias "mainstream" media (Won't mention any names *NEWSCORP*) has jumped all over this and instead of talking up the internationals being played, we get headlines like one I read in the Sunday paper; "Z-League?" just bagging the competition!. This won't exactly help our competition's attendances will it...

Come on FFA, lets not go through this again.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Olyroos vs DPR Korea

Throughout the A-League community I hear a lot of anti Olympics sentiment directed towards the Olyroos in regards to their clubs players being taken for so called 'meaningless' matches. I just can't believe this attitude and love having these matches whether it disadvantages my club or not. Even that is debateable. Watching the way that the Olyroos knock the ball around and are being taught to play under Baan (Now Arnold) is doing wonders for the players development. An example of two players I have really noticed develop since joining the Olyroos are Zadkovich and Topor-Stanley. Both have improved their composure on the ball and distribution out of sight over the last 12 months and the junior national teams they have been involved with should surely get some of the credit for this improvement.

Well, onto the match. "Other commitments" meant that I couldn't get to the match up in Newcastle so I watched at home on an internet stream again. Dodgy Futbol24 livescore website lied to me, saying that the game kicked off at 8pm when it was really starting at 7, so I missed the first half! I suppose I am the stupid one because in my last post regarding the Olyroos I even said the kick off time was 7 myself....

Lack of coverage from anywhere other than livescore websites really pisses me off. These matches are to get our young guys to the Olympics for gods sake. Surely with marketing taken in the right direction these games could be just as popular as the Socceroos matches? Tony at The Round Ball Analyst covered the match minute by minute and his updates, especially reading about the first half, are definitely appreciated.

From the second half it looked like we came out something resembling a 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 as follows:


A 4-5-1 formation at home against an obviously inferior opposition?.... "Hmm Arnold" is all I'm going to say about that one.

Australia came out after the break all guns blazing and the immediate pressure saw us go 1-0 up in the 50th minute through a Milligan header from an excellent corner to the far post from Sarkies. Milligan just steamed through unmarked out of nowhere and met the ball with a hard header.

Everytime I have watched them, I have been impressed with the way the Olyroos have the desire to keep the ball and play possession based football. Australia again showed their want to play this type of game and executed it quite well. North Korea were playing an obvious counter attack game, not really pressureing the ball, although as the game went on were forced to play a lot further up the pitch and started to take the game to the Aussies, coming as close as hitting the bar on one occasion.

Zadkovich was noticeable getting forward from the back but the pacey North Korean winger (who I naively have absolutely no idea of his name) definitely kept Hyphen a lot quieter than in previous Olyroos games that I have watched. Inside these two, Leijer was quite solid and organised as usual and Milligan showed his composure and distribution skills time and time again. This guy just has to be in the senior side more often!

I didn't think that the midfield was as dominant as it could have been and when Arnold starting making substitutions around the 70 minute mark everything seemed to chop and change and just seemed a lot more disorganised. It also dissapointingly saw us stick with a seemingly even more defensive 4-5-1 than before:


Bridge and then Djite when he came on were just playing to hold up the ball for the midfield. I didn't see a lot of Bridge's work due to missing the first half but I really rated Djite's cameo off the bench during the last 10 mins and thought he did well in the role obviously assigned to him. Can't see him being left on the bench next match to be honest.

Speaking of attack, I found Arnold's comments to the press after the game quite frustrating:

"That's why I got angry at the end because that could've been a one-all draw when we should've been much more clinical with our opportunities."

I just didn't think Arnold used the right tactics to be whinging about the 'finishing' and think that it is very harsh on the players. Why are these extremely promising kids being put through Arnold who has been shown to be rubbish time and time again with every single team that he gets his hands on?!

Although Milligan got the official man of the match for his goal, I didnt think there were any great stand outs or great dissapointments either. A good solid team performance was required and was delivered by the lads tonight. The importance of taking maximum points in these home games cannot be stressed enough. The prospect of travelling to Pyongyang in the final round needing to take points really scares me and tonights result goes a long way in pushing us towards qualification. Hooray!


Monday, September 03, 2007

Sydney vs Adelaide - Post Game

Finally great weather, a positive outlook on both a result and how we intend to play the game but still the fickle Sydney public stay away. The crowd announced was 14 000 but it seemed similar to last week. The big plus however was the noise from the Cove. Was awesome to be a part of!

Branko obviously learnt from last weeks second half performance and duly started with a back 3, looking something like:


First goal of the match went to Burns and all I can do (in hindsight of course ;) ) is just stand and applaud. He makes McFlynn look stupid, Zadkovich then jumps in, he skips past Rudan who was trying to avoid giving away a penalty and squares it to the unmarked fullback coming through, Richie Alagich for a cool finish low past Boltons left leg while our defenders track other runners. Could be a limitation of a back 3 but also just sublime football from Burns drawing defender after defender. I really rate this kid.

A couple of minutes later Alagich turned from hero to zero, pulling down Middleby in the box and gifting Talay a penalty. I can’t remember a penalty where Talay hasn’t gone top right and I called it again. Bajic has obviously been watching too and picked the side, diving and saving the first attempt, only to knock it back into Talay’s path for a second bite at the cherry which he didn’t miss.

After the break Branko showed his tactical nouse in taking off the clearly out of his depth Popovic (A scary thought for the season although maybe he was carrying a knock to his back after a collision with Bolton earlier in the game) and bringing on the man of the moment, Patrick! We then saw saw Zadkovich shift into the centre of the back 3 and Middleby move out wide on the right. I didn’t understand it so much at the time but Branko’s justification was that with no defensive options on the bench, Zad was put in to try to bring some pace to the backline, letting him play as a sweeper. Fair enough I think.

Sydney once again took the lead thanks to a sublime run and pinpoint finish across Bajic but it was all thanks to Juninho. He sat on the ball, calmly sized up the moment and played the ball perfectly for Brosque to latch onto and finish extremely well. A beautiful goal to watch.

I was a big Patrick skeptic but I have to say even with his miss from 2 yards (Can you imagine what people would be saying if it was Zdrilic who missed this one?) he is a beauty to watch and I can’t wait to see him start next week. When he was warming up in front of The Cove and his name was being chanted he couldn’t understand what was being said and acted very shy and humble. When he came on the park he was a whole different player, brimming with confidence and skill on and off the ball, always looking to be involved. The crowd responded to this which I thought was a great sign. Keep your eye on the partnership this guy is going to form with Brosque. Having Patrick in the squad should allow Brosque to play his natural game and run at defenders, playing off the big man which I am very excited about.

But a draw was always on the cards with Sydney’s backline and a non confident Bolton failing to claim in his box after a defensive line failure to clear saw Djite push it across and let Burns tap in with his head for a deserved brace. Bolton mate, if it wasn’t time already for a sit on the bench then it definitely is now. How you got into the Socceroos squad on your current form I will never know! (Doubles as the customary dig at Arnold too)

From the individual brilliance of Burns, a beautifully played goal thanks to Juninho and Brosque, end to end attacking play and of course controversy thanks to Mark Shields failing to see Brosque get pulled down in the box right in front of him, this game had it all. Too bad the crowd on hand to watch was just over 14 000. Disappointing Sydney, disappointing…

I am relieved that our underdone side has managed to take a point from the (in my opinion) two strongest teams in the comp in their opening two matches and showed real promise for the rest of the season. The mountain of draws in the other matches also see Sydney not far from the 4 at all.

Looking ahead to next week the payers we may have out looks ridiculous to be honest. Milligan and Zadkovic on Olyroos duty, Brosque and Bolton on Socceroos duty, Popovic and Juninho in doubt along with Casey, Vidiac and Timpano on the long term list. That is arguably a starting line up right there… I have no idea what to expect.