Monday, 14 October 2013

7 points on Central Coast 1-1 Western Sydney Wanderers

This hotly anticipated clash between the current Champions and Premiers, though enlivened by a vivid atmosphere, ended in stalemate. A conventional and organised performance from Popovic's Wanderers failed to consistently threaten a Central Coast side fielding a fascinating forward duo. 

The Wanderers were set out in a fairly conventional 4-2-3-1 with Mark Bridge playing from out to in on the left, Mooy buzzing around in the hole behind the lone striker, and Hersi looking to restrict the surges of Rose and link up with Polenz on the overlap.

Arnold deployed his Mariners in an unusual manner. Ostensibly a 4-4-2, the back-four/midfield platform featuring buccaneering fullbacks were predictable enough. Similar to Postecoglou’s Victory, Arnold seemed to be attempting to encourage a high degree of intelligent movement in his forward line, by playing without an orthodox striker up top.

Marcos Flores and Mile Sterjovski were fielded as a forward duo; Flores of course has forged a reputation as one of the premier South American playmakers to grace Australian shores while Sterjovski has always been fielded as an attacking midfielder during his spells in Europe and at Perth. Instead of staying high up and central, Sterjovski drifted around the attacking third from flank to flank, linking play. His reciprocal movement allowed Duke in particular to dart inside and he dovetailed well with Flores. This was a strike partnership positively oozing class and cleverness; Duke and Fitzgerald provided the pace and directness and this was facilitated by Sterjovski’s movement and Flores’ vision in possession.

The Mariners, despite Sterjovski’s deployment as the primary forward, had a relatively straightforward strategy; working the ball wide and slinging in crosses, through the fullbacks Rose and Roux and allowing Duke and Fitzgerald to cut inside from the flanks. Flores created two or three fantastic chances with movement wide from inside, then slipping a through ball between the Coast defence for the wide players to latch onto.

The Wanderers never looked particularly threatening in open play. Around the half hour mark, Bridge began to cut inside to link up with Mooy more frequently. Hersi did an admirable defensive job on Rose, and also bagged an assist with a delightful cross. Mooy himself was relatively peripheral to proceedings; the visitors needed more movement and vision from their No. 10 and more attacking intent from their holding midfield duo. Around the hour mark, Popovic removed one of his holders, pulled Mooy deeper and positioned Shinji Ono behind the striker. This was an attacking move on the part of the Wanderers, but Mooy again was marginal.

Without possession, the Red and Blacks were content to allow the Coast centre backs time on the ball, determined to remain compact. The Mariners however remained patient, working angles and pushing the fullbacks forward and the holding midfielders deeper to escape the press, never resorting to long balls forward.

A late surge and cross by Hersi ended the game at one-all; a fair result. With the return to action of Simon and the imminent homecoming of Golden Boot winner McBreen, Arnold faces a question over whether to persevere with Sterjovski as a highly mobile forward. Undoubtedly the vagaries of rotation will ensure we see various incarnations of the Coast attack; nevertheless, the characteristics he seeks in the No. 9 slot will go a long way to determining the style of play.

All in all, Popovic can be satisfied with the Wanderers performance, and will have to decide whether to favour Ono over Mooy for the next match as the withdrawn forward. 

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