How will roles of Cahill and Sarota impact on Roos?
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The second was whether Adam Sarota, now at FC Utrecht, would be given some game time in the centre of midfield.
My interest in these players and their respective positions essentially derives from a desire to see the Roos playing a more controlled possession game built on controlling the opposition by keeping the ball.
First to Cahill. I’ve mentioned this in a couple of previous columns and while it might not prove entirely popular, I’ve recently wondered just how much more easy on the eye the Roos would be if they won’t so Cahill obsessed.
Indeed, how would they look without Cahill in the 11?
It might be a strange question to ask about Australia’s most prolific scorer of recent times, for country and club, but what we have often seen, especially at the Asian Cup, is a team over-obsessed with going long and hitting Cahill’s head, whether from deep or the corners.
This is not a criticism of Cahill or the team, but the reality is the temptation, when you have someone so good in the air, that you constantly go down that path, becoming fixated with hitting a target and picking up the second ball.
We saw this constantly in the Asian Cup final. The stats were floating around at the time, and, as I wrote then, Holger Osieck was found wanting for not having an alternative strategy once Alberto Zaccheroni nullified the aerial threat.
Afterwards, he said it wasn’t his plan to utilise Cahill’s aerial strength so often, but the look of the team in Qatar didn’t quite back these words.
Perhaps it was because of the perceived weakness of the Asian opposition in the air, or the need to fit Cahill into his 4-4-1-1, but there’s not doubt Osieck’s main tactic in Qatar was to bomb long, utilise the physicality of Cahill and Harry Kewell up front, get the midfield supporting, and play for the second ball.
I was interested, then, to see how Brett Holman, playing in the shadow striker role behind Kewell, would fare against Germany.
Would he be able to provide the combination and link-up play that would allow the Roos to keep the ball on the deck and control some possession through the middle, rather than getting it out wide and whipping the ball in?
In the first period Holman was very effervescent, both as a ball-winner and ball user. While those around him weren’t quite so effective, many looking short of a run, there were a couple of very encouraging moments.
One that particularly comes to mind resulted in David Carney getting in behind Christian Trasch, only to over-hit his first touch. It came on the back of a beautifully constructed attack which had Holman as the centrepiece.
While the Dutch-based buzzer had another productive night in green and gold, the jury is still out on whether Cahill’s absence totally enabled the Roos to flow.
For that to happen, there has to be at least one other key personnel change behind the number ten.
As they did for most of the Asian Cup, the Roos went into this match with the midfield duo Mile Jedinak and Carl Valeri.
In Qatar, they were often bypassed, as the Roos went wide and delivered towards Cahill and Kewell.
Valeri and Jedinak, who I dubbed the Invisible Twins in Qatar, would do their best work off the ball, pressing the opposition, imposing their physical presence in the middle and breaking up the opposition.
This is all on display again yesterday, especially in the second period, where there appeared to be clear instructions to push on and get in the face of Sven Bender, Bastian Schweinsteiger and, later, Toni Kroos.
Jedinak and Valeri were exemplary in the spoiling role. In the first period they imposed their physicality on the midfield, incensing Joachim Loew in the process. The message? We’re not about to be intimidated by bigger reputations.
Their disruptive work was crucial in yesterday’s comeback.
But for the Roos to eventually control games through possession rather than aggression, there needs to be an evolution in the centre of midfield.
I’ve long felt that Sarota is exactly the type of player the Roos might build a team around, so was naturally disappointed he didn’t make it off the bench for his debut.
No doubt Osieck was thinking primarily about the leaving his home nation with the win, not that blooding Sarota would have put that in doubt.
Irrespective of whether he saw game-time or not, it was great to see Osieck bring Sarota into the fold. Soon enough he is likely to be sitting in the half-and-half role, between the holder and the number ten, helping dictate the Roos tempo through his technique and neat passing game.
We saw snippets of it under Ange Postecoglou at the Brisbane Roar late in season five, and it hasn’t been a great surprise to this correspondent to see him develop well at Utrecht.
Indeed, at the time of their departure to Holland, I suggested Sarota was the most likely of the Roar trio (Tommy Oar and Michael Zullo the others) to have an impact in Europe. Time will tell, but he has made an encouraging start.
How Sarota continues to evolve, for club and country, will make for fascinating viewing.
The same can be said of the Roos 11.
While Cahill, when fit and available, remains a key member of it at the moment, as we build through the qualifiers towards Brazil, it will be interesting to see how Osieck evolves this team.
Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyTannousTRBA