Exciting start for the Wanderers: on and off the pitch
Western Sydney Wanderers strip (Image: Twitter)
While no doubt constrained by time and how much they can splurge, the Western Sydney Wanderers’ technical team of Tony Popovic and Ante Milicic will have been pleased by their side’s initial outing in St Marys last night, giving them plenty of good things to ponder.
While the opposition, in Nepean FC, offered very little resistance, especially in midfield, Popovic and Milicic will have been happy with the overall performance, with a number of the club’s triallists even putting their hand up for further opportunities only 10 weeks out from the season kicks off.
Stealing the headlines was former Sydney FC striker Joey Gibbs, who scored four goals in the second half to add to the first half strike by the equally impressive Labinot Haliti.
But it was the general shape, control and speed of ball movement that eventually helped the Wanderers pull Nepean apart.
Popovic shaped his formation up in a 4-2-3-1, one he seems set to use throughout the season, and will have enjoyed seeing his men, including some of the triallists, handle it well. It looked well organised, in touch and disciplined.
In the first half, which featured perhaps the club’s most exciting signing to date, in Aaron Mooy, there was excellent control of the midfield , with Mooy combining well with young holding midfielder Reece Caira, one of the Young Socceroos on trial, and advanced midfielder Jason Trifiro, another triallist.
Mooy was dominant, buzzing about the midfield and controlling the game with his impressive range of passing.
At this rate, and he only played 45 minutes here, Mooy looks likely to be the Wanderers’ most pivotal player.
Popovic and Milicic will do well to add more quality and experience around him, but they must also balance this by looking to the future.
Trifiro, on this performance, is certainly one to keep and eye on, at least as a squadie.
Mooy and Trifiro combined particularly well with the right sided attacker Haliti, who had a field day cutting infield in the first half, hitting the post twice with ferocious left foot strikes, before popping up in the middle to get on the end of a Mark Bridge cross for the club’s first ever goal.
On another day, Haliti might have had his own hat-trick.
Apart from Gibbs and Trifiro, the other fresh-faced triallist to really catch the eye was Sydney Olympic’s Zac Elrich, cousin of Tarek and Ahmad.
Coming on at the break on the right side of attack, he took over from Haliti, using his pace to get on the inside and in behind the Nepean defence.
It was a night to forget for the left side of Nepean’s defence, with all five Wanderers goals coming from that channel.
Profiting from Elrich’s direct and creative work was Gibbs, who twice got on the end of Elrich’s handy work for back-post tap-ins.
With the right side of the Wanderers attack flowing and productive, there was less to get excited about on the left, with former Algerian international Salim Arrache not seeing much of the ball.
Behind him though, former Newcastle Jets player Adam D’Apuzzo showed he can be a versatile addition to a new squad, spending the first half at left back before holding the midfield in the second.
Others that appear worth having a further look at include Young Socceroos midfielders Caira and Yanni Perkatis.
They mightn’t have much time to finalise their squad, but Popovic and Milicic will at least be content to put a tick alongside a few names here before having another look over the next few weeks, with games against the Blacktown Spartans, Blacktown City and Sydney United earmarked.
Looking at the rest of the squad, the areas they will look to add more experience and quality to are in the pivotal number six holding midfield role, a creative number 10 advanced midfielder, and another quality attacker who can make a difference either through the middle or out on the left.
But as Milicic hinted after the game, these are hard areas to find quality, and with limited spend and time, they will have to be resourceful.
On this evidence though, the Wanderers at least have the makings of being a competitive unit, well drilled, and will look to play an attractive, ball on the deck, brand of football.
That should certainly please the fans, who turned up in great numbers to show their support and interest in the FFA’s new venture. The Red and Black Bloc, gathered at the northern end of Cook Park, where in good voice.
When I entered the ground, a short time before kick off, the count was at 2,500, with many cars still driving around looking for a parking spot and fans rushing to get in and see the Wanderers’ first touch. Half an hour of so in, the crowd count was stopped, at 3,300, with the official crowd announced at a few hundred more than that.
Certainly, the free entry was a show of goodwill, and the FFA would do well to maintain this spirit of goodwill throughout the life of the club.
The return was something that can’t necessarily be measured by bottom lines and numbers. While there is much work still to do over the coming days, weeks , months and years, this was an encouraging, uplifting night and a great start for the A-League’s newest venture.
Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyTannousTRBA
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