Jets learn how best to use Heskey
England's Emile Heskey. AP Photo/Tom Hevezi
Captain Jobe Wheelhouse says it will take time, while coach Gary van Egmond says he’s technically good with the ball at his feet.
What can Sydney FC expect from the Newcastle Jets and Emile Heskey this Saturday?
For starters the new look Jets squad, including Heskey, have a game and a week of training clocked on their boots.
Wheelhouse indicated recently on the Jets website that some of the Jets were perhaps a little nervous in front of a large crowd for their first A-League game at home.
Certainly being a goal down 57 seconds into the match wasn’t expected by both the home team or its nearly 15,000 fans. Nor was perhaps the lack of cohesion at times displayed amongst a team that had one of the longest pre-seasons in the competition.
So while Wheelhouse urges patience from the Jets’ fans, he also indicates that it will take some time for the team to get used to having a target man.
Van Egmond meanwhile has indicated this week that, while being a target man, Emile has perhaps been misunderstood. Via The World Game website:
“Look, Emile is a target man, right,” Van Egmond explained.
“But he enjoys playing on the deck and he has the technical ability to play good football.
“He is probably more synonymous with the robust type of forward but he’s been very good with his feet since he came here.
“The impression most people have of him is a bit false, actually.
“Maybe that is how they have always wanted him to play at his previous clubs.
“Of course, he has the presence and he is an aerial threat.
“But he can also keep the ball well and secure possession for us.
“He has the attributes to play what we call the lovely game, there’s no doubt about that.”
Not being known to induce a long ball style in his Jets squads over the years, van Egmond will be looking to re-enforce the patient, passing game being worked on during the preseason.
The arrival of Heskey will not change that, although van Egmond admitted the team perhaps lacked patience and got caught up in having to rush to bring Heskey into play.
“It was good that we tried to play forward and into Emile
“But the issue is that we have to be a bit more patient and pick our moment to utilise Emile.
“That was our mistake … it is our task not to get caught up in this.
“He will play as our No. 9 for the rest of the season but hitting long balls at him is not the way we will do things.
“It’s about playing to his feet when there is a defender on him because he can hold the ball up and pass it to people running off him.”
But what formation will van Egmond utilise against Sydney FC this week?
While it seems van Egmond is becoming partial to variations on a 3-4-3, van Egmond did admit post-match that it brings an element of risk of being caught on the counter-attack but believes the round one backline did well for the most part and remains confident.
It will be interesting then over the coming weeks whether the defence will handle the pressure under a back-three.
However, with players like Dominik Ritter (possible ankle but included in 18-man squad) and Adam Taggart (international duty) unavailable, considerations for a 4-2-3-1 might come into play as soon as this weekend.
James Virgili impressed in his cameo and looks like he will replace Taggart.
Taylor Regan or Tiago Calvano could come into defence although this might be as an additional centre-back in a back-four.
Should Ritter not be risked for Saturday, Craig Goodwin could move into the left back role, with Bernardo Ribeiro moving into the left attacking midfield position.
As part of a back-three Goodwin might have to check his instincts to go too far forward, but as a wing-back out wide in a back-four during pre-season he has been given free reign.
In any case, the Jets have a real opportunity to spoil Del Piero’s first home game festivities should some of the Jets team check their nerves in front of what is tipped to be a bumper crowd.
Will Sydney persist with poor positioning and running?
Will the Jets improve cohesion and their own positioning and stay true to their passing philosophy while Heskey works on where he fits in?
One thing is for certain, I will be checking out FoxSports HeroCam on Del Piero online during the match.
Newcastle Jets 18-man Squad for Round 2 vs Sydney FC
1. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 2. Scott NEVILLE, 3. Tiago CALVANO, 4. Josh MITCHELL, 5. Dominik RITTER, 6. Ben KANTAROVSKI, 8. Ruben ZADKOVICH, 9. Emile HESKEY, 10. Bernardo RIBEIRO, 14. Taylor REGAN, 15. Craig GOODWIN, 16. Jobe WHEELHOUSE (c), 17. James VIRGILI, 18. Jacob PEPPER, 19. Michael BRIDGES, 21. Marko JESIC, 23. Ryan GRIFFITHS, 30. Jack DUNCAN (gk).
In: Taylor Regan, Jacob Pepper, Jack Duncan
Out: Mark Birighitti (red card suspension), 11. Connor CHAPMAN (U20’s), 22. Adam TAGGART (U20’s)
Unavailable: James Brown (ankle)
Possible Formation and Starting Lineup
Neville Mitchell Goodwin
Kantarovski Wheelhouse (c)
Griffiths Heskey Virgili
Bench: Bridges, Pepper, Calvano, Duncan (gk)
The Roar is giving you the chance to win 1 of 19 prize packs to Australian Open 2014! Each lucky winner will receive four evening tickets to Rod Laver Arena, plus access to 3 hours in the Heineken VIP Bar. Enter here.