The Newcastle Jets made 291 passes in their F3 Derby win at home to the Central Coast Mariners, 156 fewer passes than their visiting F3 rivals.
What options do the Jets have at home against Melbourne Victory this week, who made 559 passes to defeat Adelaide United?
Coach Gary van Egmond’s Jets, in his first stint with the club, were renowned for passing and playing out from the back.
The high tempo, passing game was very much the mantra on his return for a second tour, and after rebuilding the club heavily during the 2012 preseason, the signs were good for his vision to come to life on the pitch.
Having conceded that the Jets didn’t control the game against the Mariners, van Egmond has been concentrating this week on controlling the game along with ball circulation and positioning.
Van Egmond also concedes that the team is still working out how to use Emile Heskey while retaining their philosophy of patient possession.
“We’ve been doing it the whole preseason, but with Emile getting here later, they’ve tended to look at that as an outlet a little bit too soon and we haven’t got that balance right as such,” he said via the Jets website.
“We’re not going to become a team that’s looking to play direct and play off the second ball.
“We are going to play direct at times, but it’s going to be calculated when we play direct and it’s going to be a case of looking to ensure we control the game through our ball circulation.”
With James Brown still recovering from ankle surgery and Scott Neville needing more recovery from a groin injury, van Egmond will need to call on his more technical players to retain possession throughout the lines.
For this reason, I think that Josh Brillante and Bernardo Ribeiro are firming for the starting squad.
Van Egmond is tossing up between Brillante or Ruben Zadkovich as the right fullback with Kantarovski as a holding midfielder.
However, if Ribeiro starts as the number 10 that either leaves Zadkovich on the bench or as right fullback.
I think that with Brillante being a capable holding midfielder, you could play Zadkovich at right fullback and still have Ribeiro directing play out wide to either Craig Goodwin or Ryan Griffiths, or on the deck to Heskey as the sole striker.
This would leave Kantarovski to sub on for, say Zadkovich and move Brillante into the fullback position as an option later in the game.
With so many attacking options in the squad it may seem that Virgili may come off the bench as an impact player later in the game after a standout performance last week.
Van Egmond should have the players at his disposal to play out from the back, retain possession, circulate the ball into the front third to strike with venom and effectively control the game.
Van Egmond has identified the front four of Flores, Thompson, Finkler and Rojas as being the most testing for the Jets defence, while Mark Milligan will get special attention to stifle some of the moves from the Victory’s back line.
But with 67 passes last week, Traore may be an alternate avenue.
Van Egmond was the bogey coach against the Victory during his first stint, but against Ange Postecoglou he is behind in wins 2-1.
If the Jets are to win they’re going to have to pressure the Victory defence, keep possession, and use the ball effectively in midfield and the front third.
The Victory are going to have to disrupt the Jets movement on the flanks and attack though the middle if they are going to win for the first time in Newcastle since 2009.
Newcastle Jets versus Melbourne Victory, possible lineup:
Zadkovich Calvano Mitchell Ritter
Brillante Wheelhouse (c)
Griffiths Ribeiro Goodwin
Subs Taggart, Virgili, Kantarovski, Duncan
1. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 3. Tiago CALVANO, 4. Josh MITCHELL, 5. Dominik RITTER, 6. Ben KANTAROVSKI, 8. Ruben ZADKOVICH, 9. Emile HESKEY, 10. Bernardo RIBEIRO, 12. Josh BRILLANTE, 14. Taylor REGAN, 15. Craig GOODWIN, 16. Jobe WHEELHOUSE (c), 17. James VIRGILI, 19. Michael BRIDGES, 20. Mark BIRIGHItime trialI (gk), 22. Adam TAGGART, 23. Ryan GRIFFITHS, 30. Jack DUNCAN (gk).
In: Ribeiro, Bridges, Duncan
Unavailable: James Brown (ankle), Scott Neville (groin)