Ten talking points for Round 4 of A-League

Tim Palmer Columnist

By Tim Palmer, Tim Palmer is a Roar Expert

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22 Have your say

    Inevitably, the focus of the Friday night match between Melbourne Victory and Newcastle Jets will be on the possible debut of new signing Nathan Coe.

    A move for the fringe Socceroos goalkeeper was unexpected considering that the squad position had been made available only recently by the retirement of Danny Allsopp, a striker, and that the Victory already possesses two goalkeepers, Tando Velaphi and Lawrence Thomas, both of whom have made starts this season.

    But Postecoglou wants a very specific attribute from his goalkeeper; the ability to play out from the back.

    “Lawrence is pretty comfortable with aspects of our game, particularly playing out from the back, and he’s a good keeper as well, but that is a big part of what we do and that gives him the edge at this stage,” says Postecoglou, justifying his surprise decision to start the youngster in the Victory’s first game of the season.

    Postecoglou clearly isn’t happy with either keeper’s ability at this point in time. He wants a particular kind of football and has signed players to fit that style. Postecoglou has indicated Coe will start and the new keeper’s distribution patterns will be an interesting feature.

    Newcastle progression?

    Similarly, much of the focus of the Jets’ pre-season was on how they too would adapt to the demands of a patient possession philosophy.

    The signing of Emile Heskey seemingly contradicted that notion, and although the marquee has generally been excellent, coach Van Egmond is aware of his side being too reliant on the Englishman’s presence in the air.

    “We’ve been doing it [possession] 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 says, indicating that despite the two wins in a row, he still wants his side to play a more ideological game.

    The possession battle against a Victory side also keen on playing a similar style will revolve around the control of the midfield and promises to be fascinating.

    Adelaide United vs Wellington Phoenix

    Who will lead Adelaide’s line?

    Kosmina’s Adelaide has shown themselves to be a good counter-attacking side, but were disappointing when they needed to take the initiative after going behind against the Victory.

    Kosmina wants to them play more of the progressive passing style that was so impressive in the Asian Champions League, and with Neumann’s clever movement across the front of the line ensuring the side is more fluid than the static hold-up play of Djite or Van Djik, he might elect for the Argentine again.

    Interestingly, it might not be the same formation; the media was barred from Thursday’s training session as Kosmina presumably tinkered with different shapes, with Adelaide Now reporting he may switch to a diamond formation to accommodate Marcelo Carrusca in his first starting debut.

    Muscat battle

    That might mean the Argentine will come into direct confrontation with one of the best holding midfielders in the league, Manny Muscat. The 27-year-old was primarily used at right back last season but has returned to a more familiar midfield berth this year.

    “I’ve always enjoyed playing there,” says Muscat, “you get more of the ball.” Partnering Alex Smith, he will be deployed with ensuring Carrusca doesn’t find space between the lines.

    Brisbane Roar vs Western Sydney Wanderers

    Berisha’s subtle change

    The Albanian has played in just 33 A-League games but stands to break the club’s all-time goalscoring record against the Western Sydney Wanderers; if he scores, he will equal Sergio Van Djik’s current record of 25.

    Berisha has started the season in superb form, and although his quickly rising goal tally has been the focus of attention, a slight shift to his playing style has also caught the eye.

    Berisha still possesses a fantastic work-ethic and awareness of the offside trap, but he’s also shown a greater willingness to drop deep, collect the ball and run directly at defences.

    This is a new facet to his game that is fitting of the more direct style being implemented by Rado Vidosic, as Brisbane seek to become quicker and cleverer about their attacking play. He is not quite a false nine, but his vertical movement could cause problems for Michael Beauchamp, who may struggle with the striker’s mobility.

    Wanderers attacking problems

    The highest scoring team in the league will come up against the team who still haven’t scored once.

    The Wanderers search for a first ever goal can be linked to the team’s counter-attacking approach, where they are well organised and can be hard to breach, but the system leaves Dino Kresinger too isolated from the wide players, Mark Bridge and Labinot Haliti.

    With two similar playmakers in midfield with Shinji Ono and Aaron Mooy, the Wanderers lack midfield runners to support the hold-up play of Kresinger.

    Therefore, Popovic might go for a different approach with the more mobile Tahj Minniecon, whose clever runs and pace might be more suited to the clever penetrative passing of Ono and Mooy.

    Sydney FC vs Perth Glory

    Perth physicality

    The idea that Perth is the ‘Stoke’ of the A-League has caught on so fast that it’s become a cliché. There’s no denying that the Glory are a physical side, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    When they can combine that aggressive nature with the technical skills of players like Michael Thwaite and Liam Miller, they are one of the well-rounded sides in the competition, and it was this approach that took them to last year’s grand final.

    Jacob Burns is the embodiment of this perceived image of Perth and he will be in charge of shutting down Alessandro Del Piero between the lines.

    The midfielder will be aware of how the Wanderers failed to cope with the Italian’s intelligent movement, and the battle between the two will be crucial to the flow of the game.

    Del Piero is the heartbeat of Sydney’s style, and without him to link up play, they lack cohesion when in possession. Burns may play combatively and look to move quickly from behind Del Piero to intercept passes being played to feet.

    “I wouldn’t be going in there with the intention of hurting him,” says Burns. “He’s too good looking, anyway.”

    Louvrek or Mallia?

    Ian Crook’s biggest selection dilemma comes up front: he will have noted how his side were more comfortable with using Mitch Mallia’s pace in behind rather than the link-up play of the Croatian import, Kruno Louvrek.

    It’s unfortunate for the latter that his style of play is so similar to Sydney’s marquee signing, and he might be dropped to the bench in favour of Mallia, who has generally been used wide this season.

    “There’s so much competition for places but I really enjoy that because it brings out the best in players,” says the youngster.

    Against Perth, pace might be more suitable. The Glory defence tends to sit relatively deep, and by adding added threat in behind, Crook would be able to open up space between midfield and defence, where Del Piero likes to operate.

    Melbourne Heart vs Central Coast Mariners

    Vince Grella

    The Heart has always pledged themselves as a proactive team but their best results have come from playing on the counter-attack. That has been the case so far this season and may have been a factor in Aloisi’s decision to sign Vince Grella.

    “Vince will help control the game a lot better so that when we do need to keep the ball we can keep possession and wait for the right time to penetrate the opposition and when we can counter we will counter,” he says.

    The former Socceroo seems unlikely to make his full debut against the Mariners, although in light of Aloisi’s comments, it could be a possibility.

    Diamonds are forever?

    The Mariners have always been known for their use of the diamond formation, but that hasn’t been the case this season: rather, Graham Arnold has switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation, presumably to inject more width higher up the pitch and reduce the defensive responsibility on young playmaker Tomas Rogic.

    Yet they’ve switched to the diamond twice midway through games this season, at the halfway point of the second half against the Wanderers and at a similar time against Newcastle.

    The usual system appears to give the striker more support than is afforded to the lone striker in the 4-2-3-1, but Arnold will appreciate the two clean sheets recorded so far.

    It boils down to how concerned he is about his side’s attacking output.

    Tim Palmer
    Tim Palmer

    Tim is a football coach, writer, analyst and sports scientist. He has worked with the Socceroos in an analysis role, has completed the FFA B Licence, is currently a player in the Australian Deaf Football Team and coaches in the NSW NPL. You can follow him on Twitter @timpalmerftbl.

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    The Crowd Says (22)

    • October 26th 2012 @ 10:07am
      daniel said | October 26th 2012 @ 10:07am | ! Report

      Fantastic, unbiased article, but you should also put your balls on the line and include your tips.

      For what it is worth – Newcastle, Draw, Brisbane, Perth, CCM

      • October 26th 2012 @ 11:28am
        Tim Palmer said | October 26th 2012 @ 11:28am | ! Report

        Thanks Daniel, I actually wrote the Perth one first just to be sure! Glad you enjoyed it.

        And tips? To be honest, I’m not really into them, but I’ll say: Melbourne, draw, draw, Sydney, Mariners.

    • October 26th 2012 @ 10:48am
      Nathan of Perth said | October 26th 2012 @ 10:48am | ! Report

      Third talking point for Syd v Per:

      -Are we happy?!

      You bet your life we are!

      • October 26th 2012 @ 11:35am
        Morfs said | October 26th 2012 @ 11:35am | ! Report

        I had to resist the urger to stand up in my office and do the little song & dance that accompanies that. Learned it when meeting up with The Shed crew in Adelaide one year back in the NSL days. It’s amazing how easily some memories come flooding back with only a handful of words to prompt it…..

        • October 26th 2012 @ 12:16pm
          Nathan of Perth said | October 26th 2012 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

          Has always been one of those songs I’ve been surprised hasn’t cropped up elsewhere in the league 🙂

          • October 26th 2012 @ 12:28pm
            Morfs said | October 26th 2012 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

            Well, a lot of the old Perth songs & chants have since been adopted by the Victory supporters, in my experience. Admittedly, most of those were appropriated from the EPL fans in the first place. It would be fun to hear that song crop up elsewhere, though.

    • October 26th 2012 @ 10:57am
      MV Dave said | October 26th 2012 @ 10:57am | ! Report

      MV to start on a winning run…2-1 vs Jets
      AU to start a losing streak 2-0 to WP
      WSW to score first goal but lose 3-1 to BR
      Heart to continue poor home form and lose 2-1 to Mariners
      ADP and SFC to come crashing down to earth with a 2-0 loss to PG

      • Roar Guru

        October 26th 2012 @ 1:06pm
        Peter Wilson said | October 26th 2012 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

        Good crowd building for the game at ANZ, but no sellout and sure to be plenty of tickets if you haven’t seen DP in the flesh yet.
        Forecast for Sunday is a perfect sunny 24C day.

        Can’t see SFC not scoring and the big wide open spaces of ANZ will suit SFC rather than the compact Parra Stadium.
        Crook is selecting the faster younger players and will involve the wide players more as Perth like to sit back in defence and adopt a seige mentality away from home.

        DP will collect at least another penalty or two after he is fouled by Burns or Pantelidis in the box. I hope he doesn’t get too badly injured.

        SFC 2 – PG 1.

        • October 26th 2012 @ 2:41pm
          Nathan of Perth said | October 26th 2012 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

          A) Wide play tends to be something of a forte for Glory so I don’t think that wide open spaces are a negative
          B) Don’t be silly, no one is going to foul ADP in the box, that’s for clumsy WSW defenders. No, no. His brittle old man hip isn’t going to survive NEARLY long enough to reach the box 😀

          • October 26th 2012 @ 3:53pm
            pete4 said | October 26th 2012 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

            Rumour doing the rounds Harry Kewell will be unveiled as a Sydney FC signing at ANZ Stadium on Sunday

            • Roar Guru

              October 26th 2012 @ 4:04pm
              Griffo said | October 26th 2012 @ 4:04pm | ! Report


              Emerton, Čulina, Kewell and Del Piero could be quite an attack – on paper as they say.

              Take a while for Kewell to get match fit though…

              • October 26th 2012 @ 4:11pm
                Punter said | October 26th 2012 @ 4:11pm | ! Report

                Sydney FC has denied it.
                Victory has denied it
                Heart has denied it
                WSW has denied it

                Someone is lying.

          • Roar Guru

            October 26th 2012 @ 4:20pm
            Peter Wilson said | October 26th 2012 @ 4:20pm | ! Report

            I’m running a book on how long before Burns fouls ADP – “within a minute of kick off” is the most popular choice so far. 🙂

            • October 26th 2012 @ 5:32pm
              Nathan of Perth said | October 26th 2012 @ 5:32pm | ! Report

              Miller, Thwaites and Pants are no doubt devastated everyone is doubting their ability to reach the old painter first!

    • October 26th 2012 @ 12:21pm
      Nathan of Perth said | October 26th 2012 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

      I’d feel better about Glory getting 2:0 over Sydney if they hadn’t a) been such a bogey side for us and b) if we had Smeltz. We seem to have a tough time figuring out how to attack through the middle if we don’t have Smeltz which allows opposition defences to focus on nullifying the cross.

      Must get ruthless moving up the guts. Seeing a lot of good *ideas* and movements and the like, but we’re just not quite bringing it together yet.

    • Roar Guru

      October 26th 2012 @ 1:03pm
      Griffo said | October 26th 2012 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

      Interesting game tonight. How will Finkler missing affect Victory? Jets press and control midfield will give some welcome back action to Nathan Coe.


      Jets win
      Draw unless Adelaide go raging on 4-3-3 a la ACL
      Roar win, WSW still without a goal
      Mariners win; Heart won’t be able to counter attack effectively or keep out CCM
      Perth win; hope Del Piero doesn’t get too big a knock 😀

      • Columnist

        October 26th 2012 @ 1:39pm
        Tim Palmer said | October 26th 2012 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

        I think Finkler missing might help them be a little more structured in midfield tonight, although if Adelaide do switch to a 4-3-3, as you say, or the touted 4-4-2 diamond formation being floated around by AdelaideNow, then we could be in for a really good game.

    • Columnist

      October 26th 2012 @ 2:33pm
      Tim Palmer said | October 26th 2012 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

      I hate to link-spam but for those who have enjoyed this article, I have an Australian football tactics blog at http://australiascout.wordpress.com

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