Tom Rogic must turn up against Thailand

Evan Morgan Grahame Columnist

By Evan Morgan Grahame, Evan Morgan Grahame is a Roar Expert

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    The Socceroos trudged off the pitch in Saitama last Thursday, crestfallen and soundly beaten, having offered up a performance against the Japanese that barely flickered.

    Of course, the 2-0 defeat exposed a handful of tangible issues that, in the depressing aftermath, throbbed luminously, demanding to be addressed: Brad Smith’s damaging inclusion, Robbie Kruse’s impotence as a central striker, and Mat Ryan’s highly questionable short passing are just a few.

    But perhaps most concerning was the manner in which Tom Rogic waned, a semi-transparent version of himself, a wispy echo of our most talented attacker, shimmering only briefly into relevance before fading away completely.

    Rogic was substituted 70 minutes into the Japan defeat, and departed the field having had 41 touches – a total that would end up being fewer than that of all of his starting XI colleagues, fewer even than James Troisi, who had been substituted ten minutes before Rogic.

    Rogic also attempted the fewest passes of the Australian starting XI, and at the second-worst rate of accuracy. According to the FFA match stats, he made no successful dribbles, and had just two shots, only one of which was on target.

    Clearly – and keeping in mind the high-scoring brief the Roos have set themselves for the Thailand game – this sort of ineffectual turn cannot be repeated. Attacking coherence will be the most important factor; the Thais are already out of qualifying contention, and it would not surprise anyone to see them set up specifically to avoid an embarrassing blowout defeat.

    Thai pride, the only thing left for them to play for, will be protected by a packed defence, and if Rogic, the Australian player most able to ignite a fine attacking performance, wallows in irrelevance again, a gruelling third-placed playoff beckons ominously.

    Obviously, Tom Rogic is at his best with the ball at his feet. Unlike, say, Matt Leckie – whose pace makes him a dangerous off-the-ball threat at all times – Rogic is not as effective away from the action. His pace is average, he has no leap to speak of, and he isn’t the most laterally agile.

    What he does have, crucially and delightfully, is an ability to dribble – honed on the now nationally under-funded futsal court – under extreme pressure, a foot skill that pairs beautifully with his penchant for suddenly shooting with devastating power and accuracy.

    We saw a glimpse of how elegantly he can negotiate tight spaces with the ball at his feet at the beginning of the Japan game, switching the ball from one foot to the other, feinting, hooking the ball with the instep, having drawn three opponents, Rogic nearly releases a teammate, only for the pass to be picked off.

    This moment, of course, came during the frenetic early phase, before Japan receded back into the stolid defensive formation they took up for the bulk of the contest. Space was a little more available then, and as the match wore on, it became clear that the Japanese weren’t just going to allow Rogic to flourish unmolested in dangerous central areas.

    More than half of Rogic’s successful passes in that game were hit from his inside-right position out to Leckie on the wing. Japan were actively forcing Australia out to the wings, confident as they were in Maya Yoshida and Hiroki Sakai’s ability to out-muscle and out-jump the out-of-position Kruse in the air.

    The two Australian wing-backs’ crossing was consistently poor in any case, so for Rogic to spend so much of his time on the ball enabling a strategy that the opponents were largely untroubled by – not to mention were actively encouraging Australia to continue – is tantamount to spending at least good hour engaging in inconsequential thumb-twiddling. A waste, suffice it to say, of Rogic’s arsenal of skills.

    It seems Rogic has trouble imposing his will on a game when the going gets tough. In Scotland, playing for a juggernaut club that tends to keep an iron vice-grip on the domestic competitions, he tends to thrive when fit, enjoying the increased space and time that comes when you’re part of a team other clubs fear and respect.

    It’s almost as if he’s softened because of this, or at least has become too accustomed to the good life. He can saunter up and strike a howitzer from the edge of the box when teams give him the space – like they did here playing for Celtic.

    But if he’s marked tight, bullied, and denied the freedom to work in, then he tends to flake away.

    Ange Postecoglou’s team went into halftime a goal down to Japan, and really the Roos manager should have made changes then, designed specifically to revive Rogic’s dwindling involvement.

    Perhaps removing Jackson Irvine, and dropping Rogic back into midfield in search of time and space? Perhaps removing Kruse and sending on Tomi Juric or Tim Cahill earlier, so that Rogic might have had more time to play off a natural, anchored central striker? Perhaps bringing on a centre back and moving Mark Milligan up into midfield, whose passing might have aided in bringing Rogic back into the fold?

    Obviously the passing of Aaron Mooy was sorely missed, and would surely have linked Rogic more closely to the build-up play. But once Mooy’s condition was confirmed to be too poor to be involved, then the reverberations that rippled out from his absence should have been mitigated for. Irvine’s distribution is, based on the evidence against Japan, not an adequate replacement for Mooy; Irvine’s role in the second Japanese goal, losing possession, adds further testament to this.

    Rogic is a special talent, but he’s a player qho relies so much on his teammates – and, to perhaps an equal extent, the opposition – creating a favourable footballing environment for him.

    He is a bespoke part, a delicate, high-spec component that cannot just be thrown into any old machine and expected to function properly.

    It’s Postecoglou who is most responsible for creating these conducive conditions, certainly from a systemic perspective, but some responsibility must also be laid on Rogic himself.

    His country needs him desperately tonight against Thailand, and he has to answer the call.

    Evan Morgan Grahame
    Evan Morgan Grahame

    Evan Morgan Grahame is a Melbourne-based journalist. Gleaning what he could from his brief career as a painter, the canvas of the football pitch is now his subject of contemplation, with the beautiful game sketching new, intriguing compositions every week. He has been one of The Roar's Expert columnists since 2016. Follow him on Twitter @Evan_M_G.

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    The Crowd Says (64)

    • Roar Rookie

      September 5th 2017 @ 5:48am
      Stevo said | September 5th 2017 @ 5:48am | ! Report

      Evan, your description of Rogic is one of a luxury player. Nice when the going is good but not somebody that’s going to impose themselves when the team needs to drag itself out of a hole.

      • September 5th 2017 @ 7:02am
        Kurt said | September 5th 2017 @ 7:02am | ! Report

        Except the game against KSA where he came out in the second half and played out of his skin

        • September 5th 2017 @ 8:17am
          Pauly said | September 5th 2017 @ 8:17am | ! Report

          Perhaps KSA are more akin to non-Old Firm SPL sides than Japan.

      • September 5th 2017 @ 8:30am
        Nemesis said | September 5th 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

        Pretty sure Tommy Rogic was the only Aussie player to turn up against Germany when they were smashing us in the opening game of the Confed Cup.

        If fact, he was the only player who looked the equal of his German opponents.

        • Roar Rookie

          September 5th 2017 @ 3:50pm
          Stevo said | September 5th 2017 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

          Would have loved him turning up to the Japan game where we needed him far more than the confed cup games.

          • September 5th 2017 @ 4:07pm
            Nemesis said | September 5th 2017 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

            Yes, that’s the lament of every football fan on the planet. I’m sure the Argentinian fans would love Leo Messi & Sergio Aguero turning up every time they play for the national team.

            I’m sure the Portuguese would love CR7 turning up every time he plays for the national team.

            There is no footballer on the planet who turns up every big match. They’re human. Not robots.

    • September 5th 2017 @ 7:15am
      Sriracha said | September 5th 2017 @ 7:15am | ! Report

      Tom Rogic = Really overrated footballer. Playing for a successful club in a terrible Scottish Premier League inflates his value and he was overpowered by the Japanese midfield.

      Leckie and Juric more vital in attack

    • September 5th 2017 @ 7:52am
      Waz said | September 5th 2017 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      Just Tommy lol??

    • September 5th 2017 @ 8:05am
      Fadida said | September 5th 2017 @ 8:05am | ! Report

      Interesting that Mooy’s absence is described as a major loss in every article I have read. We have played, what 6 games in this new formation, and there has been 1 excellent one with the other 5 on a very poor to below average continuum. The one excellent one was v Chile, the best opponent. The lineup as without both Mooy and Rogic.

      Mooy is without doubt our most talented midfielder but his form for the national team in the last year has been poor. Had be been fit for the Japan game there must have been a question mark over his selection.

      Rogic,as you say, does rely on players around him. He plays in a weak, one horse domestic league where his team dominate opponents who sit deep and limit damage. Japan are a better opponent than any side he plays domestically. He is a luxury player, and against good opposition there’s an argument for starting him from the bench, coming on when the game is more open.

    • September 5th 2017 @ 9:10am
      Caltex TEN & SBS support Australian Football said | September 5th 2017 @ 9:10am | ! Report

      Mooy, will be the key man for me for this match and he must play further up in the front third just sitting behind and combining with Cahill, Rogic and Juric. Mooy, is also a goal scorer and I expect him to get on the goal sheet as well with the dead ball (free kicks) or setting up our strikers. I hope Ange stays with Irvine and Luongo as our defensive halves as they provide the energy and the ability to run down opposing attackers and make important interceptions, they are our engine room, which they proved to be in that game against Chile. You can only trust Milligan and Sainsbury to patrol the centre (CB positions) as they are our best last ditch defenders. I am going to put Spira just sitting in front of these two for his height and vision, also to push forward with the ball to feed our attacking forward midfielders. My team: 3 – 2 – 3 – 2


      Milligan – Sainsbury


      Irvine – – – – Luongo

      Leckie – Mooy – Rogic

      Cahill – Juric

      • September 5th 2017 @ 9:19am
        Fadida said | September 5th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        I’m confused. I assume as you have a back 3 you’ll have Leckie as a right WB. Who is left? Rogic? Is it the plan to play the world’s narrowest formation with no wing backs and no width?

        Please explain

        • September 5th 2017 @ 10:08am
          Caltex TEN & SBS support Australian Football said | September 5th 2017 @ 10:08am | ! Report

          Fad – Look at the typed names as if they are centred on the page. (not ranged left) I can’t get the web to centre the names properly.

          Yes, it’s a back three, but not a flat back three; Spira, can play forward a bit more to make a triangle with Millsy and Sainsbury, or can drop back further at times to play as a sweeper to the two centre backs.

          Leckie and Rogic, are my deep lying wingers, who can either go wider to the touch line to receive the ball and attack the opposition’s full backs, or get in close to Mooy to play combinations.

          When Rogic and Leckie, are out wide they can get to the by line, or cut inside of the defenders and attack the goal.

          Mooy, is to sit in the hole in the middle, working triangles, with Cahill and Juric; Cahill and Juric, are twin strikers and target men, in and around the box, or moving side to side allowing Mooy, when on the ball, he can also push up with it, to attack the goal.

          This also allows Mooy, (if there is a hole between the opposing CBs) to play wall passes to either Cahill or Juric, to get through the centre channel, to attack the goal if the opportunity arises.

          • September 5th 2017 @ 11:13am
            Fadida said | September 5th 2017 @ 11:13am | ! Report

            I see merit in some of your thoughts Caltex. The Thais would lick their lips at the thought of Rogic having responsibility for the entire left side though! He’s no wide player.
            Mooy and Luongo at the base of a midfield diamond with Rogic at the top if we are trying to shoehorn them in.

            • September 5th 2017 @ 12:19pm
              Caltex TEN & SBS support Australian Football said | September 5th 2017 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

              “The Thais would lick their lips at the thought of Rogic having responsibility for the entire left side though!” What? Rogic, will have Luongo, Spiranovic and Sainsbury, defending behind him and will not be required to defend deep into our half. Only to track back and cover for gaps. I want Rogic forward and running at defenders that’s where he does his best work for Celtic.

              • September 5th 2017 @ 12:47pm
                Fadida said | September 5th 2017 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

                You’re linjng up without a left side defender. Smith was a disaster, despite having “Luongo,, Sainsbury and Spiranovic behind him”. You are playing 3 at the back, 3 central players (arguably 2 if Spira plays in”front” as you suggest). We have been a defensive shambles and how you want to weaken it further? With your system the Thais simply need to attack the fullback areas.

                Let’s not put a win down as a given. The first step is to put out a team that can play well and win. The second is to go for goals. The Thais are no easy beats.

                I agree Rogic is best running at defenders. What he doesn’t do is provide anything defensively. Your system leaves us so open, which we have been already!

              • September 5th 2017 @ 1:25pm
                Caltex TEN & SBS support Australian Football said | September 5th 2017 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

                Sainsbury, is my left sided defender, when he moves across to cut off a wide attacking player, Spiranovic and Luongo, dropping back inside of Sainsbury to cover when that occurs that gives you four across the back with Rogic tracking back as well.

                Let’s not forget I have five defending players with Irvine a defensive midfielder moving across more to the centre for move cover when the opposition is attacking down our left side, but I don’t expect them to be on the front foot however, as they will be defending against our front third pressing hard, with us holding more possession (70%) then the Thais.

              • September 5th 2017 @ 2:02pm
                Fadida said | September 5th 2017 @ 2:02pm | ! Report

                We had the same bodies in defensive positions v Japan, plus a left wing back, and were still cut apart, and you’re suggesting doing away with the left wing back? Rogic provides zero defensive cover.

                The Thais will clearly play on the back foot and look to hurt us in transition. To play a you suggest is akin to throwing out a welcome mat

              • September 5th 2017 @ 2:14pm
                Caltex TEN & SBS support Australian Football said | September 5th 2017 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

                Fad – we need goals, we can’t sit back and just protect our goal. We have to defend and press in the front third. And score 3 goals at least to survive the goal difference. The Thais are rated 130 in the FIFA rankings and we are 48. So, let’s go at them and get those goals to advance by throwing numbers forward. As I have said we have your back four when we have to defend with player cover and movement.

              • September 5th 2017 @ 3:22pm
                Fadida said | September 5th 2017 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

                I disagree Caltex, and so will Ange. Throwing caution to the wind will as likely end up costing us a goal in transition and upset the team balance. Playing without a player in a defensive capacity on the left will be suicide.

                How did the rankings affect the last result between the 2 sides? It was 2-2 I recall

              • September 5th 2017 @ 5:26pm
                Caltex TEN & SBS support Australian Football said | September 5th 2017 @ 5:26pm | ! Report

                There was no chance of us playing our football on that Thai home ground surface.

                Yes it was 2-2 playing away on a wet soaked cow paddock ankle deep in sticky mud and the Thais needed to win to keep up with the leaders and so they had an incentive to get a result.

                This time the Thais have nothing to play for and we are at home all to play for on a near perfect fast surface, which is going to suit our high pressing, pressured football game. And at the end of the day, we need to chase those goals to get that goal average up.

    • September 5th 2017 @ 9:54am
      mattq said | September 5th 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

      i’d like to see Rogic be the one to make way for Mooy. Luongo to me was the only shining player against Japan. Irvine needs to step up and I think Trioisi can offer something against the Thais. I don’t mind us leading the line with one striker but it has to be Cahill. We need to score early and multiple times. I’d hate for us to be one up or nil all with 20 mins to go and bringing timmy on hoping he can bag a couple in that short timeframe. We have to go for it from the beginning and punish early.

      • September 5th 2017 @ 10:03am
        Benji said | September 5th 2017 @ 10:03am | ! Report

        Football is very lucky to have Ange as he is a quality guy. The usual knockers will appear (as happened to other national team the Wallabies) but he is doing well with the team he has. I cant wait for the usual naysayers who will leap on him for using the term Loony bin in an interview which is an old term but I’m sure Ange will have association with people who have mental issues and he would be the last person to make light of it.

        • September 5th 2017 @ 10:08am
          Fadida said | September 5th 2017 @ 10:08am | ! Report

          The team has gone backwards over the last 2 years. Results and performances are absolute proof of this.

          I’d like you to show how he has “done well with the team he has”, given they are on the verge of missing direct qualification. As reigning Asian champions.

          • September 5th 2017 @ 10:23am
            Caltex TEN & SBS support Australian Football said | September 5th 2017 @ 10:23am | ! Report

            They have only lost one game. Tonight I expect them to score a bag full of goals.

            • September 5th 2017 @ 10:39am
              Caltex TEN & SBS support Australian Football said | September 5th 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report

              To add we will keep a clean sheet.

            • September 5th 2017 @ 11:18am
              Fadida said | September 5th 2017 @ 11:18am | ! Report

              You can be unbeaten and still not qualify…

      • September 5th 2017 @ 10:03am
        Fadida said | September 5th 2017 @ 10:03am | ! Report

        Cahill looked like an old man against Japan. He had jelly legs. Juric has to start with Cahill to come on late against tired legs to maximise his impact. Rogic arguably likewise.

      • Roar Guru

        September 5th 2017 @ 1:41pm
        Griffo said | September 5th 2017 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

        It was probably the impact that the likes of Smith didn’t have that Luongo went relatively unnoticed…I’d agree that he didn’t have a bad game either.

        I suspect both ‘weapons’ in Rogic and Mooy will start together, but if that is at the expense of Luongo – Player of the Asian Cup 2015 – then it is not so much an embarrassment of riches but perhaps not utilising you attacking talent at the right moments.

        Rogic may do better coming on in the second half and having and impact like he has before.

        Mooy I don’t see coming off for a Cahill start but he should be able to have a greater impact…is needing to, I’d say.

        Possible that Troisi will be the one to miss out here if we try for a Mooy Rogic Luongo combination as well as including Irvine…

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