Are Sydney FC getting too much respect from the opposition?

Gary Andrews Roar Rookie

By Gary Andrews, Gary Andrews is a Roar Rookie

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14 Have your say

    Respect, as the old saying goes, is earned and not given. Try telling that to Sydney FC’s opponents over the past weeks.

    They’re sitting atop the table yet again but, as head coach Graham Arnold has admitted, they have yet to truly hit the heights of last season – however, they haven’t met an opponent that has truly gone toe-to-toe with them.

    It’s a curious situation. Here is a side that were miserly in defence during their championship season, giving away just 12 goals all season, but have already conceded four while Jordy Buijs and Alex Wilkinson look like a newly-moved in couple still trying to work out who takes control of the TV remote. At the other end of the pitch, last season’s scintillating attack has taken a breather.

    Instead of the dynamic, fast moving, swashbuckling champions, the opening rounds have seen an extra step of caution and even sluggishness in Sydney’s play. Whereas last season the ball was swiftly moved from defence to attack, this season midfielders Josh Brillante, Brandon O’Neill and Alex Brosque have all been guilty of taking an extra touch during build up, while the devastating use of fullbacks has been replaced with a tendency to play through the middle of the park.

    Part of this can be attributed to the loss of Rhyan Grant pre-season. The fullback’s second cruciate ligament injury was a cruel blow, coming off the best season of his career. While the likes of Brosque, Bobo and playmaker Milos Ninkovic caught the plaudits, it was often Grant’s lung-busting runs from fullback that created the extra space for the front three to exploit.

    Yet Grant’s injury alone shouldn’t account for the occasional laboured attacks. Luke Wilkshire has been finding more than enough space on the flank, even accounting for the fact at 36 he’s a little less of an attacker than Grant.

    Against Perth, Wilkshire could have easily bagged a brace, while seeing the veteran net his first goal in nine years against Melbourne City last weekend was one of those moments to bring a smile to the face of all Socceroos fans.

    But City and Perth, like the Wanderers and Melbourne Victory before them, set their stall out to frustrate the reigning A League champions, sitting deep and looking to stifle the supply to Bobo and Ninkovic. And so far, it hasn’t worked.

    Kevin Muscat clearly hadn’t read the definition of insanity, when he tried to repeat the same tactics from last season’s grand final in the Victory’s opener against the Sky Blues. What followed was a turgid game that took an own goal to settle, where neither side remotely looked like scoring.

    For a side that boasts Besart Berisha, Leroy George and James Troisi, that sends a very clear message to the opposition and Muscat’s side have arguably struggled since.

    The Wanderers did a slightly better job a couple of weeks later, when interim coach Hayden Foxe’s setup forced the Sky Blues in-field, cutting the supply to the flanks and crowding out Sydney in the final third. Granted, Western Sydney were helped by some very generous defending by their cross-city rivals for their two goals, but it was a slightly more positive defensive setup than Victory’s opening round display.

    Had it not been a derby match and the Wanderers not conceded a soft, brainless penalty just before half time, then we could have been looking at Sydney’s first loss of the season. As it was, Arnold rallied the team for what has probably been their performance of the season.

    The less said about Perth’s listless, toothless display a week later the better, while Melbourne City have built their season on defensive solidity, and Warren Joyce was unlikely to deviate from his chosen setup that had served City so well all season.

    Josh Brilliante

    (AAP Image/David Moir)

    In fact the only side who have really taken the game to the defending champions are Wellington Phoenix, who are the very definition of inconsistency this season and are just as likely to score three as concede three, as we saw against Brisbane Roar a couple of weeks ago.

    Which brings us back to respect. Phoenix, and perhaps to a lesser extent the Wanderers, haven’t tried to adjust their game to stifle Sydney. The Sky Blues are still, on paper and on the ladder, the best side in the competition, but there are frailties.

    Perhaps mindful of some of last season’s attacking masterclasses, their opponents have tried to sit back and invite Sydney to find a way through, which they invariably do, even if the games themselves won’t stick long in the memory.

    It’s why the next two games against the Mariners and the Jets promise to be a fascinating benchmark of Sydney’s season, which are not words anybody would have anticipated writing last season.

    Paul Okon’s Central Coast have been an enjoyable work in progress this season. They may only have three points to show for it, but it’s not been for lack of trying. They’re unlikely to have enough to beat the league leaders, but they also don’t have the personnel or the system to attempt to smother the game.

    Then a week later, Newcastle travel to the Allianz. Ernie Merrick’s Jets have been a joy to watch this season with some blistering attacking play and lightness of movement that left Wellington looking punch-drunk. While Sydney have toiled their way to the top and Melbourne City have challenged the opposition to break them down, Newcastle have been this season’s entertainers and are unlikely to sit back and invite Bobo and co to break them down.

    Merrick may fail, and indeed fail spectacularly if Sydney click into gear and find their mojo, but the Jets have already earned plenty of respect this season. The Sky Blues, regardless of their league position, still have some way to go in that regard.

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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • November 9th 2017 @ 7:33am
      Waz said | November 9th 2017 @ 7:33am | ! Report

      Living in England it is pretty clear the writer has never seen SFC play ?

      • November 9th 2017 @ 9:25am
        Gary Andrews said | November 9th 2017 @ 9:25am | ! Report

        Hi Waz, I’ve have to every Sydney FC home game this season and watched every away game. I should probably update my bio though.

        • November 9th 2017 @ 9:48am
          Waz said | November 9th 2017 @ 9:48am | ! Report

          Okay, but “swashbuckling” And SFC in the same sentence? yeah but nah ?

          • November 9th 2017 @ 2:58pm
            Gary Andrews said | November 9th 2017 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

            Ha! Last season, there was definitely swashbuckling. This season there’s been a bit of swash and a bit of buckling but the two haven’t quite come together.

    • November 9th 2017 @ 7:45am
      Nemesis said | November 9th 2017 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      The writer obviously didn’t watch the opening match since his recollection & analysis is filled with factually incorrect information.

      1) MV did not sit back against Sydney FC.

      The opening 20 minutes, the game was mainly played in the SydFC half. The next 20 minutes, Sydney got on top. The final 5 minutes it was even

      0-0 at HT.

      The 2nd half the match was played in SydFc’s half – and in the final 20 minutes Sydney rarely moved out of their defensive third. Just constant aimless long balls to Bobo hoping RW or Donachie would slip over when the ball was in the air. In fact, even Graham Arnold admitted his team sat too deep.

      2) Troisi didn’t play the opening match because he was on National Team duty, so to mention him in the analysis is utterly ridiculous.

      3) In the Grand Final last season, Victory scored the opening goal. They didn’t sit back, they got on top right from the start. Sydney scrambled their goal in the 2nd half & won on penalties. Troisi hit the woodwork in Extra Time. Pretty sure Vukovic won MOTM & common sense indicates a GK wins MOTM only if the opposition has created lots of dangerous situations that needed to be saved.

      4) In the 1st half of the Sydney Derby, WSW took SydFC apart – totally demolished them. Then Carney took a dive & the game changed.

      If only SydFC fans would turn up to watch their team in the same numbers that they sit at keyboards writing cheerleading opinion pieces.

      • November 9th 2017 @ 9:36am
        Gary Andrews said | November 9th 2017 @ 9:36am | ! Report

        Hi Nemesis,

        Thanks for commenting. Apologies about the Troisi comment – I was more referring to the fact that Victory have struggled this season. But yes, could have been clearer.

        Interesting you’ve read this as a cheerleading piece. I’ve actually not been overly impressed with Sydney this season, and I’m honestly not sure if it’s because they haven’t got out of first gear or the opposition is paying them too much respect. I’d tend towards the latter, and I’m really fascinated to see how they handle a side that really goes for it against them, as I don’t think they’ve been tested yet. They’re certainly looked shakier without Vukovic.

        Re: the Victory games, I honestly saw Muscat’s tactics as trying to stifle Sydney rather than play a more natural game – it only worked up to a point. Both games were a pretty turgid spectacle though.

        I’d agree the Wanderers were good in the first half v Sydney – as the piece says, I thought they had their tactics spot on, albeit helped with very generous defending from Sydney (which last season I don’t think the Sky Blues would have conceded – maybe that’s down to a different goalkeeper…). But the Wanderers only had two shots on target during the game, and retreated a little in the second half to hang on for the lead, which again was a little more respect than perhaps Sydney deserved that day, as they were pretty poor in the first half.

        I agree there’s an issue with attendances at Sydney – and across most of the A League, but that’s a different topic for a different day. Every game I’ve been to at the Allianz this season, though, hasn’t exactly been a vintage performance. Second half v the Wanderers was probably the best of the bunch.

        • November 9th 2017 @ 10:10am
          Nemesis said | November 9th 2017 @ 10:10am | ! Report

          Thanks for the reply, Gary.

          I guess we have different views of that opening game. But, I think every report I’ve read observed that SydFC were camped in their defensive 1/3rd of the park after they got the own goal.

          No harm in that, Syd can do what they want & they won.
          But Syd didn’t dominate the game & MV didn’t sit back in the MV half.

          That’s just factually incorrect.

          • November 9th 2017 @ 1:47pm
            BrafDeakins said | November 9th 2017 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

            Anything you say counts for nothing as you are wasting your time without holding the relevant qualifications as a football manager.

            You represent the standard “FIFA-Playstation fanboy” demographic.

          • November 9th 2017 @ 3:01pm
            Gary Andrews said | November 9th 2017 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

            Funnily enough, I think we’re both arguing the same point here, but from different angles. I don’t think Sydney dominated the Victory game at all. What I did see was a Victory side who were set up to spoil Sydney’s game, but struggled when it came to implementing a plan beyond stopping the opposition. And I’m not sure Sydney quite deserved that respect. As soon as they went 1-0 up, it was inevitable they would drop deep. Had it not been for the own goal, I think 0-0 would have been a fair result in that game.

    • November 9th 2017 @ 1:00pm
      Midfielder said | November 9th 2017 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

      South Gosford FC or the Flying Circus will loose on Friday night.

    • November 9th 2017 @ 7:34pm
      Lionheart said | November 9th 2017 @ 7:34pm | ! Report

      Gary, you should be aware that writers on this tab share the name that submariners give to surface ships in navies across the globe.

    • November 9th 2017 @ 11:08pm
      Midfielder said | November 9th 2017 @ 11:08pm | ! Report

      I dislike SFC move than any other team except MV… they are going down down down this week

    • Roar Guru

      November 9th 2017 @ 11:56pm
      Cousin Claudio said | November 9th 2017 @ 11:56pm | ! Report

      We deserve respect.
      Only beaten once in 38 games to a bad refereeing decision.

      • November 11th 2017 @ 7:28pm
        Josh said | November 11th 2017 @ 7:28pm | ! Report

        Hilarious. Outplayed outfought but generous refereeing has seen wins that should have been losses.

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