While Markus Babbel finds himself in the firing line after three straight defeats, it’s slightly quieter on the other western front.
Western United have been the most exciting side during the infancy of the 2019-20 A-League season.
The new boys have not come to make up the numbers, finding themselves in the heady position of second, their 2-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers taking them above their opponents due to superior goal difference.
The Geelong outfit has success stories both on and off the pitch: manager Mark Rudan has constructed a fine attacking side, energetic and breathless in transitions; veteran striker Scott McDonald has belied his 36 years with his hunger for goals and strong movement; Australian international Josh Risdon has made the right-hand side of the pitch his own, his aggressive and confident running constantly providing an outlet.
One person, however, has stood out even above those three.
Alessandro Diamanti arrived in the transfer window as a marquee signing and has certainly lived up to his billing. The Italian has been a joy to behold, a classic playmaker, getting those around him to look better.
His display against Western Sydney was a masterclass in passing. Diamanti’s left foot seemed to unlock the defence at will, spraying creative through-balls across the pitch that no other player could have dreamt up.
Marquee signings have a chequered history. Consider the case of Diamanti’s countryman Andrea Pirlo: the midfielder moved to the Major League Soccer to join New York City FC in 2015 but aged 36 – the same age as Diamanti now – he often looked overwhelmed by the athleticism surrounding him.
There were flashes of his outstanding ability, certainly – the occasional stunning assist or floated pass – but more often than not, Pirlo gave the impression of a spectator, the game flying past him from his fixed, deep-midfield position.
And this is what has been noticeable in Diamanti’s performances so far – the effort and passion.
Several incidents on Saturday found him remonstrating as only Italians do at the referee or utilising his wily experience to retain possession and gain fouls for his team when under pressure.
At other moments, Diamanti was laughing and joking with his manager and teammates, an affable and relaxing presence – qualities that are vital in a captain.
It’s early in the season, granted, but the signs are only positive.
There’s also the sense that Diamanti has more to gain than Pirlo did. While his contemporary won it all – a World Cup, two Champions League titles, numerous Scudettos – Diamanti’s only club achievement of note was a Chinese Super League medal in 2014; differing levels, considerably.
The A-League, then, represents a golden opportunity for the player to achieve a title in the swansong of his career.
It’s completely refreshing to witness foreign arrivals coming to Australia not just for a holiday.
Western United may not emerge triumphant by the end of the season but with Diamanti’s left foot guiding them, they’ll be a joy to watch regardless.