Ernie Merrick, Marco Kurz and now, after a prolonged period of suffering for the Western Sydney Wanderers, Markus Babbel.
In the end, given the consistently disappointing performances and results, Babbel’s sacking was inevitable. The Wanderers should be credited for sticking with the German for as long as they did instead of making any kneejerk reactions.
It didn’t work out, though, and now it will be up to promoted coach Jean-Paul de Marigny to fix this Western Sydney side. Here are three simple things De Marigny will need to turn things around, with stats provided by Wyscout.
Get better at attacking and defending
This is an obvious one, but it’s easier said than done.
The Wanderers are tied at the bottom with Central Coast Mariners for goals scored per 90 minutes, with both teams failing to score at least once a game on average.
The underlying stats are a bit nicer but still paint a damning picture. Their expected goals (xG) tally predicts that they should have scored 17.58 goals, three more than they actually have, but that is still second-last in the league.
This means that under Babbel the Wanderers struggled to create high-quality chances frequently enough to be a serious threat on the attacking front. It is no surprise that the Wanderers have the lowest accuracy rate when it comes to hitting the target from their shots, with only 29.7 per cent even heading towards goal.
On the defensive end of the field things are not much better.
While they have conceded 21 goals so far this season, the seventh-best in the league, the xG numbers say that they should be the ninth best, with only the Mariners and Adelaide United below them.
While the Wanderers don’t concede too many shots – only 11.31 every match – the ones they do concede are high-quality chances, especially when it came to set pieces. The Wanderers’ poor marking meant that opponents regularly found themselves free in dangerous positions.
Get the best out of the players
On paper, I thought the Wanderers had a side capable of competing for top four or perhaps even higher if things went really well.
The now departed Alexander Meier went just as badly as it possibly could have. The ageing striker lacked the physical endurance to make an impact on games. Although he trained hard and definitely didn’t see Australia as a free pay cheque, it raises questions about the scouting of Babbel and the Western Sydney team that they thought he might still be able to perform.
Injuries undoubtedly played a part – the whole defence had to be restructured, with Daniel Wilmering unexpectedly stepping up to the plate, while Radosław Majewski’s ruptured ACL was a huge setback too.
Nevertheless, there should be enough talent in the squad to be competitive at the very least.
Nicolai Muller’s role in the team has been confusing. Is he a goalscoring midfielder? A creative playmaker? A forward looking to give the team width? Giving the German some consistency in terms of where he plays will be an important decision for De Marigny to make.
Wanderers captain Mitchell Duke has been by far the best player in the team, but it still feels like there is more to come from him. He has shown his intelligence to find space in the box and make the most of his chances, but he does have the potential to create opportunities for his team as well.
The arrival of striker Simon Cox is another unknown quantity arriving on Australian shores. The Irishman was a rotation player at Southend United in England’s League One but hasn’t played any competitive football in over a month.
If De Marigny can get their new signing firing, it would go a long way in solving their problems up front.
Creating a coherent system for the team to play
To get the best out of the players, though, De Marigny will need to figure out a system that best suits the qualities of his squad.
This is where Babbel royally screwed things up, especially this season. While the Wanderers finished last season with a back three and practiced it during the preseason, they ditched it due to injuries and never reconsidered it when things were going pear-shaped.
It reportedly caused confusion among the players and it showed on the pitch. Very rarely did it look like the Wanderers had a plan for how to take the ball from one side of the field to the other.
So are Western Sydney going to be a side that is happy to relinquish possession, preferring to control the space and attack in transition? Or will they want to dominate the opposition by holding the ball and patiently wait for an opening to strike?
These are the types of questions De Marigny will have to find answers for if he wants to bring his team back from the nadir of Western Sydney’s past few years.
Although this all sounds very simple, that is where the Wanderers need to start from. This next few months should be about getting the squad to understand the basics with the next coach then able to implement his own vision next season.