A-League review: Jakob Poulsen has a shocker, Graham Arnold's Clone Wars
It's Monday. Here's the good, bad and ugly from Round 2 in the A-League.
Poulsen and Victory's play gifts game to WSW
One could have smelled the stench of Jakob Poulsen's performance on Friday night at Marvel Stadium from out in Melbourne's suburbs.
There were two moments that summed it all up in Melbourne Victory's 2-1 loss to the Western Sydney Wanderers, both at an individual level and how it impacted the collective. The first was in the 27th minute, after Elvis Kamsoba had won Victory a free kick in the defensive half. Corey Brown was waiting for play to happen in front of him, and it simply didn't. Leigh Broxham and Kristijan Dobras fail to manipulate defensive positions, too, but it was Poulsen's inert movement that covered Brown's options to both Broxham and Thomas Deng, forcing the defender to simply hoof the ball to Ola Toivonen. Logically, nothing comes from that passage, despite 20 metres separating the Wanderers midfield and defensive lines.
Then there was the Dane's role in Keanu Baccus' opener for the Wanderers. Failing to cover Mohamed Adam initially, Poulsen dawdles back after being nutmegged, leaving Broxham isolated to pressure the ball. As the Wanderers approach goal, he lags behind play but then -- to make it look like he's defending -- the 36-year-old breaks out of a light jog to put numbers into the penalty area. By doing so, however, he makes the defence to collapse, giving Baccus freedom to shoot from the top of the penalty area. It was a fine effort from Baccus, but the manner in which the Victory had to scramble was a consequence of Poulsen's lax defensive effort.
Crucially, it took the Victory 31 minutes to have a shot on target, and within a pass of winning the ball for good measure. Is the problem Poulsen's fitness, the unavailability of Tim Hoogland and Robbie Kruse, or the nature of attacking play under Marco Kurz?
At this stage, it could be all three.
Diet Arnie-ball vs. Arnie-ball Zero
The A-League can be a copycat league even at the best of times.
However, on Sunday night, two of Graham Arnold's proteges -- Sydney FC boss Steve Corica and his Wellington Phoenix counterpart Ufuk Talay -- even dressed the same, down to the lapel pin.
It was the blurst of times.
Despite their offseason additions of Luke Brattan, Alexander Baumjohann and Kosta Barbarouses, Sydney will likely maintain a high variance in effectiveness between attacking in transition and attacking against an embedded defence. Meanwhile, Wellington will face the same problems, just with less capable players on the whole, irrespective of Gary Hooper's signing.
Four of the five substitutions in the final 10 minutes of the game, following Rhyan Grant's rather nice eventual winner, was just the cherry on top.
Western United's tempo
Saturday afternoon at Kardinia Park saw starting XIs with the two highest average ages for the round, with Western United at 31.8 and Perth Glory at 30.7.
Nevertheless, they produced the best football of the round too, and that primarily had to do with Western United. Perth Glory streeted the regular season last term by containing and waiting to pounce defensively, before transitioning quickly and punishing. A fundamental flaw of such a plan: How effective can it be when coming up against a competent passing team, that can get out of pressure and play through the middle?
Against Wellington Phoenix last weekend, and in the 1-1 draw with Perth on Saturday, the games were played at Western United's liking. They dictated the terms of both matches, and it's going to be very interesting to see how opposition teams adjust in coming weeks.
While there were a number of tactical fouls, the manner in which United could affect the pace of the game was distinct. Because it was also achieved through their ability to move the ball methodically as a collective, keeping the ball while also penetrating, while limiting opportunities for the opposition to spring into transition to a minimum.
Not starting Simon
Views on Central Coast's Matt Simon can fluctuate between cult figure and persona non grata, depending on which team one supports in the A-League. There's something to be said in the fact the 33-year-old striker, after over a decade of play sandwiching his spell in South Korea, has tallied more yellow cards than goals in the A-League.
Individuals can provide certain intangible qualities that become pivotal for a collective, but that becomes a tougher discussion to have when one's already marginal impact on a game wanes further with age.
Jordan Murray's hamstring injury was the turning point the Mariners' 1-1 draw with Newcastle on Saturday: Central Coast's ability to keep the ball in the opposition half was significantly affected following the interval and, despite the controversy surrounding Dimi Petratos' equaliser for the Jets, it was coming all the same.
Mariners coach Alen Stajcic looks intent on attacking and defending a certain way and if Murray misses further games, how he responds could determine Simon's playing future.
The pre-final standoff
Adelaide United and Melbourne City will face each other for the second time in four days in Wednesday's FFA Cup final.
With one game realistically meaning more than the other, it creates a situation where coaches or teams don't want to show their hands early. A similar situation occurred in NPL Victoria this season between Hume City and Melbourne Knights. These kind of things can happen, and it leads to an inert feel to the league match as a consequence -- just as it did in City's 2-1 win over the Reds on Sunday.
Along with Ryan Strain's suspension, niggling injuries to Jordan Elsey, George Blackwood and Mirko Boland meant only four players on the bench for the Reds at AAMI Park. Ben Halloran's illness seemed conspicuous.
Squad rotation is a normal occurrence in football, but largely playing one game a week does not make it a necessity in the A-League. Trying to avoid these kinds of scenarios with rescheduling would ultimately become a needless over complication, but it does leave some matches lacking a fair bit of oomph. Bring on the FFA Cup final!