It’s the time of the year when clubs look towards the home stretch of the season and The Football Sack critiques each club’s progress so far.

Do you agree with our assessments made in the return of our January report cards?

Semester Summary: After six seasons in the W-League a place in the finals still eludes Western Sydney Wanderers. It seems a finish within the top four may slip away once again from the Red and Black who after eight games have come away with just two wins and now teeter precariously close to the bottom of the ladder with only three points separating them from last place Adelaide United.

Frustratingly for the Wanderers four of their five losses have been decided upon a single goal margin and after the round nine stoppage time loss to Melbourne City any hopes of a late season turnaround came to a grinding halt.

Areas of Excellence: Despite their current ladder position Western Sydney Wanderers have proven to be a well structured defensive team who boast urgency at the back. The rearguard lead by W-League veteran and captain Ellie Brush have done well in keeping tabs on some of the more rampant attacking teams in the competition. Just 11 goals have been put past the Wanderers this season which means only leaders Brisbane Roar have conceded more with 9.

The addition of Dutch defender Maruschka Waldus along with the re-signing of Alix Roberts and Alexandra Huynh has also contributed to a solid defence. The Wanderers midfield has also shown promise in shifting the ball effectively to the front and the experienced Erica Halloway has proven that the side are capable of pulling off well worked team goals. The Wanderers two wins have been in convincing displays over Adelaide United however they have failed to extend these performances to tougher opponents.

Areas of Improvement: With just seven goals scored so far finishing chances has been a huge issue for the Wanderers this season. Coach Richard Byrne has spent most of this season venting his frustration of his side’s inability to put away the chances following the build-up.

Lapses in defence during the end of the second half have also cost the Wanderers on several occasions. In many games this season the Wanderers have looked poised to clinch a hard fought draw only to be edged out by a solitary error at the back, as seen in games against Melbourne City and Newcastle Jets earlier in the season. The Wanderers struggle to do the same at the other end, and currently have the poorest conversion rate in the W-League.

Top Students: Lo’eau Labonta has been the standout performer this season for Western Sydney Wanderers. The former FC Kansas midfielder has been pulling the strings in the middle of the park all season and is undoubtedly the squad’s most skillful player with the ball at her feet. Labonta is most dangerous when dribbling and cutting past players and has brought some much needed flair to the Wanderers midfield. With talented set pieces and ability to test goalkeepers from range Labonta is by far the best addition to the Wanderers this season.

An honorable mention must be given to goalkeeper Jada Mathyssen Whyman whose athletic and dynamic saves have provided the Wanderers with countless lifelines this season. Whyman was selected earlier in the year for the young Matilda’s AFC Championship squad and the teenager has continued to provide impressive performances for the Wanderers playing an integral role far beyond her years suggest.

Class Clown: It is difficult to pin the downfall of the Wanderers this season on a single player however the distinct lack of goals provided by strikers is proving to be a greater cause for concern than the team’s defensive errors. Rosie Sutton plays the traditional striker role for the Wanderers with Marlous Pieete and Erica Halloway slotting into the wider positions and supplying the crosses. Sutton has been somewhat profligate with her chances this season which may be the reason behind Richard Byrne twice choosing to substitute the striker during her four appearances this season.

Grade: D

Outlook

The outlook does not look bright for Western Sydney Wanderers this season. With four games left to play and at least nine additional points required for a place in the top four they must win at least three to keep their final contention dreams alive.

Clashes with Perth Glory and Sydney FC for their last two games of the season mean the Wanderers will not be gifted with an easy end to their 2017/18 campaign. However a win in the Sydney derby may at least provide some consolation after their 3-1 shellacking the last time the rivals met.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the Wanderers who have shown that at times and with some minor tweaking they are a side capable of contending with the best. Richard Byrne did well in his selection of overseas talent and allowed plenty of game time for the younger prospects to shine. However with some tough games left to play expect the Wanderers to play with heart without a result to match.

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Bachelor of Journalism student from the University of Wollongong, covering Western Sydney Wanderers for the 2017/18 season.