Sydney Board Caught In Possession

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Just nine rounds into the Hyundai A-League season and Sydney FC have had what some pundits are calling the start from hell. Sydney being winless, having near misses and seemingly perpetual bad luck have been the themes of the punditry in the Australian press.

Unfortunately the real story has not yet been told. The reason for Sydney FC’s woes are off the park again.

What mindless recounting of score line doesn’t tell you immediately is that beyond the winless streak is a reason why Sydney have at no time this season been able to push on and win a game.

The Sky Blues, with the exception of their first Adelaide encounter at home in which they were outplayed comprehensively, have looked very capable of mixing it with any team in the league.

Mixing it, though, is not how you win games, leagues and cups. Where the game is being lost is in the depth of the squad.

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Quite simply, the Sydney FC board has, to adopt the footballing vernacular, been caught in possession.

The Cove were mourning the loss of former Socceroos Clint Bolton, Simon Colosimo, Steve Corica and John Aloisi in addition to former Slovak international Karol Kisel.

Fans knew the loss would be fourfold.

Firstly: a loss of a leadership group which effectively ran the game on the pitch with a level of understanding that could only be learnt with 20 years playing together at the top of the Australian game.

Secondly: The spine of the side was manifest in everything Sydney FC delivered on the pitch. A formidable defensive combination of the technicians and communicators of the Sky Blue side in Bolton and Colosimo. These two were so often the last line of defence deep into matches Sydney were looking good to win. Kisel, Corica and Aloisi were the keys to Sydney’s creativity and so often unlocked killer passes or provided assured touches on the edge of the area for Bridge and Brosque.

Thirdly: The greenness of existing youngsters would mean that new combinations would take time to develop. Undeniably possessing talent and massive potential, Kofi Danning, Rhyan Grant and Brendan Gan really needed one more season under the tutelage of the leadership group of ex-Socceroos to be considered viable replacements for the title defence.

Fourthly: The effect of this non-decision by the Sydney FC Board was amplified by decisions to shed Chris Payne and Iain Ramsay who have provided so much to the A-League this year. This has lead to no attacking depth which has meant that there has been no competition for places and having three defenders on the bench in the last two matches.

Competition for places is what makes good sides into league winners. Players who play out of their skin are rewarded with starts and greatness is incentivised. As it currently stands up to three starting Sydney players are in big form slumps and will more than likely be on the park in the A-League derby against Melbourne Victory on Sautrday 16 October at Etihad Stadium. For completeness these are Mark Bridge, Scott Jamieson and Liam Reddy.

Bridge has a lead foot around the box at present and has not put his name on the scoresheet this season. Jamieson has seemingly lost possession more times this season than he has successfully completed passes and Reddy has not one single clean sheet this season.

Sydney’s lack of squad depth has shown as the side has poured forward to create a win in each of the second halves in the last two weeks against Gold Coast United and Adelaide United respectively. There has been some excellent pressure applied on each of these occasions but at no stage has the team looked composed enough to provide the winner. There is a lot of graft, exertion and, deplorably, yelling at the referees but not the type of play that enables a side to sit in possession in the final third and wait for the kill.

To Sydney FC the club, you have been caught in possession, you now have to win the ball back. The fans have ably assisted but cannot and should never be taken for granted.

Above: A lack of depth in the squad?

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