A-League mid-season report card: Western Sydney Wanderers

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We are at the halfway mark of the 2019/20 A-League season, so it’s about time The Football Sack takes a look at the performance of Western Sydney Wanderers.

Semester summary: Bright beginnings soon descended into the same old misfortune and disappointment for the Wanderers.

The club initially appeared to be thriving upon their return to Wanderland with three wins from three to kick off the campaign.

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It had the streets of Parramatta buzzing with an anticipated return to the glory days that were starting to fade into a distant memory.

However as quickly as it arrived, the Red and Black hype soon evaporated. The club suffered a nightmarish derby hangover which constituted eight matches, or two months, without a win.

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Markus Babbel was left fuming as the culmination of injuries, suspensions and what was fiercely believed to be a run of unfavourable refereeing decisions saw him enter the new year well and truly under the pump.

Areas of excellence: One shining light from Western Sydney’s underwhelming campaign has been the continued emergence of youth.

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Academy graduates Daniel Wilmering (before suffering a cruel season-ending ACL injury), Nick Sullivan, Mohammed Adam, Tate Russell, Kosta Grozos and Tass Mourdoukoutas have all featured and impressed in patches.

A landmark moment arrived in round two as Sullivan and Adam combined to set up a stunning Keanu Baccus strike which broke the deadlock against Melbourne Victory.

Despite injecting significant funds into their foreign recruits, the Wanderers enjoyed great pride in producing such a play that was born and bred in Western Sydney.

Areas in need of improvement: There are no shortage of areas in which the Wanderers can up their game during the latter half of this campaign, however, the main one is their mentality.

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They have conceded seven goals in the final 15 minutes of matches this season and on three occasions have scored the first goal of the game and still gone on to lose.

These lapses of concentration must be eradicated from their game if Babbel’s side are to string together a consistent run of results.

Top student: One player whose passion and application can not be brought into question is club captain Mitchell Duke.

Not only is he the side’s top scorer, chipping in with five goals in 12 matches, but his immense work-rate and determination to lead from the front has been evident week in, week out.

Many Wanderers’ fans have been left wishing for a ‘team of Duke’s’ to reverse their side’s misfortunes.

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Class clown: While Duke’s form has been outstanding, unfortunately, the same can not be said for his strike partner Alex Meier.

The towering marksman arrived down under to immense anticipation due to his impressive résumé of 119 goals over 14 seasons in the German top flight and a Bundesliga Golden Boot to top it all off.

However, his return of one goal and one assist in 12 appearances is a far cry from what was expected of him.

Four of those have been off the bench as Babbel struggles to maximise the output of a striker who is very rarely the centre of attention in the Wanderers’ final third.

Grade: C-

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Outlook: The rumour mill has raged on for months surrounding Babbel’s future. While he is evidently being granted time by the Wanderers’ hierarchy, if form and spirit continues to deteriorate he may well be at risk of losing the dressing room.

If we disregard their recent run of one win in ten games, we can observe a side who sit in eighth spot, just one point out of the all-important top six and three points shy of fifth.

So in spite of all the perceived doom and gloom, Western Sydney’s strong start means this season remains finely poised at its mid-way point.

While they may be in serious of jeopardy of slipping out of contention altogether, the Wanderers are just a handful of wins away from gathering enough form to solidify a spot in the top six.

Nothing is truly out of the question as of yet, however one thing is for sure: the upcoming month or so will be decisive in determining the club’s long term fortunes.

Feature image credit: Jaime Castaneda

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Chris Curulli
Passionate Sports Media student and all round football obsessive, covering the Western Sydney Wanderers for the 2019/20 season.