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

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As we enter the back end of the 2020/21 A-League season, The Football Sack reviews the performance so far of the Western Sydney Wanderers.

 

Semester summary

Given their team has not reached the A-League Finals in the past three seasons, Wanderers fans will be quite content with their current position.

The Red & Black are currently sitting in fifth place on 24 points – that is six points behind the ladder-leading Central Coast Mariners, four points clear of the bottom six, and one spot ahead of arch rivals Sydney FC.

New coach Carl Robinson has done a fair job of turning things around out west, but the Wanderers could also be doing better. This squad is more than capable of challenging for silverware and would be in the mix for the Premier’s Plate if not for dropping points in key matches.

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Areas of excellence

Defensively, the Wanderers have been one of the best teams in the league this season.

Defence went out the window in a pair of games – the 4-1 battering by Championship favourites Melbourne City and the thrilling 4-3 win over Wellington – but other than that the Red & Black have been rock solid.

Most of their goals conceded have come from penalties and set pieces – many of which coach Robinson will argue were contentious at best – so it is evident the Wanderers are a tough unit to break down.

Given the Wanderers had conceded at least 40 goals in each of the last three seasons, Robinson should be pleased with their defensive efforts this season.

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Areas in need of improvement

If the Wanderers are any chance of winning a title this season, they will need to do better in big games.

Western Sydney have really struggled against high-quality opposition this season, posting just one win against a team currently ahead of them on the league ladder; a 1-0 victory over the Mariners in January.

As well as their crushing 4-0 loss to Melbourne City, they and have also suffered losses to second-placed Adelaide and fourth-placed Macarthur. On current form, you would not be backing the Wanderers in a Finals match.

 

Star student

Ziggy Gordon joined the Wanderers just a few weeks before the start of the season, and hit the ground running to become one of the first names on Robinson’s team sheet.

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Playing on the right side of a back three, Gordon has been immense. His willingness to put his body on the line, making numerous crucial blocks and challenges, has seen him establish himself as a Wanderers fan favourite. The Scottish defender is also key to the side’s play going forward.

Special mentions go out to wing-backs Tate Russell and Daniel Wilmering, especially the latter who has starred since returning from a ruptured ACL to earn his first-ever professional contract and become a regular starter.

 

Needs improvement

After showing glimpses of brilliance in his first half-season at the Wanderers, expectations were high for Nicolai Muller ahead of his first full A-League campaign.

Unfortunately, the German forward has not had much of an impact. In 14 appearances, Muller has scored just one goal. He could have had one of the goals of the season when he banged one in from long range against the Jets in January, but it was rubbed out by VAR.

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The fact the Wanderers have so many attacking options does make it difficult for Muller, but it is fair to say he has not taken full advantage of the chances that have come his way.

 

Grade

B

 

Outlook

The Wanderers appear to be Finals-bound and on an upward trajectory, but they certainly cannot afford complacency.

The A-League ladder is so tight this season with just eleven points separating first from tenth, and the Wanderers could still fall anywhere between.

The Wanderers next come up against Sydney FC and Adelaide United, and it is crucial they pick up points if they are to be taken as a serious title threat.

Feature Image Credit: Peter Hugg

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Jye Campbell
Journalism student at Western Sydney. Love my football (#lazoumance) and rugby league (#pantherpride). Advocate for FIFA Career Modes. Covering Western Sydney Wanderers in both A-League and W-League for the 2020/21 season.
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