A-League mid-season report card: Western United

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Season 2020/21 is almost halfway through, and today it’s time to look at the performance of the men in black and green; Western United.

Semester summary

It’s a really hard one to judge. A positive spin might be that Western have had a few things not go their way but that they’re starting to hit form at the right time. A critic could say Mark Rudan’s men have shown nothing more than glimpses and rightly sit eighth on the A-League table.

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Western United started the season as third favourites to claim the title, so while it’s difficult to get a read on them right now it’s fair to say they certainly haven’t lived up to expectations. They sit just three points out of the top six, and have two or three games to make up on most of the clubs above them.

Two wins on the trot this month has given Western a strong footing as they attempt to reassert themselves as contenders, or at least enjoy finals football come season end.

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Areas of excellence

Nothing has stood out for the men in Green and Black on this front, however the development of a few young stars is impressive. Dylan Pierias in particular looks a terrific player at just 21 years of age and is already influencing games, kicking five goals despite starting at right half back.

Lachie Wales and Nicholas Milanovic also look promising in the final third and with Besart Berisha and Alessandro Diamanti certainly in the twilight of their careers, it’s a good thing they’ve found some creative youngsters in the forward half.

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Areas in need of improvement

Western’s mentality when the game is on the line is their biggest issue at the moment. Three times already this season have they scored the first goal of the game and gone on to lose. That suggests Western are prone to taking their foot off the pedal when coaxing in the lead.

And with the front men in Berisha and Iker Guarrotxena, Western are not getting return of their investments in recent weeks. Together the’ve contributed only a solitary goal in the last five Western games, in a period where the team has scored just two. Guarrotxena joined the team late, but for both their lack of performance is costing Western wins.

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Top student

Alessandro Diamanti. Simply put the A-League is better with this dynamic Italian, and so is Western United. For those who watch his games it’s so easy to tell his effect in the final third.

Diamanti hasn’t scored this season, but his deft touch and creative vision is second to none in the team, and probably the league as well. He leads the league in assists, seven from 12 matches, and has created 34 chances as well to be in the top handful in the league.

The only game he missed was Western’s 2-0 loss to Sydney FC, where they looked all at sea going forward without Diamanti, underlying his importance to this team.

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Class clown

The problem hasn’t necessarily been any one player not playing their role, but instead a widespread culture amongst the team to not put your best foot forward each week. To win games in a competition as tight as the A-League, more often than not you will need all players firing, and the inconsistency at the club is telling.

Huge peaks like a 4-1 win over now third-placed Macarthur are backed up with conceding three goals to the hapless Victory.

That might mean the onus falls on Mark Rudan to get more out of his players when the potential is so clearly there.

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Grade

C

 

Outlook

It’s a positive outlook for Western, who have recently beaten high-flying Melbourne City and are only four points outside the top six with three games in hand. If they win all of those it could see them climb as high as second on the A-League ladder.

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All in all, the talent that is at the club puts them in a fantastic spot long term, but if Rudan is unable to harness it this year there will be serious conversations about why a team that promised so much in its first season inexplicably went backwards.

Feature image credit: Western United

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Seb Mottram
Sports nut studying Media comms and Marketing at Monash.

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