End of 2020/21 season report card: Western United

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As the A-league season comes to a close, it’s time to have a look at how Western United went in their quest for finals glory. The Football Sack evaluates each team’s performance throughout the season, with some clubs faring better than others.

Season summary: 

Unfortunately, this season is one the fans and players of United would like to throw away. Starting the season with some disappointing results, it looked like they had turned a corner after an exciting win over Perth Glory. Unfortunately for Mark Rudan and his men, with a constant flurry of injuries and some VAR decisions, they never hit a patch of form they had produced last season.

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After finishing fifth last season and making it to the semi-finals, this season started with great expectations. However, the side could only muster up the ability to finish 10th on the table.

The spine of United’s team never seemed to be sure of itself, even with the excellence of Alessandro Diamanti. Although Diamanti and Besart Berisha had produced moments of excellence in the past, they were far from their best. The season progressed with an inability to complete all their positional obligations on the pitch, which hindered the side’s progress.

Although Rudan’s tenure as head coach has come to an end, his final season coaching was one he can be content with. The occasional blind faith he showed in some players seemed to cost his side as the season progressed. However, the inability of some younger player to produce in a veteran’s absence made it easier to see why some coaching decisions were made.

Areas of excellence: 

With the team failing to make finals in their second season, the one shining spot was the emergence of young and new talent. The emergence of Dylan Pierias speed and versatility on the wings provided some sparks going forward.

With a lack of creativity and stability in the midfield, the continual growth of youngster Luke Duzel may prove to be an area the next coaching appointment may want to develop. Even during this challenging season, this team never seemed out of their depth, and with young players wanting to develop, it bodes well for the future seasons.

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Areas in need of improvement:

The aging spine of the side is a cause for serious concern. The seemingly sharp decline of a once-great player in Berisha, who once brought fear to opposing defences, has seemingly gone.

The lack of movement and finishing prowess at times handicap the side going forward. Diamanti is a magician on the ball and does not lack the occasional moment of genius. Still, without the inability of the big game players to produce game in and game out, it cost this side a finals berth.

Top student: 

After an injury to first-choice keeper Filip Kurto second choice keeper Ryan Scott was thrust into the line-up against Sydney FC, and he has never looked back.

Even when the side was conceding goals, it rarely came down to an error from Scott. Although having a small stature for an A-League keeper, his ability to read the game and be at the right place at the right time allowed United to stay in matches they were not entitled to stay in.

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In his first season playing in the A-league, Scott has had some impressive moments and is sure to finish highly at the end of season voting for best United player.

Class clown: 

The term class clown is quite harsh when talking about one of the greatest A-league players. Berisha was a once-great player who provided some spectacular moments. This season, however, he was far from the pace of the league.

His usual movement in the box was missing and his failure to track back at moments hindered the speed united attempted to play with. With a striker who did not match the team’s playing style, it was arguably one of the worst fits in the A-League.

The inability to be effective as a striker and a failure to score a goal will always be the hallmark of a failing leading fan. If it was not for the large wage and contract Berisha currently has, it may be time for United to move away from the once-great striker.

Grade: D

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Outlook: 

The future in the western suburbs of Melbourne looks relatively uncertain. The departure of Rudan leaves United needing to make the appointment to fill the gap he leaves. Not only a vocal leader for the team but the club as a whole.

The club will also need to make some significant calls on the future of their high-profile players to determine the style of play they want for the foreseeable future. The roots for the club are there, there is no requirement for wholesale changes, but the suitable acquisitions and dismissals could see this team back into the finals.

Feature Image Credit: Supplied

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Pokuah Frimpong
Obsessed football fan, current journalism student.
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