A-League Men’s 2021/22 mid-season report card: Western Sydney Wanderers

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With the A-League Men’s 2021/22 season passing the halfway mark, it’s time to evaluate the Western Sydney Wanderers’ performance thus far, both the good and bad.

Semester Summary:

A consistent start of disappointment and falling into the same old habits led to a winless beginning for Western Sydney. Having lingered on the bottom of the ladder for most of their campaign thus far, they have had three draws, five losses and only three wins.

Two of the wins emerged under new coach Mark Rudan, who took the reins from Carl Robinson after their 3-0 defeat to Brisbane Roar.

As seen in previous seasons for the Wanderers, the performance has not been up to finals standard, and after almost two years as head coach, Robinson succumbed to the out with the old and in with the new.

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Having conceded 16 goals in their campaign so far and scoring 11 goals in 11 games, it is safe to say improvement needs to be made if they want a chance to reach the finals.

Evidently, the change in coach has brought out a new Wanderers in the last four games with a renewed energy, dynamic and atmosphere. It will be interesting to see which direction Rudan is steering the ship and the ‘bigger picture’ that is in his head.

Areas of excellence:

Defensive rotation.

The Wanderers are nothing if not strong defensively, with a few hiccups here and there. Throughout their campaign they have demonstrated a solid back line that their opposition finds difficult to break.

Their newly instituted defensive rotations, in recent games, came as a surprise to their opposition and the viewers with what looked like a completely different team.

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Rudan has put up formerly substitutes Ziggy Gordon and Phillip Cancar on the starting lines and both have impressed enough to earn their spots and become ones to watch.

Cancar’s motivation in their game against Melbourne Victory was one of the best-timed goal clearances in the league. Players in the likes of James Troisi are always up to square their opposition in a one-on-one battle in front of goal.

Areas in need of improvement:

A full 90-minute performance and shots on target.

A recurring theme in the Wanderers’ play is that they become lethargic well before the 90-minutes. They often open well with 70 percent ball possession and give their opposition a hard time in controlling the game. At the first sign of retaliation, however, Western Sydney almost give up.

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COVID-19 could be a factor in the shortened fitness, as many squad members were affected by it. Even prior to the outbreak, however, playing a full game was not their strong suit.

Another aspect of their play that has often been noted was the number of chances the Wanderers create, and nothing comes of them. When a team dominates in ball possession it is only natural that they would have opportunities to shoot at the goal.

If only they shot on target, what a different position they would be in. Key playmakers are not producing, such as Jack Rodwell, who accumulated 11 shots off target and five on target, and Tomer Hemed, with five off target and five on target.

Top student:

Thomas Aquilina.

Aquilina has shown consistent quality defending with 20 successful tackles, 20 clearances and 13 interceptions won in the 10 games that he has played.

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He especially demonstrated excellence with a dangerous cutback cross that gave Rodwell the opportunity to score the winning goal against Perth Glory.

Needs improvement:

Tomas Mejias.

By all means Mejias is not a weak goalkeeper, with plenty of energy and strength in directing the back line in Spanish.

The Spaniard has played the most games for the squad this season, and with that is all 16 goals conceded for the Wanderers thus far.

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The consecutive 0-1 loss to Western united and 3-1 loss to Melbourne City led to Mejias being benched for the next game.

Mejias had been the club’s favoured number one pick, but Rudan believes Daniel Margush has earned the opportunity to prove himself.

Grade:  D

Outlook:

It has been a rocky start for the Wanderers with many disruptions. From COVID to a change in management, the team has been through it all, and it has not been easy.

Emotionally the team have been frustrated.

With all that in the past, the Rudan era is looking promising with better results in just two weeks. They are still far, however, from perfect or at the level the fans have been yearning for but it is a start.

They can only pick up and embrace the rebuild, with greater challenges lying ahead and a real shot at making the finals.

Feature image: Steve Christo

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Paloma Darjani
Covering the Western Sydney Wanderers for the 2021/22 season. Studying a Bachelor of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney.

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