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

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With nearly half of the COVID-disrupted 2021/22 season gone in the A-League Men’s, it’s time to assess the current league leader’s Western United.

Semester summary:

John Aloisi’s side have exceeded all expectations after 10 games this season. With many pundits expecting the club to have a solid but unremarkable campaign, Western have surprised all behind a resolute and experienced defence.

Taking over from a side that finished last campaign 10th and conceded the second most goals of any squad, Aloisi’s turnaround through to the midway point in 2021/22 has been remarkable.

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Pre-season distractions regarding the lack of a permanent home stadium have seemingly solidified the playing group behind several star import signings.

The highlight from the campaign so far has been back-to-back 1-0 wins against defending champions Melbourne City. The Green and Black were able to preserve a clean sheet on both occasions against the most potent attack in the league.

Having conceded only eight goals through the first 10 games, Swiss signing Leo Lacroix and the return to fitness of former Socceroo –  Josh Risdon –  has seen the defence breached in only four matches this season.

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Area of excellence:

It’s hard to ignorance the defensive dominance of the Green and Black so far this season. Lacroix – November’s player of the month – has arguably been the signing of the season so far. He has marshalled a defence that has included Risdon, Tomoki Imai, and Ben Garucccio.

It has enabled the club to win several close games this year, as all six of their wins have been by the same 1-0 score line. Once they take the lead, they are successfully able to close down the opposition and close out the game defensively.

Despite Lacroix and Imai both missing games so far this season, the defence has stood up and enabled Aloisi’s men to continue racking up points despite attacking deficiencies.

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Area in need of improvement:

Despite the high profile signings of Aleksandar Prijovic and Dylan Wenzel-Halls, the team has only scored 10 goals so far. This is the lowest tally of any team in the A-league Men’s top six.

Whilst Prijovic was eased into full-fitness, Wenzell-Halls stepped up with timely goals. The lack of goalscoring input from the rest of the team, however, will be causing concerns for Alosi and his coaching staff.

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Steven Lustica and Nicolas Milanovic are the only non-attackers to have scored this season, with captain Alessandro Diamanti struggling to find the scoresheet for a second consecutive campaign.

If the club are to continue winning this season and challenge for the title, there has to be an improvement in this category.

Top student:

Leo Lacroix has been everything that United fans hoped he would be.

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The most influential signing this season has transformed the league’s worst defence into the best in under six months.

The 1.97 metre tall centre-back has been an imposing figure for opposition strikers all season, and his comfort dribbling the ball has provided another dimension to an already strong side.

As long as he stays healthy this season, Western remain a chance in every game they play.

Needs improvement:

After his goalscoring campaign at the Tokyo Olympics, you would be forgiven for thinking that Lachlan Wales was primed for a big campaign.

Whilst the pacy winger has four assists, he is yet to open his goalscoring this season. He consistently finds himself in great goalscoring positions, but his lack of a killer edge in front of goal continues to trouble him.

Whilst he has not played poorly this season, he needs to find a goalscoring edge to take himself and United to the next level this season.

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Grade: A

Outlook:

Considering the mess that Aloisi inherited at the end of last season, the start to the 2021/22 campaign has been nothing short of incredible.

Built upon solid defensive foundations, and with an abundance of attacking talent in the squad, the second half of the season could be a fruitful one for the Tarneit-based expansion side.

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Dillon Izon
Dillon Izon
Marketing graduate at Monash University. Sports addicted, fan of Manchester United and Melbourne City. My gran “knows” Gareth Bale.

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