Different coach but same old story for Western Sydney

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Any momentum that Western Sydney Wanderers had appeared to be building under Mark Rudan has all but diminished, after a third loss in the past five games.

A triple substitution at half-time was evidence of the placid first half performance that has stopped many fans from returning to CommBank Stadium in Parramatta in recent weeks.

The dismal first half performance drew similarities to Carl Robinson’s reign, as the away side struggled to contain the movement of Western United’s front three. A side that had only scored eleven goals all season, managed to slot two past the Wanderers in the opening 45 minutes.

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That was not including the freak second-half wonder-goal by Benjamin Garuccio. And if it was not for some poor finishing from Aleksandar Prijovic, the margin could have been more.

Prijovic’s goal and two assists were of stark contrast to the performance of Western Sydney’s forward line.

Tomer Hemed scored only his third goal all season, whilst Keijiro Ogawa has only scored once this campaign.

It was not for a lack of trying, however, as the Israeli striker had a game-high five shots, with three on target.

The foundations are there, but for the head coach it’s providing a challenge to overcome the previous failings and insert his style of play within a struggling team.

“I want to see which players can play the style of football that I like to play, which is an aggressive and dynamic style of play. That’s with and without the ball,” Rudan said post-match.

“To control teams you need the personnel to be able to press and counter-press. We are still not there and there’s a lot of old behaviours and habits in this team that is going to take a bit of time getting out of their system.

“That’s my responsibility as a coach to keep working with each individual and improve each of them.”

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That style saw initial success with Western United in their inaugural season. They made it all the way to a semi-final against Melbourne City, narrowly losing 2-0 in a close game.

It’s that type of success that he has been looking to replicate at Western Sydney. The former AFC Champions League winners have not made the A-league Men’s finals in six seasons, leading to discontent from their passionate fanbase.

Finding players that fit within his hard-working game style will be crucial for sustained success beyond the next ten games.

“The goals were two moments that we worked on and shouldn’t have happened because they know what their roles were. Two individual errors cost us. Playing the offside trap when there’s no pressure on the ball is suicidal,” Rudan bemoaned.

“Those goals are all easily defendable. You can’t lose concentration against quality opposition like that.

“What I want this team to be and what we are right now are two completely different questions. I’ve only been here for three and a half weeks. We’re still analysing and assessing everybody.”

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Those three-and-a-half-weeks have seen two wins from five games, which is already double the number that Robinson managed during his seven game reign in season 2021/22.

It’s a building process that Western Sydney fans are all too familiar with.

Since Tony Popovic left the club in October 2017, Josep Gombau, Markus Babbel, JP de Marigny and Robinson have come and gone without any success.

Rudan was hopeful that he could be the man to turn things around for the sleeping giant.

“We want to play a direct and controlled type of football. We want to stop the opposition from playing, particularly in those transition moments,” he said.

“What I want us to be is what I saw in the second half. We need to keep working at it, but it was much better in the second half.”

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That second half saw a renewed attacking focus, as Hemed became more engrained in the attack and was unlucky to have not scored more than the one goal.

To make matters worse for the Red and Black, captain Jack Rodwell looked to have suffered a hamstring injury and was subbed-off at half-time.

“‘Jack went off and we’ll have to assess him. He could have a hamstring injury but it’s too early to tell [the severity],” Rudan said.

On the flip side, Western United coach John Aloisi was thrilled with his side’s goalscoring exploits.

“It was an entertaining game for the neutrals. We scored three goals in a game which is always good,” Aloisi said.

“We had to show our quality, which is our character, determination and mentality to stay strong and work hard for each other. It was never comfortable in that second half but in the end it was great determination from the boys.”

It’s that sense of togetherness and fighting spirit that Rudan will be looking to ignite in his side as they chase a spot in the top six for the first time in what feels like forever.

It makes Wednesday night’s game away in Newcastle all the more important.

Feature image credit: Ngau Kai Yan

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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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