Inadequate squad depth will limit Macarthur’s ability to succeed in 2022/23

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Selection shallowness at Macarthur FC will limit the South-West Sydney club’s ability to compete at the top of the A-League Men in 2022/23.

It seems a long time ago that Macarthur were celebrating its inaugural trophy as a football club taking out the 2022 Australia Cup. Since then, the Bulls have had a mixed start to the season with just two victories in their first six ALM fixtures as the competition breaks for the World Cup. 

Macarthur’s two defeats this season have coincided with absences in key areas. Captain and talisman Ulises Davila was unavailable for the Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix matches after his injury against Adelaide United. While defender Jonathan Aspropotamitis was suspended for the 4-1 battering in Wellington as well. 

The downturn in results reflects selection dilemmas indicative of a lack of competitive squad depth, particularly in the defensive areas for the Bulls.

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Macarthur only have three out-and-out central defenders on their squad list with Aleksandar Susnjar still yet to feature this year. Hence, Aspropotamitis’ send-off against Sydney FC posed major issues for Yorke. The Bulls went on to concede a further two goals against Sky Blues in that match. Before the following week saw Jake McGing slotted in as a make-shift centre-back where it didn’t go to plan. The team shipping four goals included three in the space of a 10-minute second-half period. 

It was a welcome return for Aspropotamitis against Central Coast Mariners on Sunday. The ex-Perth player heading home Macarthur’s second while offering an assured overall defensive display. A victory for the Bulls highlighting the defender’s irreplaceable value to the side.

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Another example of the lack of depth is the situation at left-back. Ivan Vujica is the only senior left-back at the club with youngster Isaac Hovar offering the only natural cover in that role. Vujica has had a patchy injury record over the past couple of seasons making just five starts last campaign. An injury to the former Western United player would leave coach Dwight Yorke relying on make-shift or unproven alternatives. 

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Yorke was quick to praise the youth available to the Bulls, and it was only on the 9th of November that the club announced two more scholarship players. Fullback Hovar and midfielder Oliver Jones, however, such signings only serve to cover the numerically finite senior players across the park.

From the evidence, it is to be interpreted that Yorke will rely on the younger players at the club to form the bulk of the challenging places.  

“We couldn’t believe our eyes when we looked at some of these young players and why they weren’t implemented into the senior set-up,” he said following Macarthur’s victory against Adelaide United. 

“We don’t overlook the young players, we want to make sure those young players are pushing the senior players for a position in the team.”

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Yorke has placed immense faith in the younger players within the squad to cover any injury or suspension problems and challenge the senior players. It worked in round six against the Central Coast Mariners with teenager Jed Drew netting the latest of winners. But it remains to be seen whether this gamble will pay off across the rest of this season.

We’ve seen Mariners’ superstar and World Cup-bound Garang Kuol slowly integrated into the team having not even started a match yet for the Mariners. If a player of that calibre is unable to earn a start, the Bulls depending on youngsters to perform at a consistent level all the time provides a big risk. 

In addition, a lack of defensive cover across the backline leaves the Bulls needing to shuffle around every time, and the Wellington defeat showcases the difficulties with that. Macarthur are only one or two injuries in key positions away from serious selection trouble, and it is this lack of squad depth that will plague the team this year in their pursuit of success. 

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Feature image credit: Macarthur FC

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Timothy Gibson
I am a student currently studying a Bachelor of Journalism/ Bachelor of Laws while writing football match reports and feature articles.

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