Western Sydney Wanderers
Rated, analysed and interviewed
No-one does a post season clear out like Tony the axeman Popovic. In the off-season, Wanderers fans bid adieu to 13 players. While the Wanderers recovered from a poor start to make the top six, the early finals exit was not good enough for a club who set high standards. But fans should be excited for this season as the new recruits on paper look the goods. Spanish marquees – Oriol Riera and Alvaro Cejudo – have the experience of 258 La Liga games between them, while the return of Mark Bridge and the addition of Josh Risdon and Roly Bonevacia, and fringe Socceroos Chris Herd and Michael Thwaite, add even more quality and experience.
THE GAME PLAN
Tony Popovic drums a defence-first mentality into all his sides. But the team can also display moments of individual flair and if the team gels, it has the quality to play attacking football. An early glimpse of Spanish import Oriel Riera in the FFA Cup showed his touch and awareness will see him be a creative outlet for assists and goals.
Defensive structure rules supreme. Robert Cornthwaite, Thwaite and Jonathan Aspro provide a mix of ball-playing and hard-nosed defensive attributes. And if Risdon can show us the form that earned him Socceroos selection then at least one fullback will form an attacking outlet. The midfield trio of Herd, Bonevacia and Kearyn Baccus will give energy and thrust to break up attacks and set up teammates. Bonevacia, when on his game, is a class above while Herd will be intriguing to watch and if he still has the skill he showed as a youngster, he could be the newest star of the A-League.
The Wanderers strikeforce does go deeper than previous campaigns. But can Brendon Santalab, Bridge, Lachlan Scott and Riera do better that last season’s ordinary return of 35 goals? The jury is still undecided.
LESSONS FROM LAST SEASON
Two wins in the opening 15 games of the season was just not good enough. The start is everything for the Wanderers this term. A 4-0 drubbing at the hands of their biggest rivals Sydney FC in front of a record Australian domestic football crowd didn’t help. Luckily the 2017/18 draw has been a kind one, as their opening game is a home tie against Perth Glory.