West­ern Syd­ney Wan­der­ers

Rated, an­a­lysed and in­ter­viewed

Australian Four Four Two - - CONTENTS -

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.

STRENGTHS

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.

WEAK­NESSES

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.

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