Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Asian Champions League preparations; Sydney FC

Some good early signs but plenty of work still to do

OUT at the Gabbie tonight, in preparation for its first foray into the Asian Champions League in a week's time, Sydney FC showed signs that things are steadily on the improve, but that there is still plenty of work to do both before Shanghai and over the next couple of months if they are to progress beyond the six match days.

Shaping up in a 4-2-1-3 formation, Branko Culina's side ostensibly has the same set-up as that of Terry Butcher's, but there were subtle differences all over the park.

The major one is up front. Whereas Butcher deployed his wide men (Carney and Middleby in the main and Brosque earlier in the year) out wide, essentially hugging the chalk, often leaving the sole striker isolated, chasing shadows all over the place, Culina has tucked his 'wide' men in when Sydney go forward.

It is a true front three, aimed at getting Brosque and Carney closer to Zdrilic, working off his tap-downs and inter-changing positions. When Carney goes through the middle, Zdrilic drops off. When Zdrilic peels wide to the left, Brosque drives inside him.

Culina's shape is more in keeping with that of Gary van Egmond at the Jets.

There the conductor is Carle, here it is Corica, playing in front of the two screening midfielders in Spencer and Talay (the Musalik and Kohler/Brown roles). Spencer and Talay, both comfortable on the ball, did a decent job here, keeping the ball moving.

Truth is that Sydney looked decent enough going forward and bagged two goals against the Demons, one at the half-way point of each half.

However, it was their defensive work, especially early on, which will have caused some concern for Culina.

Playing a back four with Middleby on the right, Rudan and Fyfe in the middle and young Nick Tsattalios on the left, the emphasis is cleary on attack, with both fullbacks expected to get forward often, providing the width (especially considering the narrowness up front).

Early on, the Demons were able to exploit Sydney's want to press on, former Sydney and Newcastle striker Tolgay Ozbey often drifting to the left, looking to get in behind Middleby, who was found out positionally, caught between whether to get forward or stay back.

Blacktown's tactics were obvious; isolate Ozbey one on one against the defender recognised as Sydney's weakest and try and get the early diagnol ball in behind. And it was working everywhere but on the scoreboard.

Had it not been for a couple of early Bolton saves, one on one against Ozbey, the Demons might have had the lead. On one memorable run, Ozbey found some space in between Middleby and Rudan, went past the latter, only for Bolton to stay up and block his attempt with the chest.

From a NSW Premier League perspective, watch out any team that defends high against Ozbey.

While Middleby was struggling down one flank, Tsattalios was making some impression down the other. Picking his times to get forward, he did so very neatly, looking comfortable on the ball and delivering some lovely balls into good areas. Defensively, he looked sound, recognising his duties to sit at the back, in touch with Fyfe, whenever Middleby did get forward.

But if the 'New Sydney' under Culina hope to play out consistenly from the back, as is the manager's philosophy, work needs to be done in the central area, where Fyfe was guilty on a couple of occasions of under-hitting his ball out. More ruthless opposition will make him pay.

More ruthless opposition will also take advantage of any chinks at the back.

Given that the opening game is away from home and that Shenhua might target Sydney's inexperienced fullbacks, perhaps the more calculated option might be to move Fyfe to the right and draft Milligan into central defence.

Perhaps the Middleby option is best left for home?

Certainly in the second half, when the Demons changed their entire line-up and went from two to three up front, there appeared less opportunity for the FC fullbacks to venture forward. Rudan and Fyfe certainly appreciated that, looking far more solid in the second period. Admittedly Blacktown's one danger man, Ozbey, was no longer on the pitch.

In any case, with Milligan and Topor-Stanley on Olyroo duty, there are other options for Culina and bit to ponder.

Given that he has been putting the miles into his men's legs, this was a valuable hit-out and should instill some confidence ahead of next Wednesday, especially in the front third. On this evidence, Sydney won't be peaking next week, but perhaps a little later in the comp.

Whatever happens, it should make for compulsive viewing.


Anonymous andreas said...

FC were originally scheduled to play Olympic last night but the plans changed. Wondering whether it was a tactical change? Does Blacktown play (or were instructed to play) like the Chinese opposition? Maybe Branko was scared of Olympics style of play? Maybe his good mate Les (who was spotted at Belmore Sports Ground last sunday) told him to pick easier opponents!
Go Olympic! Go Manny!

Thu. Mar. 01, 11:27:00 am AEDT  
Blogger Mike Salter said...

Nice wrap Tony. I've done one of mine too, didn't see yours until now. Pity we only caught each other on the way out!

A lot of the Covites expressed doubt about Middleby at fullback, but I think he could grow into the role. In the final analysis he didn't offer enough penetration on the wing for SFC this season, so that might end up being a good role for him if he can work on his positional sense.

Thu. Mar. 01, 01:08:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Mike, thanks for the comment and good to see you again, albeit briefly....With the rain, I was nestled up in the comfort of the grandstand.

Agree about Middleby, I think he could develop at least into a fullback option, if not a first choice one.

But early on he looked raw and very unsure, especially as he appeared to be targetted by Aytec Genc.

If he does play against Shenhua, I'll be interested in seeing if they identify him as a weak link and move traffic towards him.

I certainly think he improved as the match went on, and that largely comes down to his fitness, which I guess is why Culina is trying him there. He certainly can get up and down, but I thought his final ball was poor when he got into the Demons half, and delivery from the fullbacks is vital in this Culina system.

Culina has always had a like for runners in the fullback areas, witnessed by his work with Wilson, Packer and Emerton while at Olympic.

Thu. Mar. 01, 01:37:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Andreas, I'm sure you're not 'the Andrea' but thanks for your interest and comment, but unfortunatley I aint up to speed on why the match was changed from Sydney Olympic to Blacktown but I do understand that the Olympic option might be revisited a little later in the ACL.

Looks like a nice little squad Spanoudakis has assembled at Belmore, so you're 50th year might be a good one.

I particularly liked the look of Lisandro Berbis in last year's gf, so I reckon that signing might be a good one. Anyway, 4-0, great start, can't ask for much more.

Hope to get down to Belmore soon enough.

Thu. Mar. 01, 02:10:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger john said...

Good one Mike. We are counting on Sydney and Adelaide to keep our seasons going.

I am certainly batting for Culina to keep the Sydney job. the worst thing for the A-League would be to see melbourne get 2 in a row.

Sat. Mar. 03, 06:21:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous dhd said...

this might be a simple question: Can we expect to see the Asian Champions League games televised here in Australia? i haven't seen any evidence on SBS or Fox...any idea?

Sun. Mar. 04, 09:43:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so are you gonna give us a review of last nights sydney/uruwa game or what? missing your work.

Thu. Mar. 22, 09:56:00 am AEDT  
Blogger Jakarta Casual said...

Hi there

Next Wednesday sees Sydney visit Indonesia to play Persik Kediri in the Asian Champions League.

In their first game Kediri officials warmly welcomed Shanghai Shenhua to Solo before getting a lucky 1-0 victory over them on a rain sodden pitch. Kediri have had a stop start season, I saw them lose 2-1 at Jakarta last week, but they won 5-0 at the weekend at home to Malang with star striker Christian Gonzales getting a hat trick.

Today sees the Indonesian Champions host Pelita Jaya at Brawijaya Stadium. With Pelita pointless on their travels Kediri will be hoping for a confidence boosting win.

I will be watching the game live here in Jakarta and be posting regular updates on my blog Jakarta Casual ,the only English language website devoted to Indonesian football

Keep one step ahead and keep up to date with the progress of Sydney FC’s opposition ahead of the crucial tie next week!

Best regards

Antony Sutton

Jakarta Casual

Thu. Apr. 05, 11:10:00 am AEST  

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