Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Early days, but a solid base

Pre-Season Cup final analysis, WP 0 v MV 0 (MV 8-7 on pens)

OVERALL, on a pretty bumpy pitch, which tested the first touch and distribution, tonight's pre-season cup final, won by the Victory after a marathon 18 penalties, wasn't the greatest spectacle, but there were some solid signs for both sides as they build towards the season proper. Let's start with the hosts;

Wellington Phoenix

Jon McKain looked all class in the centre of defence and should form a formidable partnership with Andrew Durante. Like his suspended skipper, McKain looks comfortable on the ball, and, more importantly, was always looking to play out.

The problem I foresee for Wellington is that they don't have the quality in central midfield to take advantage of these two ball-playing central defenders. Johnson and Ferrante often struggled to use the ball quickly enough tonight, but they had excuses on a bumpy pitch. The word that Karl Dodd could be slotting into the holding role might win the Phoenix plenty of 50-50 ball, but it will do little for their distribution.

Out wide there was some great early stuff from Bertos, who toyed with Kemp until Merrick switched his fullbacks around, after which Bertos was nullified by Ryall. Gao looks good on the ball, but looks like the kind who prefers to break, with space in front of him. Defend deep, like Melbourne do, and he's less comfortable. Daniel is some bloke to bring off the bench, and shows the greater depth at Herbert's disposal this year.

The Smeltz/Kwasnik partnership looks like it will get chances and cause defences headaches, while Bertos, Daniel and Gao offer Herbert the option of playing a three, with one behind. Flexibility is good.

While central midfield appears one problem area for Wellington, another could be in the fullback space. Trialist Manny Muscat did very well defensively, and in a league lacking left backs, he should get a gig and do the job. But he doesn't offer the class of Lochhead coming forward.

Melbourne Victory

Thwaite and Vargas looked solid defensively, but I felt they resorted to the long, diagonal ball a little too often. Again, the surface played a part. Kemp, who likes to get forward, was exposed early defensively, but looked more comfortable when switched to the right, where he didn't have Bertos in his face.

Was very interested to see how Lopez would fair in holding role. He needs more time to get his confidence up, but mustn't be shy in demanding it from his teammates. He needs to own this team. There were times when he got it and passed it, made himself open for the return, only for a teammate to ignore him and dribble into trouble.

A little too much of this from the Victory front third, and all were guilty; Ward, Berger, Hernandez, Fabiano and Allsopp.

Merrick played a midfield diamond and asked both Berger and Ward to tuck in alongside Hernandez. It was often narrow, and while Kemp got forward down one side, there was little width down the other.

Fabiano was well marked by McKain and Dodd, who pushed up high on him, giving him no space, but he showed, on the odd time he was able to turn and face the goal, that he has a neat touch.

Theoklitos made two brilliant stops, and that was before the shoot-out.

All up, a solid hit-out for both sides, with room for improvement.


Anonymous sir alex said...

Theoklitos was very impressive. At least we can produce decent keepers in this country.

Thu. Aug. 07, 10:40:00 am AEST  
Anonymous Eric Daams said...

It felt like a very evenly matched affair. Melbourne ran out of puff towards the end and seemed to be aiming for penalties, but for the good part of 90 minutes it was a lively match. I was impressed by Fabiano's touch and vision, and Kemp really produced some excellent football once he was on the right side of the pitch. With him on the right and Berger on the left, that may be Melbourne's only real hope for width.

Wellington look like a solid contender this year. I don't think we'll have another New Zealand side taking the wooden spoon this year. Maybe Perth will take the honour this year...

Thu. Aug. 07, 04:13:00 pm AEST  

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