Changes from last year to this.Posted: January 18, 2013
Were heading towards the final third of the season and there is no secret that in comparison to the previous two seasons, something is going array. But why is that? Yes, there’s the obvious which will I’ll cover but there’s also a couple other things that haven’t got as much attention. I won’t cover some of the off field stuff that has also taken it’s toll on the results, if you haven’t read Marco’s take on it from earlier in the week it’s worth reading. Of course it’s still entirely possible that Brisbane turn their season around with a late run at a lower finals position and a good run throughout the Champions League, but for now lets look back at some of the issues that have arisen this season.
1) More direct
One of the big things that Rado was stressing in the pre-season was his desire to see the side play a more direct style of game, ‘when it’s called for’ as he said. While that strategy bore some fruit last season –most notably the lead-up to the winner in the GF- and also against the disorganised Victory in round 2, beyond that it was a resounding failure. While in theory the idea had some merit when teams pressed Brisbane very high up –again, Victory in round 2-, it works. But when teams weren’t pressing high up the park, preferring to press around the halfway line, it became almost an easy option type pass to play it down the right side for Halloran to get in behind. It’s something that seems to have disappeared under the early weeks of the Mike Mulvey reign which is one of the reasons Brisbane have –in possession atleast- began getting back to something approaching their best.
2) Paartalu’s positioning while in possession
I mentioned this at the weekend while watching the Jets game, and I realise that specifically in relation to Erik this is now kind of a moot point, but it is one of the biggest reasons for the drop in success. Last season when Brisbane had comfortable possession Erik dropped slightly deeper into a position, usually 5m in front of the two central defenders forming a triangle in the centre of the park to both begin the build up, and to snuff out counters. This year he’s played a little further forward attempting to play more direct passes to the front, when teams sit deep. This affects the entire side in their positioning, and it starts with the fullbacks. Under Ange the fullbacks would always get forward overlapping in the final third to both support the attacks and also get crosses in. Due to Paartalu playing further forward this season however they aren’t getting forward anywhere near as often –or as effectively- and when they do it often leads to counter attacking chances for the opposition. The change has completely changed the build up phase of the game for Brisbane.
How Mulvey goes about re-augmenting the midfield now that Erik has departed will be interesting to watch. If you’re looking for the best like for like swap, Brattan would be the man. He’s got a good passing game and having been in the squad for two and a half seasons, it’s time for him to get a significant run of games. Murdocca is the option that I suspect will get 1st crack at it, just because he’s been in the 1st team squad lately and has the most experience of the candidates, and given the situation they are in that could prove pivotal. He will bring different skills to the role however, more of a busy type game than anything else. The best option could well be young Lambadaridis however, he’s got similar height to Erik which you’re losing plus he’s got a good passing game and can be dangerous if he gets forward. The only issue about using George in a deeper midfield position is possibly his defensive positioning given he’s not naturally a sitting midfielder.
3) Berisha dropping off the front line
This is one change that has the potential to actually improve Brisbane’s game, it’s just the implementation thus far hasn’t been correct. Bes dropping off the front line isn’t a problem given the fascination with playing without a #9 in modern football, it is however a problem in the way Brisbane plays. The problem is when he’s back halfway between the halfway line and the 18 yard box trying to win the ball or maintain possession, there’s no outlet for a pass even if he does win it. The solution is rather simple- either revert back to having Berisha play on the shoulder of the last man like he did to great effect last season, or you have to re-augment the midfield and front line to make sure you have an outlet. Victory is a good example of not needing an out and out striker, but still maintaining an outlet option.
4) Static front third
This has been a major bug bare of mine in recent weeks, and while it’s been an issue for most of the season, it’s really come to light in recent weeks. The build-up through the lines has actually improved in recent weeks, but it completely breaks down when they get in and around the 18 yard box. This for mine goes back to the unstructured style Rado implemented at the start, giving the players more freedom on the park. Under Ange they knew exactly what they were trying to achieve and where they needed to be on the park in certain situations. On the whole teams have found it far easier to read Brisbane’s style of play far easier to read this season than under Postecoglou and this is a key reason why. It also helps from the opposition’s point of view that there is very little movement and passing options provided when they do get into the final third.
Finally, the speed and intensity of transition from both defence to attack and vice versa has been has been disappointing. The way that teams this season- most notably Melbourne Heart- managed to dismantle Brisbane on the counter was ruthless and not something that was seen under Ange. Massimo Murdocca is usually the man who provides the work rate and energy in the middle of midfield and while he’s had a good season, it’s the sort of thing that you can only cover to a certain extent. If across the board the team aren’t getting back when they lose the ball, or are behind the ball when in possession it’s going to show.
6) Consistency of selection
This isn’t so much of an on park issue; however it has imo played a part in the poor performances. Under Ange both the starting line-up and the substitute’s bench were settled throughout the season so long as they were fit and available. This season it was a bit more of a rotational policy, both in terms of the midfield, and the substitute’s bench. In recent weeks Mulvey has introduced something of a midfield rotation between Henrique, Broich, Halloran, Murdocca and Fitzgerald. There was also the situation early on this season where Fitzgerald and Dong-Hyun were fighting for the final bench spot. There’s something to be said imo for having a settled side, especially at this point of the season and that, along with the above points provides a few answers as to why things haven’t gone to plan on the park this season.