Season Preview: MidfieldersPosted: October 8, 2014
Last week we took a look at the 10 teams in the competition ahead of round 1 this weekend, this week we’ll take a more in depth look at the Brisbane squad and see where they sit going into the 10th season; continuing today with the midfielders.
Brisbane have a lot of depth throughout their squad going into the new season, but it’s in the midfield where they have the best depth with five legitimate starting calibre players to choose from in addition to some fine young players. In addition to having a lot of quality in the midfield, there are also players with plenty to prove going into the new season- with Socceroos spots in the Asian Cup squad up for place, in addition to some players being out of contract at the end of the season.Mike Mulvey is definitely spoilt for choice in this area of the park.
The starters: Liam Miller, Luke Brattan, Matt McKay.
Starting on the right side of the midfield trio, last season was an up and down one for Liam, who was a solid contributor, but he struggled for fitness at times missing a few games throughout the season. Although he still made 21 starts least campaign, he struggled to see out 90 minutes as he was substituted in two thirds of games. One of the things that a lot of people expected from Liam throughout the season was goals from midfield after he was a regular scorer in the pre-season, but that dried up in the season proper with just the three, with three assists as well. Liam will start the season in the starting side, but given he was the midfielder who was replaced more often than not when Mulvey wanted to change things, he’s probably the midfielder with more pressure on him with Lustica and Sarota waiting in the wings.
One of last seasons revelations was Luke Brattan, who continued to emerge from understudy to one of the dominant central midfielders in the competition. Brattan, who started 28 of the 29 games Brisbane played last season,
was one of the key reasons that Brisbane regained the silverware, with his passing game becoming a key part of the Brisbane attacking system. Brattan had a passing accuracy percentage of over 80% last season, and showed his wide range of passes by playing both short and long, backwards, and forwards at a high rate. Luke also continued to add goals to his game with three strikers, including the premiership clincher, in addition to three assists. He’s had a disrupted pre-season with an injury keeping him from playing in the earlier games, however he’s regained his fitness and is ready to go. Expect more of the same this season from Brattan, provided Brisbane can keep him through the full season after it emerged European clubs were circling for him.
Matt McKay returned to the club to much fanfare and excitement last season, and the Australian marquee player delivered on the promise with some typical Matt McKay performances on the left hand side of the midfield trio. His form won him a spot in the World Cup squad, where he started in the final two games of the Socceroos campaign, something which has affected his pre-season here at the Roar with Matt sitting out almost the entire preseason with the exception of last weeks game against Olympic. As mentioned, last season was a typical Matt McKay season with the midfielder showing his endurance by making 23 starts with one goal , however it was with the assists where he shone last season- leading the midfield with seven. Expect more of the same once again this season from Matt McKay.
The back-ups: Adam Sarota, Steven Lustica, George Lambadaridis, Devante Clut.
On loan signing Adam Sarota could end up winning a starting role, but given he’s arrived late in pre-season, he’s short on match sharpness and the quality of those ahead of him he may have to wait for a chance. There’s no doubt Adam will be a key contributor as the season progresses and he will no doubt be a key player on the team this year. The main reason for this loan move from Sarota’s perspective as he’s stated is to get a run of games, something he needs after playing infrequently since returning from his ACL injury. Adam did make 15 appearances last season for the Eredivise side earning him a spot in the preliminary World Cup squad of 30, however after a change of manager in Utrecht this season he fell well down the pecking order and was pretty much told he would struggle to get game time. This will be a big season for Sarota for a couple of reasons with his future at Utrecht uncertain, and the chance to play in an Asian Cup at home early next year if he can force his way into the Socceroos plans. Firstly however he’ll need to force his way into Mike Mulvey’s XI here in Brisbane.
The player who may be affected the most by the arrival of Sarota on loan, could be last seasons mid-season pick-up in Steven Lustica, who now figures to have four midfielders ahead of him for a spot in the matchday squad. That however is not about on the quality of Lustica, who was a valuable member of the double winning squad last season and still figures to be so once again this year, it’s simply due to the fact that there’s so much quality in his
position. When your 5th best central midfielder is Steven Lustica, it’s definitely fair to say you are spoilt for choices. Last season Lustica spent the first half of the season in Adelaide, before agitating for a release from his contract in January to re-join the Roar. Steven made 25 appearances in the A-League last season -15 with Adelaide- 1 goal and 10 with Brisbane-, however he struggled to crack into the starting line-up here in Brisbane upon his return and was limited to that role of midfielder coming off the bench for fresh legs. There appears to be a lot of competition for a spot in the squad, but I wouldn’t be ruling Lustica out of winning the favour of Mulvey, a coach who knows him well and obviously likes his game a lot given he’s signed him twice midseason now for Brisbane, and he was the captain of Mulvey’s all conquering Gold Coast youth side.
If having Sarota and Lustica in reserve wasn’t enough, Brisbane also have two other youngsters waiting for their chance in the form of George Lambadaridis and Devante Clut. Last season was a write off for George after he injured his knee in the pre-season, but this year figures to be a big one for the now 22 year old. He is coming off an injury and there is significant competition, but he’s entering his fourth year in the Brisbane system and he’s out of contract at the end of the season he’ll be hoping impress this season if and when he gets a chance this year. Moving on to Devante who made a name for himself last season by scoring on his debut against Wellington and playing well in his only appearance of the season. It’s unlikely these two will start the season in the first team picture and will have to be content with youth team football for now, but they again they will be valuable when the midweek fixtures start up.
Youth: Patrick Theodore, Ben Litfin, Conor O’Neill.
In addition to Clut and Lambadaridis, there are other midfielders in the youth set-up who are good young players and could form the basis of a solid midfield at that level this season. Litfin and Theodore are both on full-time NYL contracts so they’re already on the radar of the first team, but it’s highly unlikely we’ll be seeing them in the first team this season with so many players ahead of them. Another who could be a bit of an x-factor is Conor O’Neill, who arrived on the scene late in the NPL season and scored a couple of goals, before putting on a solid display in the game against Brisbane City in the pre-season. It’s highly unlikely we’ll see any of them in the first team this season, but it’s good to know there’s some solid options there if needed.
Brisbane really do have a wealth of options to choose from to run the midfield this season. If last years successful trio of Miller, Brattan, McKay doesn’t work for whatever reason -and they showed no signs last year of faltering- Mulvey can turn to either trusted deputy Steven Lustica or new loan signing Adam Sarota to add to the mix, and that doesn’t include the plethora of youngster waiting in the wings for a chance. If there’s one position Brisbane has no worries in going into the new season, it’s definitely in the midfield.