Thoughts following Matt Smith’s transfer

(Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images AsiaPac)

(Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images AsiaPac)

After a week of speculation, it was today confirmed that Brisbane captain Matt Smith would be moving to Thai Premier League side Bangkok Glass. Terms of the deal and transfer fee are unknown, but it is known that Friday’s clash with Adelaide will be Smith’s final game in Brisbane. Here’s a couple of thoughts following the announcement:

1) It goes without saying that his departure is going to leave a massive hole in the backline. Since his arrival at the Roar in the 2010-11 off-season he has been the one constant in the centre of defence. In that time he’s been a fixture alongside Michael Theo, Ivan Franjic and Shane Stefanutto in the backline, although we’ve seen the gradual breaking up of that group in the past 6 months. Outside of his qualities as a defender, one of Smith’s biggest strengths in his time here was his ability to adapt his game to playing alongside a host of partners in the heart of defence. Over his four and a half seasons he’ had no fewer than six partners, starting with Luke DeVere, before playing alongside Milan Susak, Matt Jurman, Sayed Mohamed Adnan, James Donachie and most recently Jade North. It’s hard to say which of the partnerships were the strongest over Smith’s time at the club, I would say that the Smith- DeVere and Smith- Adnan were the strongest in terms of defending, height and playing out from the back.

2) The challenge now for Frans Thijssen, who is still in his early days as Roar boss, is to forge another strong defensive partnership. It’s safe to assume that Jade North will likely form part of that partnership, while James Donachie will in all probability get the first chance to play alongside him. The two have played together at the back before, forming a solid pairing in the latter rounds of the 2012-13 season while Smith was injured. Their most recent game together was in the FFA Cup Round of 16 against Adelaide- a game Brisbane lost 2-0. The other current options would Lachlan Jackson, a defender from the Youth team who has been one of the teams better performers this season. There is clearly a massive need to bring somebody in at the back during the January transfer window.

3) On that point- this transfer window figures to be one of the busiest in recent times, and also one of the most important. Over the past two seasons, Brisbane have been active at the midseason transfer point, with North, Davies, Lustica and Nijland arriving in 2013, while Solórzano and Lustica arrived last year. I think it’s safe to say that this January period will be a busy one. It also looms as one of the most important transfer windows in recent times, probably the most important since the 2010-11 off-season when Ange Postecoglou brought in Smith, Theo, Broich, Stefanutto and Paartalu. The reason I say that is what this team seems to be coming towards the end of an amazing run, with a number of key players having already departed in the shape of Besart Berisha, Ivan Franjic and now Smith, while Shane Stefanutto is in all likelihood set to call it a career when the season comes to an end. It shapes as a massive month for Brisbane, with the second half of the season, the Asian Champions League and the long term future of the squad to factor in.

4) In terms of who comes into the side, there are some rather obvious need areas in the squad. It’s been said a lot in the last couple of weeks, but the off-season recruitment wasn’t the best and it’s left Brisbane still looking for replacements. At Right Back, while Bowles has done ok since getting a chance, nobody has nailed down that spot as their own through the first half of the season, with Donachie flattering to deceive and Jack Hingert once again going down with an injury. In short though, none of them have as yet established themselves as a sure fire replacement for Ivan Franjic. Central defence is now also a massive need with a player of some experience needed to come in and at the very least provide competition for places at the back. Currently now there are only 6 defenders signed on the books – North, Stefanutto, Donachie, Brown and Hingert-. At least 1, if not 2 will be needed in January. The midfield is still stacked with options, but upfront is another area where recruitment hasn’t quite worked out. Thijssen has indicated numerous times already in press conferences that the team needs a goal scorer, so expect that to be top of the shopping list in January. There should be plenty of room in the salary cap to bring players in as well, with Matt Smith and Liam Miller having departed in the last couple of months, and I wouldn’t be surprised if 1 or 2 others departed in January.

5) A bit of a sombre note to end on, but the core of what has been a truly fantastic side is starting to break up at pace now. From the team that played the Central Coast in the 2011 Grand Final- only 5 players now remain who were there then and remained in Brisbane right through until today. They are Michael Theo, Shane Stefanutto, Luke Brattan, Henrique and Thomas Broich. Obviously we’ve seen both Matt McKay and Jean Carlos Solórzano who were apart of that success return to the club, that core group that lead the side to all three Championships is whittling down with the off-season departure of Franjic and now Smith. As I said earlier today, times are definitely changing in Brisbane.

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