What did we learn from John Aloisi’ first game?

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While last nigh was obviously a fantastic spectacle for the game here in Brisbane -particularly for the Liverpool fans-, the game was also significant for the Roar as it was John Aloisi’ first in charge of the three time A-League Champions. So what did we learn from it in terms of the way he intends to re-build the club back into title contenders?

Set-up
The first thing to notice is that the team’s formation and shape has remained in tact, with Aloisi opting for a 4-3-3 formation which has served his predecessors so well. Brisbane started with a midfield trio consisting of Petratos on the right side with Brattan central and Lustica to the left, while the front third saw Borrello start wide right, with Broich back on the left and new signing Jamie Maclaren through the centre. The positioning of Broich is always a focal point with previous managers debating his best role in the side, it’s however that despite Broich floating central as the game progressed, Aloisi intends on using the German playmaker out wide from where he helped lead the side to so much success.

Build-up
When in possession, again there was very little change in the way Brisbane looked to create their attacks, with an emphasis on ball retention and playing out from the back and through the lines. There was one subtle change however, with the switches from side to side to side seemingly quicker, while there were also more balls played in behind for Maclaren and Borrello particularly to try and get on the end of. That could however have also been at least in part due to the high energy pressing game Liverpool played with, so we’ll have to wait and see if that continues through the pre-season.

Brattan’s role
One noticeable change however was the positioning of Luke Brattan, and Aloisi confirmed as much in the post game press conference by saying that he wants the midfielder to stop dropping so deep to start attacks. As Aloisi described, his vision for Brattan is to play slightly further up the park, beyond the first line of the opposition press, so that when he has the ball, he has more passing options at his disposal, particularly forward passes and we saw glimpses of that tonight. Given that Brattan has been seemingly pigeonholed into the deep lying midfielder role, where he drops between the two central defenders to help launch attacks, it’s naturally going to take some time for Brattan to get used to his new role in the side.

Clut not starting
One surprise from Aloisi was that emerging youngster Devante Clut started the game on the bench with the new manager preferring to start with Petratos in a midfield role instead, which in truth in hindsight looks to be a solid decision given Petratos’ scored and his overall performance. Clut however was impressive in his cameo off the bench, however it was interesting that he replaced Brattan in the central role, as opposed to Petratos.

Maclaren
Given the failings of last season with replacing Besart Berisha, a lot of eyes were on new striker Jamie Maclaren tonight and I thought that while it was a tough night for him, he acquitted himself reasonably well. It was clear that he isn’t fully fit yet, which probably played a part in why his Brisbane debut was cut short around the hour mark, but that will improve. He was at times inevitably isolated as the Reds put the Roar backline under increasing pressure, but he held his positioning well. He didn’t have a great deal of service last night, but he made a couple of good runs off the ball which his teammates tried to reward, and but for a couple of good interceptions from the Liverpool defenders he could of been in on goal.

Defensive pecking order
Aloisi’ hand was probably made for him, at least in part with injury issues at the back end of last season for both Polenz and Stefanutto probably necessitating a cautious approach to both so early in the pre-season. The interesting point here is that when Stefanutto was replaced, it wasn’t regular replacement Corey Brown coming off the bench it was Polenz, with Hingert shuffling across to the left side. Perhaps more alarmingly for the young left back, Daniel Bowles was also preferred to Brown when Hingert was himself later replaced. It’s only one game, however when there’s a natural left back on the bench, and he’s overlooked twice to fill a hole at left back, it’s not a good sign.

Youngsters impress again
As is the case in these pre-season/ exhibition games, the second half turns into a great opportunity for young players to test themselves and make a name for themselves, and once again Brisbane’s young cubs put in a solid display. The likes of Brady, Yango, Clut, D’Agostino and Hore all got game time last night, and just like they did against Melbourne Victory, Newcastle Jets and Villarreal, they held their own. Defender Lachlan Jackson may have departed the club this week, but there’s still a tremendous group of youngsters waiting in the wings, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see one or two cement their spot in the Matchday squad as the season progresses. By the end of the game, Brisbane had seven players under the age of 23 on the park, all of whom have at least in part been developed through the clubs youth setup, which is a fantastic achievement and further underlines the impressiveness of last nights display.

There was a lot to like about the way Brisbane went about their football last night, but there’s also a long way to go until the Roar will be back challenging for top spot on the table. Last night’s performance against Liverpool however was a good first step, and should provide some optimism as John Aloisi seeks to rebuild the club.

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