Sunday, November 13, 2011

Brisbane Roar v Wellington Phoenix 1:1

It is anxious times for a Brisbane Roar fan. I mean hell, the undefeated streak stretches to 34 games. But it's hard not to notice that the last two games have presented a new challenge. It's hard not to notice that we have not scored from open play in the last two games.

In week one, Central Coast tried to handle us the way they almost did last season, with their half-open, counter attacking game, but once again, came up short.

The next week Sydney tried to press us high, and failed.

The Gold Coast also tried to press high; opening themselves up, and they were shown three goals against them for their efforts.

Adelaide - bless them - tried to beat us at our own game, and were utterly exposed.

Melbourne defended. They did not beat us, but with only nine men, they stifled us. Going by Archie's insistence before that game that Melbourne needed the first goal and that if Brisbane got the first goal Melbourne were basically stuffed, it's my suspicion that the tight defense we saw Melbourne play in the second half last week was not entirely improvisation due to extraneous circumstance. I believe it was Melbourne's plan to get an early goal - as it has been observed that Brisbane is often exposed early on - and then defend approximately as they did.

But regardless of how much their defensiveness was forced upon them, it worked. And Wellington, on paper the weakest team in the League, did the same thing. And it worked again.

That's the season so far. The sweep of the story is that the League has not figured out how to defeat Brisbane and indeed they have more-or-less given up trying. But they have worked out how to neutralise Brisbane. Perhaps Ange is right and there's nothing to worry about. There were good chances tonight after all. But my feeling is that other teams will do the same thing, with a reasonable expectation of success, and that we need a new trick.

One of the questions is about Brisbane's depth. In terms of on field leadership I don't think Matty McKay has been entirely replaced. It was him who would rally the troops, leading by example, for the final efforts, especially when the team was down. There doesn't seem to be that extra kick in the team; that turbo mode. The second halves of the last two games have been tactically clever enough, and accurate enough in terms of passes, but have appeared almost monotonous. We are left asking, "And???"

With Nichols away Issey was brought in to start and Broich was brought into the middle. Broich in the middle is great by me but Issey does not seem comfortable with the system yet, hogs the ball a bit and hence loses possession too much. He also shows some magic, and he did come very close to scoring so, unlike my son and consultant Jacob, who thinks Issey is "fuckin useless" I haven't given up on him. Depth is a challenge though.

Brattan deserves a mention at this point as he does appear to be able to do his job in the system.

"The system." There was a moment which I would love to successfully describe as it summed up the difference between what the Roar are doing and what other teams appear to be doing, in the first two thirds of the field anyway. Franjic received the ball very close to us, watched his defender frantically attempting to press him, and passed it off to his left (to Smith I think). It was the look on Franjic's face. It might be boredom. Certainly kind of cocky, contemptuous of the quite obviously pointless work the defender was doing. It looked like Franjic was pulling the same string as he had pulled a thousand times before, the outcome entirely predictable. And indeed, the defender huffed off to the left as Franjic gently sidestepped into the space created, as he knew he would before he even received the ball. It was just a moment, but seemed to sum up what was happening out there.

The thing is, the Roar machine is working. No team is beating us, and the opposition coaches from the last two weeks appear to be overjoyed to get the point from a draw. There is no team saying, "We can be better," merely teams saying, "We can stuff your game."

We'll see about that, of course. What a team does when we do score ourselves into the lead, as we nearly did about eight times in the second half, remains the open question. Keep in mind that the longer the game goes on the more the Roar have the advantage of their fitness and conserved energy. That's basically why teams need to score against the Roar as early in the game as possible. I suspect that the full defensive shell is also energy conserving to an extent.

It is in desperation that I am attempting a constructive solution to the Roar's new tactical dilemma. The second half tonight was a déjà vu of the second half last week versus the Victory. One thing that we did not see is any deviation from the ground level passing game plan. Any other team would be trying to chip balls over the top to a target man in the box. Not the Roar. They are so pure that it may defeat them.

If teams continue to conduct this kind of tortoise defense against the Roar maybe a target option would be good for the last ten minutes of the game, just to break things up, just to give the opposition something new to think about.

I don't suspect Berisha is the man. Paartalu appears a good choice for his height but he is key to the defense and the distribution around the defensive wall. I want to see Adnan given a go at this. According to Wikipedia he has been utilised just this way in the past and has scored goals like this, as well as from set pieces. The man is about 9 foot tall and we have had, in the first game against Central Coast, a glimpse of this aerial ability. It doesn't really get mentioned because he played such a small part in that game but he won two aerial challenges in that game with apparent effortlessness. The second was in the box from a corner but it went over the bar. I actually suspect that Ange is holding this weapon back purposely.

The neat thing is you can have Adnan on the bench as defensive cover, but then in this particular instance - when the opposition has retracted into its tortoise like defense - push him right up front as a natural target man. It's not changing the system. It's just giving it a new trick, for a contingency.

This game review was supposed to be 'visceral' I think. It would have been moreso if I was in the intoxication of the 5:1 drubbing that I expected Roar would deliver. The game was compelling and the atmosphere, with the 16,500 fans, was brilliant. Some are saying that the Roar are looking 'toothless' or whatever, but I still find myself hypnotised by their passages of play. But for a Roar fan tonight's game, on the back of last week in particular, was sobering.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cant help but notice that the last two results are very similar to the OLD ROAR from the early A League days where they did everything but score goals! As for my boys, they were the team of the week who played dare I say it Barcelona type football. When Fred plays, the team ticks. Don't think we have had him for a full 90mins yet which is disappointing. If he stays fit, we can challenge any team.

In round 1, away at Jets, we should have had a Pen and there keeper sent off in first 10mins for clear foul. Then we lose in 93min to a off side deflected goal. In Round 2, I admit we were poor n deserved to lose 2-1 thou the second goal was a embarrassing bit of play by Matt Thompson. In round 3 we threw everything at the Victory but score a goal. Should have won by 2/3 goals. In Round 4 we led Sydney until the 93rd min when a corner was incorrectly given from which they scored a equalizer. In Round 5 away at Adelaide leading 1-0 when 15min from time a red card was harshly given. So we have not been off the pace. If the strikers can get some more shots on target we have some of the best wingers in the game. It's a pity we lose 3 of our best players this week so wouldn't be surprised at all to lose to the GC this weekend. It's a better comp when teams are even. I expect the roar to win the title but only after the others fight them for it to the last few rounds. Sydney have been very impressive this yr. Ncky carle is my player of the season so far.

O and look out for the Heart in a few weeks. The winning run will come to an end.

November 13, 2011 11:42 pm  
Blogger Hamish Alcorn said...

The winning run will, indeed, come to an end.

I actually think I would love it if it was the Heart, moreso than any other team, that did the job. I think you're one of the few teams actually trying to play better and better football.

As a broad statement however, the team I watched tonight, and the team who played Melbourne last week, although they may have failed their shots, look very little like the Roar of old. The Roar are still rockin'.

Let me know when a team comes close to outplaying the Roar. That may be well after a team defeats the Roar.

November 14, 2011 12:08 am  
Anonymous Neil said...

Brisbane does not have a winning run, they have an undefeated run. Two completely and utterly different things. In fact over 40% of the Roar's undefeated run have been draws.

In regards to the Victory game. We will never know how Victory intended to play against due to the red cards, whether they were correct or not is entirely another discussion. It highlighted that the Roar do not have a Plan B and whilst its commendable to stick with the same game plan it is sometimes necessary to win ugly. It's a bit of an Arsenal syndrome. However that being said the Roar do tend to struggle against them purely because when the Victory defence is disciplined they have the attacking arsenal that few others in the A-League have. I can't wait to see an 11 v 11 Roar-Victory encounter.

November 14, 2011 9:05 am  
Blogger Hamish Alcorn said...

Me too Neil. It was a shame we didn't see the duel of the full 11 v 11. Unfinished business for sure. We have that one to look forward to on New Years Eve. (Though I know even then MV fans won't entirely shut up until we defeat you in Melbourne. :) )

And it's a fair point that Brisbane has not actually had an especially long *winning* run. Perhaps it may be argued that by not peaking too madly, and still being challenged a bit, even going behind in some games, the Roar have been able to maintain their dominance for longer. In any case Roar fans aren't complaining.

November 14, 2011 9:18 am  
Blogger Hamish Alcorn said...

By the way Neil, I didn't suggest Brisbane was on a 'winning run' and the difference between that an an 'undefeated run' are fairly obvious.

Don't look now but you're sounding a bit shrill.

November 14, 2011 5:34 pm  
Anonymous Jacob said...

You did say 'The winning run will, indeed, come to an end.'

Anyway, roar fans can hardly blame the parking of a bus for their recent form. Brisbane have had plenty of chances and just failed to convert. Ange just needs to do a bit more clinical finishing drills i think..

November 14, 2011 6:49 pm  
Blogger Hamish Alcorn said...

Fair enough Jacob (and Neil). Mea culpa. I was more careful in the article.

Note that I was replying to 'Anonymous', above, and was hence parotting the term he used. No real excuse though - I should be more careful.

November 14, 2011 7:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Morning Hamish,

Is it time for a plan B? My gut feeling is that they should keep working on getting plan A right ... I think its still early going - a couple of rounds in and there is definitely room for improvement in the team's execution. Seems like the only thing they didn't do against Welly was put the ball in the net. Chances are being created. A very different situation to the week before where Victory were able to defuse the Roar's attack.

If it was round 18 and quite clear that improvement wasn't gonna happen, then I would want a plan B.

Very interested to see Adnan get more game time. Could Brisbane have another ball carrying centre-back, post De Vere? Paartalu drops back to centre back when / Adnan joins the attack.

Oh well, be interesting seeing how this all plays out.


November 15, 2011 6:56 am  
Blogger Hamish Alcorn said...

Clayton and Jacob, you may well be right, and we have been given every reason to have faith in the coach. Ange has always been pretty straight with the media, and he said he saw no problem. His logic is sound: if teams keep doing that, and allowing six or seven quality shots on goal (more as we persist and get better at the particular problem), then we'll win more often than not.

But like you I am still interested in what Adnan can do. It looks like he'll get his start against Newcastle with Jurman on Ollyroos business. Issey will start too again I suspect to cover for Nichols (via Broich moving central). It will be another test.

I can't see Newcastle being ultra defensive the entire game in front of their home fans either. It's not their style. If they get an early one they might though - the fans would probably love the opportunity to win more than anything.

November 15, 2011 10:58 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big Big match - really looking forward to it. They just lost 3 - 0, but the week before the Jets looked like a completely different team.

If Wheelhouse could consistently play to his ability, I think people would be talking about him the same way people talk about Paartalu.

Are Bratten and Meyer going to move up a gear and demand starting spots? Hope so.


November 16, 2011 8:59 am  
Blogger Hamish Alcorn said...

For my records really, this is a good article about Spain being beaten by England in a friendly and asking the same question about whether a Plan B is necessary against ultra-defensive strategies.

November 18, 2011 4:55 am  

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