Why the win of ALM Western United and the woes of Socceroos are internally connected

Wow, what a season.

Western United are the men’s A-League champions for 2021-22 and it’s hard not to appreciate their journey to this point. John Aloisi has grown a team that is fighting hard, while the care between the players and the coaching staff has been noticeable and genuine throughout the season.

In a season of huge hurdles against the backdrop of COVID-19, grouping matches and separating families, Western United found refuge in each other and the outpouring of emotions after Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Melbourne City reflected something profound at the interpersonal level.

However, the nature of their triumph reflected and reaffirmed something else. Because it would be misleading not to correlate football played by Australian teams domestically and internationally, this year has become the sum of all concerns in Australian football.

In this context, this year’s ALM finals served as a fitting precursor to the Socceroos World Cup play-off qualification. In the end, the problems that arose with Graham Arnold and the Australian national team in their hopes of qualifying for Qatar only manifested themselves at the domestic level.

From Ufuk Talay to Tony Popovich earlier in the playoffs to Patrick Kisnorb on Saturday after the Grand Final, no one focused on the collective dynamics that caused the inability to transfer possession of the ball to anything significant in front of the goal.

In Kisnorbo’s case, he was either unaware or even unwilling to comment on Rostyn Griffiths’ choice in the middle of the advance, which affected the way Connor Metcalfe and Florin Berenguer could get the ball and the domino effect it would have on the City’s top three – Andrew Nabbout. , Mathew. Leckie and Jamie Maclaren – specifically in a system based on third party movement.

“I think he came with Griff last week.” [against Adelaide United] and I thought he did a fantastic job, so I wanted to reward him for his performance, “Kisnorbo said. [Gomulka].

“It doesn’t really matter, one person like number 6 [or] Griffiths like No. 6 … he’s the one who’s anchored. Jamie Maclaren’s submission comes from our attacking midfielders and our wings.

“We knew that given what we had, we had to win the battle in the middle to allow Florin and our wings to reach the ball.”

As well as the initial goal to give Western United 1-0 in the second minute – ignoring Griffiths, who also lost sight of Leo Lacroix before Nuna Reise’s unfortunate own goal – this choice of Kisnorba conditions the game and gives City a majority. holding ineffective.

Once they went up, Western United didn’t have to chase the match because they knew they could protect their lead and then damage City in the transition. In such a scenario, Alexander Prijovich’s sealing goal almost inevitably came.

Together with the insufficient scope of Marco Tilia, the dysfunction of the center of the City’s backup allowed Aloisi and his team to expand what was their modus operandi throughout the season. This is the hardest element to winning the Western United title, however admirable was their turn in an interpersonal sense: How much is it due to their ability to absorb pressure on the defensive and how much the opponent’s inability to work with the ball?

In seven games of the final series this season, only the team with the greater possession of the ball actually won once. In this one match, Melbourne Victory’s first victory over Western United, Victory failed to fire a single shot in the second half – let alone in an open game – to Jake Brimmer’s goal in the 74th minute from Jason Davidson’s corner. After Brimmer’s goal in the first match, Victory’s possession dropped to 29%.

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However, as we approach it, let’s look at the footage of the final series in relation to this holding. There were a total of 171 shots between the teams during the seven matches. When you break it down by the quality and quantity of the shots in relation to the game phase and the game state, the appearance of football in ALM, if that matters – or Australian football as a whole – will be tangibly clear.

Although marginal, during seven matches there were more shots in the dead ball phases (6.14 in 90 minutes) than against the set defense in their middle (6 to 90), while the shots in the transition overshadowed both phases (11.18 in 90 minutes). 90).

Of the 44 attempts to defend against the set defense during seven matches, only four from the team were in the winning position, compared to 29 attempts to switch from winning positions and four goals in this state of play and stage. The difference in average projectile quality between the two – 0.07 xG per missile against the set defense and 0.14 xG per missile during the transition – is also deeply illuminating.

Ignoring the fact that each team played in virtually the same formation in the final is an endemic problem that permeates every level of Australian football.

Teams in the ALM simply do not work in possession of the ball, and this reflects the same soulless football as the Australian national team. As noted by the loss of Socceroos to Saudi Arabia, the problem has never been Arnold in isolation, but how Arnold represents a largely general and pragmatic coaching methodology that stifles our ball-holding game on the field.

Given how these teams play in the league format of the final series and the safety net without relegation, the perception of success is distorted – something that led Arnold to the position of Socceroos coach in the beginning.

While the Australian football community is absurdly trying to pull things that are serious or thoughtful from the exhibition match between the ALM All-Stars and visiting Barcelona, ​​we are avoiding the real problems that really reflect the Australian game on the pitch.

Although it is questionable whether ALM franchises owe the game a duty of care in a holistic sense, it is now impossible to ignore how on-course and off-site decisions affect the peak of the Australian game.

Finally, as the Australian football community suddenly tries to find the reasons why these problems manifest themselves after every international window, keep in mind how they stared at us with each new ALM match.


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