A-League review: Western United's Alessandro Diamanti problem
It's Monday, so here's the good, bad and ugly from Round 11 in the A-League.
Diamanti, and the Importance of Being Earnest
Players like Alessandro Diamanti not only need to express themselves on a football pitch, but need to feel as though they are required to by their coach. Western United's 1-1 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday night typified the negative risks that come with that facet of collective motivation. While the commentators gushed over every touch, in reality, Diamanti did what he wanted.
Not in a good way, that is.
Max Burgess' introduction for the injured Panagiotis Kone necessitated a different approach for Western United, and it exacerbated Diamanti's prohibitive decision-making on the ball. With the game in the balance, the manner in which he lost the continually lost the ball -- especially in moments where Western United had the weight of numbers to penetrate -- broke phases of play down against a Wanderers side expending abnormal energy. Even in moments when Diamanti kept the ball, like before Nicolai Muller's chance late in the second half, he would put his teammates under unnecessary pressure.
A coach has to live with it to a degree, because one good moment from a player like Diamanti can decide a match. Still, the need to minimise the gap between good and bad over the course of 90 minutes exists.
Kruse's impact on Kamsoba
Melbourne Victory's Robbie Kruse is really only just finding a rhythm since coming back from injury. Yet, through his presence and perpetually purposeful movement, teammate Elvis Kamsoba finally has a reference point that he has so desperately required up to this point.
In their 2-1 win over Melbourne City on Saturday, Kruse and Kamsoba's interaction on the pitch had a sizeable impact on Melbourne City's ability -- and inability -- to defend. Numbers around the ball simultaneously stretched and compacted the pitch, easing Melbourne Victory's ability to both recover and keep the ball. As the match went on, Kamsoba visibly grew with confidence.
It was a healthy contrast to the isolation Kamsoba and Ola Toivonen have tried to operate within so far this season. One can consider Curtis Good's defensive body shape before Toivonen made it 2-0, but it is just as important to consider why Good was having to turn towards City's goal to begin with.
Then, the Kruse moved up front. In his first action as Victory's No. 9, the 31-year-old Socceroo drifts and creates a sizeable gap for Jakob Poulsen to move into, but the Denmark international stayed put. Baby steps.
Alex Rufer's injury
In his two starts for Wellington Phoenix, Cameron Devlin has been very, very good -- the real test will come when opposition teams defensively adjust to his preferences and movements. But, for now, the 21-year-old's time in New Zealand so far has been overwhelmingly positive. Following a 0-0 draw against the Victory last week that the Phoenix arguably didn't deserve, they similarly emerged with a 2-2 draw against Sydney FC on Saturday. Sydney's start was reflective of their quality -- and Adam Le Fondre's finish for 1-0 was wonderfully instinctive -- but Ufuk Talay's side gradually took control of the match. They should have come away with more than a point, again.
It was down to the balance Matti Steinmann and Devlin provide as a tandem in central midfield, and the consequent ability to further incorporate Ulises Davila and Reno Piscopo up the pitch. As noted, it is early days, but Alex Rufer's eventual return from knee injury provides a potential problem for Talay. A positive one, but a problem all the same. It becomes clearer, though, Devlin's attributes are necessary for the Phoenix to truly function with the ball.
Adelaide's start and balance in the universe
It was only last week where Jack Clisby's defensive error and lack of awareness immediately put Central Coast behind the eight ball against league-leading Sydney. Tommy Oar was moved to left-back but on Sunday, in their 2-1 win over Adelaide United in Gosford, football's peculiar way of creating cosmic symmetry manifested. Kye Rowles had space to receive the ball, turn and shoot while Adelaide players defended nothingness.
With reason, Reds coach Gertjan Verbeek seethed quietly on the sidelines, while his players left their desire to play on the plane.
The Mariners' relative eagerness to move and create, before and after Rowles' goal, would have been a poor starting point for the Dutchman. Yet, then came Daniel de Silva receiving a pass along the pitch, all the way from a corner to the top of the Adelaide penalty area. It was an isolated moment, but a clear example of how Verbeek's team entered the match: Without energy, nothing in football is possible. With Milan Duric's strike, they were duly punished.
Perth Glory and maturity
At professional level, a team can win or lose a match within seconds. So it turned out for Newcastle Jets on Saturday, as they were thrashed 6-2 by Perth Glory. The Glory by no means dominated the first half at HBF Park but, under Tony Popovic, quickly capitalising on the breakdown of opposition possession has always been a significant focus point. Having the mental capacity to do that, irrespective of what minute it is in a match, is important.
It's what makes things like Ben Kantarovski trailing before conceding a penalty or Johnny Koutroumbis' cheaply giving away possession before Joel Chianese made it 3-1 -- within a minute of the restart -- so pivotal. Although Steven Ugarkovic was able to pull one back after fine combination with Dimi Petratos, Perth showed the difference between mature teams and the rest on Saturday night.