Monday, August 07, 2006


The Carney Conundrum

At a press conference following yet another laboured Sydney FC performance at Aussie Stadium last season, David Carney was asked by a journalist whether he would prefer to be operating on the left flank rather than the right. Carney’s response, with his manager sitting alongside him, was decidedly coy: “Well, I’m playing well on the right, so why change it?”

Pierre Littbarski’s use of Carney last season exasperated many of the fans. Here was perhaps our most potent attacking player, full of tricks, pace and acumen, and yet he was constantly being forced to cut inside onto his far stronger left foot in order to deliver a telling cross or shot.

He did, it’s true, successfully force his way into shooting positions on the edge of the area quite often, and notched an impressive tally of goals for a midfielder. Nevertheless, when he clearly possessed the pace to regularly beat most right-backs in the league and deliver crosses with his better peg, few considered the right wing a wise choice for Carney.

In the opening games of Sydney’s 2006/07 campaign, Terry Butcher has adopted Pierre Littbarski’s deployment of the blond midfielder; perhaps the arrival of Alex Brosque, another winger of pace and copious technical ability who favours the left, has forced his hand. Yet in the course of the pre-season bonus round match against Perth last night, another possibility for Carney emerged.

Languishing on the right as per usual and seeing little of the ball, Carney was on the move after a quarter of an hour. Now he was popping up on the left wing, playing in tandem with Brosque, now he was to be seen alongside Milligan and McFlynn in defensive midfield. On about 25 minutes, he finally settled, in a place he had not often been seen last year for any length of time: just behind the front-line.

Much to my surprise, Carney looked very much the part in a playmaker role. He made significant contributions to the first two Sydney goals, and although his magnificent feint and cross for the third goal arose – joy of joys! – from his taking up a position on the left, he had gotten there via a diagonal run from the centre.

The search for David Carney’s true position should be of interest not only to Sydney FC aficionados, but to Socceroo fans as well. Few would deny that the youngster is likely to be part of the Australian squad in future years, and deciding on the best way to utilize his abundant talents will be an important task for future Socceroo supremos.

As for Sydney FC supporters, and the Cove in particular, they will always cheer for Super Dave, wherever on the pitch he may be.

David Who? You mean he's actually signed the contract? ;-)
Recently I've been watching all the goals (and some other highlights here and there) from every game last season and while I can see how Carney would be effective as a central playmaker, he certainly looked very much a winger (surprising how many opportunities, among those I watched, he set-up from the left wing even though he hardly played there, BTW). I'd be surprised if his "true" position turns out to be in the centre, put it that way. That said, as it started to look like Littbarski wasn't going to hang around after last season, I was hoping he'd be spared from the right wing and taken to the left by the possible new coach for this campaign. Then Brosque signed. If it turns out he can still be the goods and not frustratingly out of position in the centre then it gets the thumbs up from me.

I guess another positive, from a national team perspective, arising from having both Brosque and Carney in the same team is that we should hopefully have a young left winger (who played there throughout the season) who has really proven his worth in the A-League by the end of this season. We need quality cover for Kewell and we haven't had it with Lazaridis fading in the last couple of years and Chipperfield needed at the back.

In terms of young left wingers, only Lucas Pantelis and Naum Sekolovski impressed me last season and with all respect to those two, I can't at this stage see them forcing their way into the NT (at least, in Pantelis' case, not after his injury).

Personally I'd like to think Carney and Brosque are best or at least effective enough on the left wing and as a second, deep-lying striker respectively, with the level of NT depth and promising players in said positions in mind. I guess this season will go a fair way to telling the truth. I know Brosque had a pitiful goal/shot percentage but I wasn't convinced his finishing simply wasn't up to task. He looked badly in need of confidence and some competent out-and-out strikers to take the goalscoring burden off him not long into last season. Even so, he ended up with 8 goals in 21 games which is an acceptable rate for a supporting striker (as forward a position I think he should take).
I tend to agree with you that the left wing is still Carney's ideal position, but I was really surprised by how effective he looked working just behind Sash. Having said that, he didn't quite look so threatening once Corica went off (the whole team looked the poorer for losing Corica, significantly, although the fact that he was replaced by a very languid Zdrilic didn't help).

I still reckon Brosque is better on the wing than as a three-quarter player and last night reinforced that view for me. His diagonal runs in from the left were very classy, and he had Webster for pace (embarrassingly so, at times). As for his finishing, it seems to be improving, but he's got a way to go yet (he was a little bit lucky with that first goal yesterday, truth be told).

Re Sekulovski, by the way: although he impressed me at times last season, I don't really see him as NT standard. Yesterday he did very little.

One other interesting little thing that came out of yesterday's game: Tarka was pretty ordinary for most of it (in defence), but late on he moved into a sort-of defensive midfield position and really looked good.
...David Who? You mean he's actually signed the contract? ;-)...

Down, boy, down! ;-)
What is it with talented and pacey left footed Australian wingers being deployed on the right? Or elsewhere for that matter.

Kewell, Carney, bloody hell, anyone would think it was right footers who were less abunadant so left footers had to go over and cut in off their opposite foot to compensate.

How often are talented right wingers told their better off on the left? Since when are left footers more

Maybe in Australia's case (and Sydney's, and Liverpool's mind you) it is (strangely) a case of there being too many other options on the left.

I mean, look at the abundance of speedy, penetrating left fullback/wingback/wingers who are good crosses of the ball or have a missile launcher in their boot that we have had over recent years; Kewell, Lazaridis, Chipperfield, Tiatto, Carney, even Dean Heffernan.

Our right sided players with similar attributes are light on in comparison. But funnily enough, a lot of nations struggle to find an abundance of left sided options. See England as Exhibit A.

Personally, I just think it's coaches with the wrong idea. Some mystical force that sees coaches rarely throw the talented right footers out on the left, because that would be silly, but see doing the opposite as imaginative and clever.

I don't get it. Sure they can wander over the other side from time to time, but it seems to me that players like Kewell and Carney always play better out on the left.

- subby
Hi Mikey

Unfortunately i havent been able to watch any of Sydney's pre-season games (getting to Wollongong before kick-off on friday night was unfortunately out of the question) so i cant really comment on the structure of the team, but one thing that has struck me are the positive comments im hearing. Where do you think Carney will feature this season? in the hole or out wide? The reason i ask this is due to the abundance of talent currently at our disposal- namely corica, brosque and zadkid.

If we are to assume, due to commercial pressure if not footballistic merit, that dwight will be a likely feature of the standard XI will carney continue to play on the right due to the number of left-sided players we have?
G'day foncho...

...Where do you think Carney will feature this season? in the hole or out wide?...

Hard to tell. As you say, the squad is very left-side-heavy ATM, and that might induce Butcher to use Carney as Litti did (nominally on the right), at least for a while. But one thing I have noticed about Carney in the two games I've seen so far is that he doesn't just hang around pointlessly by the right touchline waiting for someone to give him the ball anymore, he gets actively involved in the play pretty much all the time. Good to see.

Zadkid watched the game from the stands last night, BTW. From the way he was walking (or rather limping), I'd say he's still some way off full fitness.
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