Friday, September 22, 2006

 

Fixing the Spike

Sydney FC's abysmal performance against New Zealand last night has been partly blamed on their midfield setup; the centre of the park was occupied by Terry McFlynn and...Mark Milligan, the subject of this piece.

As a result, the passing out of the centre was poor. McFlynn is an eager and effective tackler but a mediocre passer of the ball, and as for Milligan...well, read on.

"Spike" is generally agreed to be one of the more promising young Australian players, but there is plenty of debate as to his ideal position. He spent much of last season at right-back for Sydney FC, having also fulfilled that role for the Young Socceroos in the Under 20 World Cup in Holland.

He has never looked fully at home in the right-back role. He struggled there in Holland, and he gave Sydney fans plenty of headaches last season with his positioning, not to mention his occasionally over-zealous tackling.

Central midfield was Milligan's preferred position during his junior years, and, following a spell there with the Sutherland state league side while the A-League was in abeyance, he began 2006/07 there for Sydney.

His form in pre-season games induced Graham Arnold to use him in the midfield anchor role against Kuwait, and his showing in that game garnered him considerable acclaim. Tackling strongly and passing fairly well, he played a major role in Australia's victory; many thought he had found his niche.

Yet recent performances for Sydney FC have tended to suggest the contrary. His passing has been sadly hit-and-miss, and he looks hesitant when moving forward.

I still feel that Milligan is best suited to a central defensive role. Against Melbourne at Aussie Stadium last season, he was forced into central defence after Jacob Timpano went off with an injury; Milligan proceeded to mark Archie Thompson out of the game with contemptuous ease.

Then there was the encounter with Melbourne this season; Mark Rudan's dismissal obliged Milligan to fill in at centre-half once again. He proved a bulwark, only being caught out in the second half by a clever through-ball from Kevin Muscat, when the Sydney defence had (understandably) pushed far upfield.

Comments:
I've also been wondering about Mark Milligan's form this season. I thought he was one of the better players on the park against Kuwait, but since then there's been a bit of long-ball rubbish creeping into his game. He also doesn't look confident moving forward as you say.

If he was to move into central defence though, who would move? Topor-Stanley on the left was probably my pick of a sorry side last night, and Rudan is generally pretty solid in the centre, stupidity aside. Bingley in my opinion is a weak link on the right... could Rudan switch to the right to accomodate Milligan?
 
In the event that Ceccoli's absence is prolonged then I would like to see him switched to CB. As Simon mentioned.

However if Ceccoli can come back there is no doubt that Hyphen+Captain Mark must be first choice in the centre.

That said, I feel this could all be a bit different if he was paired with Talay. When paired with T-Mac he seems to be feeling like the designated playmaker in the middle and I feel this may effect his game. If we were to let him focus on shielding the back four and breaking up play I can see him improving in a number of ways.
 
On the moneny. Aside from his over-zealous attempt to spear away with his head (?) Muscat's long ball for Allsop versus Victory, Milligan looks great as the playmaker out of defence. In that match he played a marvellous 60 metre long ball straight down the centre for the run of Zdrilic, dealed effortlessly with Archie's typically (for a striker) head-down attempts to tackle and intercept, marshalled with confidence and a bit of a swagger.

He probably won't be a superb defender for another 4 or 5 years.

PS - Was he that poor in Holland? Marking Quincy was arguably the most difficult job of the tournament. I thought he coped rather well.
 
...If he was to move into central defence though, who would move? Topor-Stanley on the left was probably my pick of a sorry side last night, and Rudan is generally pretty solid in the centre, stupidity aside. Bingley in my opinion is a weak link on the right... could Rudan switch to the right to accomodate Milligan?...

I think you've put your finger on one serious problem with our squad - too many players who are central defenders by inclination (the other problem is too many left-siders).

No way would I move Rudan out of the middle, but Hyphen has looked good on the left on occasion. Last night wasn't one of his best games I felt, but he was superb there against Adelaide in the pre-season.

...That said, I feel this could all be a bit different if he was paired with Talay. When paired with T-Mac he seems to be feeling like the designated playmaker in the middle and I feel this may effect his game. If we were to let him focus on shielding the back four and breaking up play I can see him improving in a number of ways...

Yeah, can't disagree there. The only problem with him in the mainly static "anchor" role, for me, is that he sometimes goes in for some very silly challenges. In central defence he doesn't seem quite as reckless, for whatever reason.

...Was he that poor in Holland? Marking Quincy was arguably the most difficult job of the tournament. I thought he coped rather well....

My memories of that tournament are a bit sketchy, but IIRC Milligan had a pretty torrid time even in the opening game (v. Benin?). Certainly, I remember thinking after Oz's three group games that Milligan and Timpano had both looked very shaky.
 
It's simple. Bingley further forward in the middle, Rudan and Milligan / Milligan and Ruden centre and right. Which is best fit is my only query. Bingley is more attacking oriented.

It's a pity Butcher hasn't the ability to play his side in their best positions, or at least the balls to try a few things on the park.

It's a bug-bear with me but how many times are we gonna bring out hacks that have the "play how I want it played" instead of altering or developing team structure and tactics to the squad they've adopted ??????
 
Mikey, some interesting thoughts re Milligan. Last year I thought some of his best work was when relieving in central defence.

He looked composed and a natural at providing depth and cover in defence. Indeed, I thought that Sydeny often looked square when he wasn't in central d.

As for this season, under Butcher, I think that thing that counts against Milligan is his adaptability and the amount of injuries/suspensions among the roster. Have to say I was surprised to see him used on the right side of a diamond the past couple of weeks. On Friday night I thought his first half in the middle was poor, but like the rest of his teammates, thought he settled down after the goal when he started pushing further right and started keeping the ball on the deck.
 
...He looked composed and a natural at providing depth and cover in defence. Indeed, I thought that Sydeny often looked square when he wasn't in central d....

Yeah, that's a good point. If you consider an ideal centre-half duo to be a stopper type to win the aerial battles and a sweeper type to give you some pace and ability on the ground, Rudan and Milligan would be a good combo, IMHO.

Rudan and Hyphen are both stoppers by inclination I think, which means (and I've thought this throughout the season) that we're vulnerable to a second striker-type runner through the middle.
 
Hi Mike, great that you have this blog so I don't have to dredge through bloody SFCU to see what you have to say.

I am positive Milligan played FB at Northern Spirit (Under Lawrie McKinna) and was pretty impressive back then. I thought he was great during the Sydney FC CWC campaign. However he struggled at RB after he came back from his extended injury break.

However I agree with you that he looked a great central defender when put there and was great foil for Rudan. I think a Rudan/Milligan back pair is much more versatile and if we had that against Newcastle I believe it would have prevented at least one of Rodriguez's goals.

However it is obvious his wonderful versatility is what Guus saw in him. I think he be much more useful in a three back than a four back defensive line. (Where conversely Beauchamp is no good in a three back and great in a four back) if you know what I am saying.
 
...Hi Mike, great that you have this blog so I don't have to dredge through bloody SFCU to see what you have to say....

Danke Wilhelm!

...I am positive Milligan played FB at Northern Spirit (Under Lawrie McKinna) and was pretty impressive back then....

Must confess I rather lost touch with the old NSL in its dying days, but I've had a trawl through the Oz football archive (see the link, left), and you seem to be right, although sometimes they describe him as a midfielder.

...However it is obvious his wonderful versatility is what Guus saw in him. I think he be much more useful in a three back than a four back defensive line....

Yeah, Guus certainly liked versatile players (goes a long way towards explaining his championing of Wilkshire, for me). And I think you're right about the three at the back issue, Milligan strikes me as very much the sweeper type.

Actually, when Spike was interviewed on SBS a month or so ago and I asked him (Grant was getting some of the SFC guys to phone in) what he thought his best position was, he hedged (it always seems these days like footballers are taught never to give a straight answer in an interview), but said that "Arnie likes me at the centre of a back three".
 
Nice blog mikey, good reading and a very interesting peice on Milligan. Keep up the good work
 
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