Sunday, February 04, 2007


Sydney FC - The Report Card, Part 2

4. Mark Rudan

Shunned for so long by Pierre Littbarski, Sydney FC’s “big blue man” nevertheless stepped up to become the club’s bulwark in the latter third of the 2005/06 season, and was far and away the player of last year’s finals series.

It was a mixed bag for him in 2006/07. And in the final analysis, a somewhat disappointing season for such a fine player.

One of the most disquieting aspects of Rudan’s performance in 2006/07 was that he failed to control his fiery temperament, and set a poor example for his team. A piece of pure petulance against Melbourne in Round 2 and a needless foul against Perth later in the season resulted in two red cards, and he picked up another yellow on Friday in quite unnecessary fashion.

From a football point of view, he continued to be dominant in the air, shrewd in his positioning and forceful in the tackle. Yet he did not play the ball out of defence with anything like his usual thoughtfulness, preferring to loft the ball in search of the strikers on most occasions. His upfield runs, too, were at a premium this season; in late 2005/06, Rudan strode confidently forward with the ball to make the extra man in midfield on many occasions.

Still the key man in defence, but could do significantly better, and may have forfeited his right to a leadership role. 6.5/10.

6. Ufuk Talay

There was a period towards the beginning of the season when one believed that Terry Butcher would rather walk over hot coals than start Talay. Yet, by the end of the term, Butcher himself would admit that he’d misjudged the stocky midfielder.

When Talay became a fixture in the starting eleven, Sydney’s passing and ability to switch the play improved immeasurably. It was a pity, though, that Talay, who is not at his best in the final third, was not capable of fulfilling the sole anchor role in midfield. His tackling is mediocre, and in the final half-hour of the Newcastle game in Round 11, his defensive deficiencies were plain to see.

Saso Petrovski and others may have grumbled that the McFlynn-Talay axis in midfield prevented Sydney from playing two up front, but on the whole, Butcher’s central midfield pairing complemented each other fairly well.

Talay’s vision could be priceless – witness his sublime pass through to David Carney for the fourth goal against New Zealand in Round 12 – but there were days when his passing simply went out the window, and it could be painful to watch.

Nevertheless, one of Sydney’s better players this season. 7/10.

7. Robbie Middleby

Terry Butcher’s favourite.

A Sydney FC fan with whom I watched many of the home games this season once dismissed Middleby as “nothing but engine”. One could argue that a player with a solid engine was priceless in a season in which the team so regularly ran out of steam in the second half, and looked underdone as a whole.

It’s true, though, that Middleby, despite his admirable workrate, offered deceptively little by way of genuine penetration. Although the A-League assists list is subjective and misleading in some ways, it’s perhaps significant that Middleby got onto the list only once.

Yet he offered a great deal to the side. One particular aspect of his play which was often ignored was his success in preventing opposition right-backs from becoming involved in attacks. Tracking back was second nature for Middleby…if only that had been the case for David Carney on the opposite wing.

His crossing, too, was fairly good, and (again unlike Carney) he could swing it in with either foot. Yet he rarely hit the by-line, and in truth, his delivery from the wings did not often pose genuine danger. By contrast, when Steve Corica was primed for a cross, you always expected something to happen.

An archetypal “honest” player, who did his best according to his lights. 7/10.

Incidentally, in these posts I'm trying to provide a reasonably objective assessment of the performances of Sydney FC's personnel (including, eventually, the coach), based on having seen practically every second they played.

But if a blinkered, disingenuous, agenda-obsessed "analysis", based on having seen very little of them at all, is more to your liking, you could do worse than this.

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