Sunday, September 02, 2007

 

Change Will Do You Good

At the press conference following the Sydney v. Adelaide match last night, it was refreshing to hear an admittedly truculent Branko Culina actually talking specifically about the tactical changes he'd made during the game. Even better, he made sense.

It's rather a novelty from a Sydney FC manager. Definitely a change from Pierre Littbarski's incomprehensible ramblings and Terry Butcher's "lads fought well" clich├ęs.

It's also refreshing to finally have a manager who is prepared to make necessary changes before the 75-minute mark, in order to rectify problems that have arisen. Even in the first game of the season, a tactical reshuffle from Culina (Mark Milligan to sweeper, Terry McFlynn into midfield, Ruben Zadkovich over to the right) resulted in a much improved second-half performance.

Last night, Sydney's dominance of the second half can largely be put down to the canny changes that Culina made. One could say that such changes were forced upon him by Tony Popovic's back injury, but plenty of managers would surely have settled for a straight swap. Yet when the teams re-emerged from the tunnel, there were other significant, and worthwhile, alterations to Sydney's set-up. To wit:

1. Robbie Middleby shifted to the right

The aging wide man has always looked more comfortable on the right-hand side; although the presence of the right-footed Ruben Zadkovich induced Culina to start Middleby on the left last night, it was on the opposite flank in the second half that Middleby really made his presence felt (although, as has so often happened, his final balls into the strikers were disappointing).

2. Alex Brosque shifted deeper

Brosque spent most of the first half playing with back to goal, which is very much inimical to him. With the arrival of Patrick in the second half - a player who does appear to be able to play effectively facing away from goal - Brosque dropped off to the left, and looked far happier, running at the defence and combining well with the likes of Steve Corica and Juninho.

3. Physical presence up front

Brosque, again, does not provide this, and with Patrick leading the line, the Adelaide defenders were given the sort of trouble that Bruce Djite had provided in such abundance at the other end. Patrick may have made a horrible mess of his excellent chance on the hour mark, and he may have been over-elaborate on the ball at times, but overall he looks a good prospect.

There remains the shifting of Ruben Zadkovich into a sweeper role, which was certainly controversial. Culina defended his decision stoutly at the press conference, describing it as "the logical thing to do", given the fact that the original back three had found Djite's pace and strength such a headache. Although Zadkovich was partly at fault for the second Adelaide goal, I'm inclined to agree with Culina about the logic of the decision.

Sydney have only gained one point from their first two home games - a poor start in anyone's language. Yet, after their bright second-half display last night, I'm happily sticking to my prediction that they will make the A-League finals again.

Comments:
Hi Mike,

Long time reader, first time replier. I agree with your comments regarding Culina - excellent to gain insight into his thought processes which, as you said,again illustrated either Butcher's unwillingness to display, or simple lack thereof, tactial rationale last season. I'm especially looking foward to the Sydney-Newcastle matches this season, because GVE was one coach last season who did show some tactical nous in the press and on the field (although he did err in the Adelaide final). Along with Vidmar, who seems to have a good head, I'm looking forward to hearing more "whys" from A-League coaches this season, as opposed to the usual "we were unlucky" dross.
 
Sorry, Mikey, but this pro-Culina wankery has to be countered.

Culina's record with SUFC is now P13 W3 D5 L5 F11 A15 in all games played in the ACL, pre-season cup and HAL. Everyy game I hear about how Sydney are quite awful in one-half, then perk up with a tactical master-stroke in the other. If Culina was so masterful, then pray tell how he can watch SUFC for two years on the sidelines, seen them make exactly the same errors and lapses (both actical and disciplinary). and still gets it so wrong.

Let's face it, putting the speediest defender against the speediest attacker is really a no-brainer, isn't it? So why not have that in place from the start? It's not like Djite is a new phenomena.

From what I read and see in highlights, the onlt difference in SUFC this year from last is the presence of a marquee player. You'd better pray that he stays fit, because he seems to be it as far as creativity is concerned.

As for Butcher, his side is unbeaten in four games and joint second in a far more competitive league.

And glad to be out of SUFC a wealhier man, by all accounts.
 
Well maybe thats because Butcher is playing in a league with a different style to ours??

And Btucher never made the effort to give Austrlaian football a try. It is clear from all his rants now, that he was not comfortable with Australian football, he couldnt accept not having first grade facilities etc...

Whats worse is he turned our team into absolute rubbish..... players that were once playing creatively and confidently were no longer.. to me some of these players are still recovering from that... I mean remember Carney in season 1?? what the hell happened in season 2??? Absolute shite..
 
G'day beedster. Thought that one might get a comment from you. ;-)

...Culina's record with SUFC is now P13 W3 D5 L5 F11 A15 in all games played in the ACL, pre-season cup and HAL....

ACL? Irrelevant by comparison to Butcher or Littbarski.

Pre-season cup there were a pile of players missing.

...Every game I hear about how Sydney are quite awful in one-half, then perk up with a tactical master-stroke in the other. If Culina was so masterful, then pray tell how he can watch SUFC for two years on the sidelines, seen them make exactly the same errors and lapses (both actical and disciplinary). and still gets it so wrong....

I've never claimed that he's a masterstroker (TM), he's certainly made some mistakes so far, not least in the first game when he played several players (notably Fyfe and McFlynn) out of position in the first half. But I like the fact that he doesn't wait 'til the 75th minute, a la Litti and Butcher most of the time (in fairness, TB did make some good changes at half-time now and then, such as Zad for Carney in that game against Perth that Foster loved so much).

...Let's face it, putting the speediest defender against the speediest attacker is really a no-brainer, isn't it? So why not have that in place from the start?...

'Cause Zad had never played there before (he isn't a natural defender, truth be told), and Milligan was out.

...From what I read and see in highlights, the onlt difference in SUFC this year from last is the presence of a marquee player. You'd better pray that he stays fit, because he seems to be it as far as creativity is concerned....

There I entirely agree. If we lose Juninho to this shoulder injury, we're in real trouble, as I've already mentioned on SFCU.

...As for Butcher, his side is unbeaten in four games and joint second in a far more competitive league....

Good for him.

Just to give you an impression of why I appreciated Culina's performance at the PC last night beeds, a comparison between SFC's first three managers when quizzed about tactics:

LITTBARSKI: "Yes...vell,...ve had Carney...he's playing vell, so I thought...why not to use him...like normal...and...viz Stevie in zere...I ssink ve have good future for Sydney FC...zzz..."

BUTCHER: "I thought the lads played well, fought hard, got stuck in, we've got a siege mentality at this club, backs to the wall, I thought they stuck to it, etc., etc..."

CULINA: "We needed some speed at the back, aahm, and with Poppa gone Ruben was, aahm, the logical man to put there, Terry (McF) was looking after Burns, so, aahm, we needed someone behind the markers if Djite got through..."

See what I mean?
 
...And Butcher never made the effort to give Austrlaian football a try. It is clear from all his rants now, that he was not comfortable with Australian football, he couldnt accept not having first grade facilities etc...

I think it's clear from his record at Motherwell (and might become even clearer after a season with Brentford) that he can coach. TBH, and this is based on info from several different sources without much of an axe to grind, I think he basically stopped taking the SFC job seriously after a while.

...Whats worse is he turned our team into absolute rubbish...

They were rubbish for most of season one as well, but hardly anyone acknowledges that these days. As for Carney, by V2 defenders had started figuring him out. Plus his fitness levels had seriously gone to shit.
 
Dear Anonymous,

When you wake up and think about it,here's a question: what 'style' does the HAL have? Because from what I have read this weekend, CCM outplayed (as ever) the Phoenix in the first half and then were just less awful than the Kiwi's in the second; Sydney drew with Adelaide after being more awful than the Reds in the first half; and Melbourne and Perth were just crap, end of.

I've watched a bit of HAL (last year granted) and I've watched Div 2 this year, and there's not much difference between the top two HAL sides and the middle-ranking DIv 2 sides. In other words, there's not much difference in style, other than adapting to the heat and pace.

You say Butcher turned Sydney into a poor side: is that what Merrick has done this year with Victory?

You ask what happened to Carney last year: he lost form after being out for a long stretch of the season through injury. When he came back, ole lefty was given carte blanche to roam across the field, inevitably ending up on the right wing where he was, essentially, useless. Interesting to see that Carney is deemed only good enough to play in Carling Cup games at them moment for Sheffield: he' snot even done pine-time in the fizzy pop league.

Let's not forget that when Carney was playing in Sydney, he was frequently spotted pissing it up on training nights in the Cross with other players. Let's not run the magnifying glass of 'professionalism' over the Sydney players 2006-07 behaviour too hard: I'm still wondering how Alex Brosque has never been fully castigated for his moronic behaviour in the Newcastle game. Had he stayed on the park, and not left his (already short-handed) team mates to get through another game with nine outfielders against possibly the best attack there was last year outside of Melbourne.

When you say that Butcher never made an attempt to understand Australian football, you mean he never made an attempt to learn the vagaries of a league that had been in existence for all of...hang on...one year? From what I gather, Butcher's team played no better or worse than what they played under Littbarski: of course, Litti had a marquee and (more than enough) money, whereas Butcher had scraps and Benny Carbone of 2.5 games. Adelaide 4-1 anyone?

I'm also not aware of his recent 'rants' (apart from one well-though out retrospective that will soon appear on another website). Struck me the only rants he had was at the sooky, useless types at SUFC: some of these types have thankfully pissed off, some are still there. That and he had a go at a few press types, like Foster et al. From what I gather, Butcher generally always stuck up for his players (for instance, I never heard him go after his players like Culina did yesterday), yet they were lining up to knife him. Who can ever forget the sheepish David Dzrilic on the couch with Foster, Les and Branko the day after the Newcastle game?

David Dzrilic isn't fit for state league, yet he's one of the reasons Sydney were so awful last year. His wage packet could have gone a long way to signing Carbone.

If Butcher was uncomfortable with Australia, it was because he was sold a pup by Turnbull and Bugno et al. He was lied to, without a shadow of a doubt, and when he turned up, he walked into a club in financial and political turmoil, plus he had to deal with players who thought it was fine to turn up to training on Fireblades, and OK to go home at 2.00pm and not put the extra work in. When he castigated them, they went running off to the press for a sook. Pathetic.

Oh, and Mikey, always there for ya.
 
There is no definitive style in the A-league.

However, to say it resembles the English game totally is false.. and i am not talking about the very top teams in England i am talking about teams in the lower leagues.

Whether we play better or not is not the question here.. we do play differently from these teams, i mean alot of our players like the ball at their feet, yea we do go route one occasionally but alot of the time it fails... look at the Perth vs Melb game (although i have to say that pitch was an absolute joke to play football on)...

And this is why it failed at Sydney too, there was little construction fo play, and when we did play the long ball, so often than not it would be either miscontrolled or just go out of play..

AS for Melbourne Victory, i never thought they played great footblal to be honest.. i honestly think Fred made so much of their team last year it wasnt funny.. he was a unique player because of his workrate..

I dont really understand Carney, in V1 yes he did play some good football, mainly when the ball was at his feet.. in V2 he clearly could not adapt to the play Butcher was trying to implement.. and yet he runs off to teh Championship and finds he cant get a game..

I am glad Culina says what needs to be said, i dont think he absolutely knives his players as you claim.....

And lastly, how well did the public respond to what Terry Butcher was trying to bring to Sydney... I dont know if you remmeber this.. but it was a game at home.. and i remember a few Sydney FC Fans had a banner saying 'It's Football but not how we like it', or something along those lines. Not to mention the dissaponting crowds we got at times last season.. i mean lets face it. the public hated the way the game was being played....
 
Dear Anonymous,

You state in one post that the A-League "has no definitive style", yet in another you say that ''Butcher is playing in a league with a different style to ours?'

The A-League has a style: it's generally not great, and never has been, but it does have it's moments. I specifically enjoyed GVE's Jets last season, and Victory. They played it long and short, mixed it up as and when required.

Sydney were awful, but that was probably because they were unfit, ill-disciplined and technically lacking. Nothing's changed there, really. Sydney also looked bad against other teams last year because others improved, bought well and had stability. Whereas Sydney had the hangover dregs of Walter Bugno's reckless spending spree's to cope with, both on and off the park. When your squad is so depleted by injury and suspension that your second keeper needs to wear a blue jersey, you know it's a farcical situation.

As Mikey said, it was a situation best not taken that seriously. FWIW I can only remember Butcher playing long-ball a couple of times: against NZ and against Melbourne at home late in the second half when they were 2-1 down.

With regard to the banner, yes, I remember that. It was a disgrace that any supporter should take that to a ground that they 'support'. Underneath all of the attempts to portray Butcher as a hack job merchant and an unsophisticated boozer, there's whiff on anti-English racism that permeates, and still does to this day. It's chief source is in St Leonards.

BTW Brentford fans are very happy with the way it's going: apparently they are playing the ball on the ground, and the manager appears to have the players playing as a solid, happy unit.

How strange...
 
Hey Mikey,
I was delighted to see the like-for-not-like sub by Branko last night of Poppers, with da Silva no less. I'm also pleased to hear about the style of Branko's comments. Van Egmond is another coach I like in both of these respects.

Speaking of Patrick, I have good feelings about this player.. besides the stepovers (as you mentioned). Try to imagine the Zdonk doing some of the stuff Patrick did last night.

One point from six is not a good start, at all, but that's what you get for hitting the frame so many times. Geez. And Sydney's first two opponents are amongst the better, one could say.

I reckon it's unfair to Steve Corica to say we'd lose all creativity without Juninho. We haven't seen what Enfield will do for us either. As for players to feed on the creativity, Biddle looks raw but very much up for it. I choose not to be so negative ;-).

Finally, interesting to read that multiple sources can say Butcher was only half-arsing it, I think that would discount Sydney from having to pay out his 2nd year.
 
"With regard to the banner, yes, I remember that. It was a disgrace that any supporter should take that to a ground that they 'support'. Underneath all of the attempts to portray Butcher as a hack job merchant and an unsophisticated boozer, there's whiff on anti-English racism that permeates, and still does to this day. It's chief source is in St Leonards."

Oh now come on, look i know certain people in the media dont like the English game, but racism towards the English? That is silly .. look we are still fed the English game, look at foxsports, they absolutely love it and pretend its the only football league in the world!! Look at the coaches in the A-league there are caoches of British backgrounds there..

If anything, there has been a deep and long opposition to the other European and South American countries in this country.. yes yes i know now there are a few people who advocate it high and mightly.. but in the past these elements have been completely and utterly ignored....
 
...If anything, there has been a deep and long opposition to the other European and South American countries in this country.. yes yes i know now there are a few people who advocate it high and mightly.. but in the past these elements have been completely and utterly ignored....

Codswallop.

Do the names Joe Vlasits, Rale Rasic, Rudi Gutendorf, Jo Venglos, Frank Arok and Ferenc Puskas (inter alios) mean anything to you?
 
Mike, you give too much credit to Culina for doing exactly nothing or doing the obvious things.

Here is a guy who knew the team quite well when he took the role and yet he looks so clueless time after time. Why does he has to change things in the second half when he could have done that in the first half? I doubt he knows his best 11.

The racism against the English which Butcher suffered and which Beedie refers to is so real and only a fool will dispute that. Watching the English premier league etc is another thing but let me say its not prevalent as such but those few idiots will always make lots of noise and unfortunately get noticed.

Culina must be hoping that Juninho covers for his deficiencies and that explains why he needed a marquee player so much because he knew he was not up to it.

But Mike stop stating the obvious otherwise you will another little Culina.
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
...Thimatra said...

That you Chippy?

...Here is a guy who knew the team quite well when he took the role and yet he looks so clueless time after time....

Time after time? He's had two games FFS. Even most of the anti-Butcher mob were prepared to give him five games or whatever.

...Why does he have to change things in the second half when he could have done that in the first half? I doubt he knows his best 11....

I imagine his best XI would include Mark Milligan, whose pace was sorely missed in defence last night. Next week will be interesting, with Zad and Brosque out as well.

...The racism against the English which Butcher suffered and which Beedie refers to is so real and only a fool will dispute that....

Not deying that at all, although it's news to me that the English are a race rather than a nationality (pedantic? moi?).

...those few idiots will always make lots of noise and unfortunately get noticed....

And they appeal to everyone of non-Anglo background with an axe to grind. Absolutely.

...But Mike stop stating the obvious otherwise you will another little Culina....

Erm...say again?
 
Hi Mike,

a very interesting blog you got here, keep up the good work.

Re: SFC, I have to say there are some areas I was very disappointed with in the game against Adelaide and which would fall into the category of 'under coached'. E.g. why is that all five players in the box at corner make a move towards the near post and the ball gets pumped to the far post? Or, why is it that when the ball gets played into feet of a striker in the 6 yard box another player like a headless chook decides to run across his path to goal or even to challange him for the ball?
 
Mikey, you say that Branko has had only two games: tane into account the ACL, friendly's, pre-season and HAL V3, he's had closer to twenty, and he's still fucking it up for 45 minutes.

Do you remember when Brank was put in charge and Foster said that within three games, he'd have the players back on track (or words to that effect)?
 
...Mikey, you say that Branko has had only two games: take into account the ACL, friendly's, pre-season and HAL V3, he's had closer to twenty, and he's still fucking it up for 45 minutes....

Misleading.

As I've already said about the pre-season, a pile of first-team players were out, others hadn't arrived or weren't fit/cleared to play yet, and the team bore no relation to the one that would be taking the field during the season proper.

In fairness, Butcher had more or less the same problem last year, incidentally.

...Do you remember when Brank was put in charge and Foster said that within three games, he'd have the players back on track (or words to that effect)?...

Well, yeah. Erm, so what? That's not my view, that's Foz's (and you know what I generally think of his opinions).
 
...Re: SFC, I have to say there are some areas I was very disappointed with in the game against Adelaide and which would fall into the category of 'under coached'. E.g. why is that all five players in the box at corner make a move towards the near post and the ball gets pumped to the far post? Or, why is it that when the ball gets played into feet of a striker in the 6 yard box another player like a headless chook decides to run across his path to goal or even to challange him for the ball?...

Fair enough. Re the latter incident, I thought at the time that it was a consequence of the fact that quite a few of our current first-team like to take up similar positions (particularly in attack).

This, BTW, I will criticize Branko for: our recruitment has been pretty poor. The squad is still unbalanced.
 
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