Friday, January 16, 2009


Lost at Sea

Watching the Central Coast Mariners' last two games, I've gotten the strong impression that the wheels are simply falling off.

An obvious factor in the downturn has been the departure of Mile Jedinak, but the problems run a little deeper than that. Certainly, Jedinak's replacements in the engine room have simply not measured up, and Brad Porter in particular has looked very vulnerable in the centre of the park. It was a considerable surprise last week when Lawrie McKinna decided to replace Matt Osman at the break, who had done rather better than his two colleagues in midfield up to that point. In the second half, the Mariners' midfield was brutally overrun.

And once the floodgates had been opened tonight, the collapse of the Central Coast midfield was abject.

It was strange that in the first game following Jedinak's departure, McKinna reverted to his top-heavy 4-3-3 formation, rather than strengthening the midfield to make up for the absence of his imposing anchorman. Again, in Melbourne, three strikers started, all vying for the regular long balls. And although Andre Gumprecht worked some openings on the right, the midfield was short of both strength and craft.

For the latter, see Mr. Adrian Caceres. The former is more of a problem given the Mariners' roster, but perhaps it would have made more sense for Gumprecht to have been used centrally, with Porter shifting wide.

But there are issues in other areas as well. Nik Mrdja has lost confidence, Dylan McAllister no longer gets involved enough, and Matt Simon cannot be counted on to save the day every time. At the other end of the park, Alex Wilkinson and Pedj Bojic have shown some frailties that have been largely hidden up to now, Bojic in particular being embarrassed by Archie Thompson on the occasion of Melbourne's third.

Will the Mariners drop out of the four? Wellington and, surprisingly, Sydney are still in contention, but McKinna's men can probably hang on. Facing Adelaide next week may be a blessing in disguise, as Aurelio Vidmar's team finally look like the fixture crush is catching up with them.

The Mariners don't look in the best of shape for the Asian Champions League, however. Their physical style is likely to attract far more cards than it does in the A-League, and although the tall timber up front will intimidate some Asian defences, such a strategy can only be successful up to a point. At the very least, they need to acquire a temporary successor to Jedinak before the Asian rigours kick in.

As for Melbourne, it barely needs pointing out how much better they looked once Carlos Hernandez arrived. The schemers of the A-League have been shunned at times this season, unfortunately, and one hopes that Hernandez will cement a starting spot in time for the finals. And can Archie Thompson, the ultimate confidence player, finally spark himself into form on the back of his brilliant final twenty minutes this evening?

i figure i am a fairly uneducated guy when it comes to the Xs and Os

but one thing that stood out to me watching CCM against the roar was their midfield shape. it seemed like whenever the CCM midfield got the ball, they were all kind of clumped around in the same space ... almost tripping over each other.

any thoughts on their spacing?

That's a good point actually. I think while Jedi was there the other two guys realised they were free to move forward, create attacking options, move into position for second balls etc. because Jedi was so damn strong in that holding role. But now there does seem to be a bit of confusion about roles.
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