Travelling City fans have been forced to endure yet another 90 minutes of humiliation at Coopers Stadium following last night’s 3-1 loss to Adelaide United which has put our ACL qualification hopes in considerable doubt.
With all three Adelaide goals conceded from corners in the first half, City fans were left head in hands after a toothless second-half performance which had us doubting that the players were aware of the two-goal deficit they faced.
Matters were made worse later on when Harrison Delbridge launched himself into a dangerous two-footed tackle following a clumsy first touch which fell straight into the path of an oncoming Adelaide attacker.
Despite Perth settling for a draw against Victory, they move within one point of us and have a game in-hand, so the City squad are under plenty of pressure ahead of the final Melbourne Derby of the season next Friday.
In the meantime, here’s what we learned from last night’s loss:
Najjarine is still a LONG way off
Our preseason predictions about the players to watch in the City squad haven’t turned out so badly thus far. Connor Metcalfe was an obvious pick and hasn’t let us down, whilst Harrison Delbridge, despite his numerous sending-offs, has improved his game markedly to become one of the league’s better centre-backs when he’s on his game. That just leaves Ramy Najjarine, who’s been less than impressive in his handful of opportunities this season.
He’s a youngster we really wish we could be saying positive things about, but Ramy’s game seems to have dipped to a lower-standard this season compared to last. The winger seemingly plays like a young man devoid of confidence, a characteristic that his perennial direct comparison Daniel Arzani was never short of.
The issue is, this perceivably low confidence hasn’t just been at club level – the trait was noticably absent during his recent performances for the Olyroos too, despite the youngster scoring in one of the group games.
It’s an issue that we believe has come at a detriment to his touch and his finishing, qualities which a promising young winger should strive to boast in spades.
Whilst we’re seriously hoping he gets back on the horse and improves his performances soon, it certainly feels like we instead should have been backing Atkinson or Genreau right about now.
The back four probably wasn’t the right move
Despite the club’s social media posts indicating that City would be lining up with a back four, we were pretty sure that there’d be some in-game adjustments and were expecting the final outcome to be a three-back formation with Delbridge, Hendry and Good in the heart of defence.
Whilst Delbridge has played at right-back before, he seemed out-of-sorts in the wider area, being beaten multiple times and was fairly off-target with his progressive passing, though his game-breaking, driving runs were his saving grace on the night (up until the red card, of course).
Scott Galloway was having a stinker out on the other side of defence – his non-preferred side – and allowed his direct opponent to skip past him and into the box more times than we’d care to count.
The formation we were expecting would’ve allowed Delbridge to stay central and Galloway could’ve remained on his preferred right side, with Najjarine the likely candidate to move to the left, with Susaeta playing as an attacking midfielder and Craig Noone playing alongside Jamie Maclaren as a second striker, a move which might’ve brought our number nine into the game a little more.
Following the success of the three-back last week, it seems to have been a mistake in hindsight to have elected to go with the formation that we ultimately did and the game may have very well gone a different way if the lineup had been picked differently.
No better than before
For yet another season, City have followed up a fast start with a tumultuous mid-season grouping of results which has derailed not only our title challenge but our contention for Asian Champions League qualification as a whole.
The team’s won just four of the 11 games which have followed our early-season four-game winning streak and last night’s loss was a significant one in terms of table ramifications; whilst Perth are likely to jump us within the next week or two, we’ve also left the door open for Wellington and Adelaide to overtake us, with both teams three points behind but with a game in-hand.
Whilst we’re arguably playing a more attractive brand of football and have actual heroes (namely Jamie Maclaren) to root for now, we once again find ourselves scrambling to pick up our form in order to secure ACL qualification, despite it being almost a lock earlier on.