'One Goal, Three Points & Many Questions': Three things we learned - City vs Perth
Expectations are deservedly set high for a team defending the championship and premiership double, and after four games with seven points out of a possible 12 we find ourselves asking the question, is this enough?
Sure, after Saturday night it sure was nice to be on the other end of a one-nil result but it took until the 88th minute to reach the game's decisive moment. A delightful ball from Good at the halfway line found a well-timed run from Metcalfe who perfectly looped a header across goal meeting the head of the lurking Atkinson who buried the chance and unleashed a wave of relief over the City faithful.
Up until then though, it seemed the game would go on forever, dominating possession, passing the ball around the box and failing to do anything meaningful with it.
So, what did we learn?
If at first you don't succeed...
It seems teams have figured us out and are happy for us to soak up possession in a league where teams without the ball tend to win. So what's plan B? Well, Paddy wants us to trust the process and it seems we're just fine with being predictable - we just have to be so proficient with the ball that it doesn't matter if they can predict our next move.
Of course, this can make for frustrating viewing from the crowd as we watch our players cycle the ball around, stretch play out wide and then cut it back. It can be beautiful to watch when it works, but often (especially tonight) can be mind-boggling to watch as a player receives the ball in decent space at the top of the box and proceeds to pass it out wide instead of shooting. This is the game plan that brought us the best couple of seasons in our history as a club, but it's starting to seem that our robotic system does not allow enough spontaneous decision-making to mix things up and produce a moment of magic.
Enter the #Youth. It seems that the answer may be the younger players that aren't afraid to break from the system when it's not bringing results and to take the game on.
Except for one change, with Tilio coming in for Berenguer, PK once again opted for a mostly similar lineup despite places theoretically being more up for grabs than ever before, which takes me to my next point.
We can accept that our play-style demands a high level of fitness and chemistry, but at what point do we need to begin experimenting with the squad.
It's a widely held belief that we possess the deepest squad in the league - every position is up for grabs - and while it may be foolish to tinker with the squad too early in the season, players may have to start asking what they need to do to get a spot.
The night's experiment of placing Tilio in the midfield didn't seem to work, and while Florin seems to have gone up another level this season, City fans are itching to see what Pucciarelli can add to the midfield once eventually fit.
Atkinson is simply too dangerous not to play and his absence from starting lineups is beginning to fuel rumours of an international transfer in January. With Galloway seeming to justifiably have the right-back position locked down, his younger full-back counterpart has been primarily deployed as a winger.
We all expected Mathew Leckie to light up the league, but he hasn't hit the ground running and his performance against Perth was woeful. Perhaps Tilio or Atkinson starting ahead of him is what he needs to bring the quality that we all know is eventually coming from him.
The front three is far from hitting top gear right now but Nabbout continues to dangerously probe defences and while Jamie's interplay may be lacking, we all know he just needs the delivery and he'll score with his left, his right, or his head.
Leckie needs to break his duck and find his place in our all-star attack - preferably sooner rather than later.
Look on the bright side
It's should be taken as a compliment that a review of a game we won can be written at all negatively; it shows the belief in the massive potential of this team.
So, other than three points what do we have to smile about?
Well, it was a first win at home against the purple mob from the West since the Elimination Final in 2016, and this time around we absolutely dominated from start to finish with nearly 70% possession while managing to create 23 shots to their measly 6. Super Tommy Glover was hardly ever called into action and the Glory rarely threatened at all.
Rounding out a period of four games in 12 days, our boys in blue were resolute and strong on the ball, and once Berenguer came into midfield we were looking very dynamic.
We're just missing the slightest bit of synchrony, the extra speed in play that comes with the understanding of where our players will be without even looking. That takes time, and after COVID prevented the usual round of pre-season friendlies perhaps we should be looking at the packed schedule as an opportunity to really get to our peak match fitness. We have a week and a half off to dust ourselves off after a decent enough start and to come back firing on all cylinders against the Victory in every City fan's favourite fixture: the Christmas derby.
It's nowhere near panic stations yet, but it's time to work out the kinks; if we didn't walk away with the result we'd be looking back at this game quite differently.
A big win in this upcoming Derby could really get us performing at our best and become a launchpad for the rest of the season. Let's hope that was the last one-nil game decided by a late goal that we'll have to endure for the rest of the season, even if just for the sake of our heart rates. We continue to trust the process.