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Three things we learned – Western United vs Melbourne City

Melbourne City have once again been defeated by Western United in a frustrating night for the club. Failing to score and conceding in a frenzied period of play, going down to the hosts 1-0 on the night. In what was always going to be a difficult fixture for a variety of reasons, City were unable to build on the success and dominance from last week and, subsequently, find themselves in third position on the ladder, falling behind both Western United and Melbourne Victory who both have a game in hand.

Here are three things we learnt:

The Man between the Sticks

In recent weeks there have been some criticisms of Tom Glover. Last night it must be highlighted that he put in a massive effort between the sticks. Looking back to his best, Glover made several outstanding saves throughout the opening two thirds of the game. During a period of dominance by Western United, Glover made a strong reflex save against a close range effort from Dylan Pieras and was called into action moments after to deny a Western United penalty taken by Allesandro Diamante. Despite the disappointing result at games end, it is undeniable that Glover’s performance kept the score line respectable and, if this indicates some improved personal confidence by the man himself, we can look forward to future performances by him between the sticks.

Source: Andrew Wiseman / @wisemansports

Trusting the Plan or Lacking Plan B?

Having such a strong and transparent style came with it dominance in the league last season. This season, however, has been played out differently for a variety of reasons. Pleasingly, teams setting up against us always do so in a way that is predicated on City being dominant in possession and with our press. Teams know and understand how we play, and they know we will set up to play ‘our style’ irrespective of who we are lining up against. Whilst we praise our identity and have reaped the benefits in the past, the downside of it has been on show throughout this season. Frustration has been growing as to our apparent inflexibility to change our tactics throughout the game and adapt to meet the demands given by the opposition. This has lead us to conceding poor goals and continued an apparent inability to breakdown and break through dogged defensive lines. If our regular starting XI have struggled, was it wise to expect a makeshift front three last night to?

Looking back over the course of the season it is easy to see how teams have adapted to stifle our game plan. Without being too technical, teams have happily allowed us to dominate possession whilst sitting with numbers behind the ball, keeping tight defensive and densely populated lines that have frustrated and stifled creative and attacking threat. Soaking up this pressure, hitting us on the counter and forcing us to draw fouls and slow down play have heavily featured throughout most games this season. Teams have learnt how to effectively negate our tactics yet we seemingly are unable to adapt and change our tactics to counter theirs. Have we become too one dimensional? Is our system too rigid to enable us to adapt to changing circumstances? Are we style and identity at all costs, even when the cost is 3 points? For what almost certainly lead to our success last season is now fast becoming our achilles heel. It is hard to see that any Plan B has been enacted, other than ‘Do Plan A Better'. When teams so easily have adapted to meet our game, why do we seem so inflexible to do the same to meet theirs?

Source: Andrew Wiseman / @wisemansports

Beyond the Result

Looking beyond the result, it has to be acknowledged that last night was going to be difficult to replicate our best with key players missing. Whilst this remains no excuse, the fact remains that the squad last night was effectively an experiment. Missing our regular front three to Socceroos duty and injury, our attacking threat relied heavily on our starting right back Galloway moved forward, a young and relatively inexperienced Jordan Bos out left and the recently out of favour Colakovski filling in the shoes of Jamie Maclaren who was effectively rendered obsolete between the leagues tallest centre backs. The best opportunities for City fell to Rostyn Griffiths and Scott Jamieson towards the end of the first half. Despite the dominance in possession, City only mustered three shots on target by games end. What we learnt from this experiment remains to be seen.

We go again.

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