Western Sydney Wanderers head coach Markus Babbel revealed how his change in system was designed to unleash star striker Alexander Meier.
German target man Meier scored his first goal in Red and Black during the 2-1 win against Melbourne Victory, after Keanu Baccus had put Wanderers in front on Friday night.
Western Sydney have now recorded back-to-back Hyundai A-League wins in the opening two rounds for the first time in their history, but Babbel was not satisfied after the 2-1 homecoming triumph against Central Coast Mariners last week.
The 36-year-old marquee signing, who Babbel admits is lacking match sharpness, touched the ball only 25 times in his 58 minutes in Round 1, the lowest amount of any player on the Bankwest Stadium pitch.
By switching from the successful wing-back system against the Mariners to a flat back four, Western Sydney were able to get the ball wider, higher up the pitch at Marvel Stadium and supply more service to Meier.
Wanderers’ youngsters Nick Sullivan and Mohamed Adam caused Victory problems in the channels and Daniel Georgievski won the battle against Victory’s left-back Corey Brown. Babbel's right-back registered an average position inside Victory’s half, as shown by the number 5 in the diagram below.
Not only did the switch bring the 6’5” frontman more into the game, Babbel believes that packing the midfield had a knock on effect in preserving the energy of his under-cooked players.
“I think it is the better system for us at the moment,” Babbel said.
“We have Alex Meier, a player who is very strong in the box but if you can’t get in the box then he is lost.
“Last week, the problem was we could not create many chances where he can show his finishing.
“Also for our defenders, I had the feeling - because we do not have so many players who are 100% fit - I think in this system you can save energy because in midfield we are strong, they can run, they are fit.
“But centre-backs, strikers, they are struggling at the moment and I think that this system is the best for them to save energy.”
Alexander Meier's heat map from Round 1 against Central Coast Mariners
Alexander Meier's contributions in Round 1 against Central Coast Mariners
Meier was far more involved in the Victory game after Babbel's tactical switch
With Kwame Yeboah returning from injury as a 73rd-minute substitute against Victory, Babbel’s roster is set to grow in depth in the coming weeks.
Veteran defender Patrick Ziegler is getting closer to match fitness and the head coach revealed there is a chance new signing Nicolai Muller may be ready to join the group ahead of the Round 3 Sydney derby.
“[Muller] is living in Frankfurt, his family is living in Hamburg,” Babbel explained.
“They will all come together so now they have to fix many things.
“I hope he will be there. I don’t know if he is on the bench.
“It will be good if he is in the stadium to see what is going on in Australia.”
Babbel believes the most pleasing aspect of the performance in Melbourne was the strength of mind shown by his newly-assembled squad.
“Every win helps, especially if you look where we come from,” Babbel said.
“Last season was very disappointing. We made a couple of changes in the summer and it’s not easy for these guys to come in the right way.
“You also have to learn winning again, because last season we lost more than we won. We also have to learn the winning, to be fair the boys did a fantastic job.”
He added: “We were 3-1 up against City and lost 4-3, we were 3-1 against Perth, we lost 4-3. We always found a way to lose.
“Now we find ways to win. Every win helps us a lot to get more confidence and to believe in our strengths.”