The Hyundai A-League season 2015/16 kicks off on Thursday when the Wanderers take on Brisbane Roar. Here’s the lowdown on John Aloisi’s side.Over two months have passed since the Wanderers edged Brisbane 1-0 in the Westfield FFA Cup Round of 32 but naturally John Aloisi’s side still feel like a work in progress.
Whilst it’s been the pre-season from hell off the field with the club’s ownership, licence and future all in danger, performances on the pitch have failed to alleviate the embattled club’s off-field woes (although it ought not to be a cause for major concern just yet).
Since exiting the Westfield FFA Cup at the hands of Tony Popovic’s men, Brisbane have ticked each box in the results column, with the 10-0 and 8-0 hammerings of both Gold Coast and Queensland U23 All Stars sides sandwiched in between a 1-0 loss to Melbourne Victory, a 0-0 stalemate with Newcastle Jets and a 3-1 triumph over the Mariners.
In terms of recruitment, Aloisi had only made one signing prior to the cup encounter back in August, and he travels to Parramatta with what is essentially the same squad that lost on that day. The only exception – and it’s a hugely significant one – is the loss of Luke Brattan who departed the Roar in September as a result of the club’s ownership crisis.
Although Aloisi moved swiftly to replace the Socceroo with Spanish midfielder Corona, Brattan’s absence will be a huge shock to the Roar system. The midfielder assumes an immense amount of responsibility in not only shielding the defence, but in making things happen for the Roar with his metronomic distribution (92% of his passes last season were forward passes with an overall accuracy of 82%).
The return of Michael Theo between the sticks could be one of the key improvements of Brisbane’s season. Although Jamie Young did a fine job for the Roar at the back half of last season, Theo’s experience and assuredness should instil some much needed confidence into the Brisbane rear-guard.
Brisbane can only improve from their last outing with the Wanderers in this regard. The Wanderers targeted the left, or Brisbane’s defensive right in their last meeting, where Jamieson terrorized the Roar right-back Jack Hingert. Brandon Borello offered decent defensive cover from the right side of Brisbane’s attacking quartet to nullify the overlapping threat of Jamieson, but eventually succumbed with the concession of a late penalty. In this respect, Aloisi might be inclined to employ a more defensively focussed player to provide better support to Brisbane’s right-back (likely Jerome Polenz).
The question for Brisbane is then how Aloisi will find a balance between restricting Jamieson’s surges down the left and covering the middle third of the field to prevent Mitch Nichols from getting in between the lines, all without sacrificing the ability to get forward themselves.
Brisbane were sluggish in this regard last time out, maintaining a passing accuracy of just 70% in the Wanderers half. Similarly, they were too standoffish in defence and allowed the Red & Black a little too much of the ball than they would’ve liked – 57% to be precise.
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Likely Brisbane Roar XI