How Wanderers won the tactical battle against City

Western Sydney Wanderers perfectly executed a brilliant game plan to beat Melbourne City and in doing so provided a template for other teams - if they are good enough to pull it off.


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It was clear from the start of the game at Pirtek Stadium on Friday night that Wanderers, who went on to win 4-3 after leading 3-0 before City launched a fightback, had prepared to try to take advantage of City playing only three men at the back in their 3-5-2 formation.

Wanderers repeatedly created fast breaks through the middle from around halfway in which the player furthest forward - more often than not Mark Bridge - anticipated a quick ball arriving ahead of him.

City, with one centre-back left to try to cope, were immediately stretched in defence.

City's wing-backs, Ivan Franjic and Michael Zullo, were doing their job and trying to get forward in attack, but when Wanderers were in transition the home side moved the ball as quickly as possible and the opposition wing-backs were often left isolated.

Wanderers were able to challenge them in two-on-one situations and get the better of them before breaking into the clear out wide.

City was rarely able to recover quickly enough before Wanderers had crossed the ball in behind City's defence.

And when the ball reached the centre of the penalty area, City central defender Osama Malik was often under enormous pressure from multiple Wanderers attackers coming through.

It was a process repeated over and over again as Wanderers effectively cut the City wing-backs out of the game on the defensive side of things.

The fact the game ended up only being one goal the difference came down mainly to City's ability to score goals quickly. Wanderers effectively had control of the game for 75 of the 90 minutes.

Afterwards, Wanderers players confirmed there was a plan to put City's 3-5-2 formation under pressure in specific areas.

"You have to complement City for the way they've changed their system, going from a normal 4-3-3 to a brave 3-5-2 and it has worked for them, but we felt there were certain areas in which we could try to expose them," said Wanderers left-back Scott Jamieson.

"It comes down to two wing-backs who are isolated a fair bit and we wanted to do that with two on ones. Plus, we tried to create those fast breaks down the middle from well out, against the one central defender.

"It's a tough position, the wing-back position, because you find yourself attacking as a winger but defending as a fullback and you have to defend the opposition winger who may have already advanced on you. I've done it once or twice myself and it's hard.

"If you don't attack quickly enough against the 3-5-2 the wing-backs will get back, but we've got wingers who are quick on the break and were capable of getting in behind them."

Wanderers goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne said the team had done a fantastic job of preventing the City wing-backs from effectively playing the defensive side of their roles and forcing City to often have to defend with the bare three at the back.

"It's something we looked at and tried to execute through the week at training and I think it was very fruitful on the night," he said. "We had a lot of success from it, so full credit to the coaching staff and to the players for executing it. It was a very effective game plan.

"We knew if we broke quickly we could catch the three at the back, but if it was a slower build-up they would get the wing-backs back as well and almost play with five flat at the back and two holders in front of that.

"We had to find the opportunities to get in behind their wing-backs and we did that."

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4 min read
Published 30 January 2016 at 12:15pm
By Greg Prichard