The False 9: Round 17 - Will Melbourne City keep rolling the dice in defence?

Can Melbourne City win the A-League championship playing three at the back? Will coach John van't Schip continue to play three defenders or revert to a standard back four at some stage? These are very interesting questions in the wake of their 4-3 loss to Western Sydney Wanderers.


Source: Getty Images

The 3-5-2 formation recently favoured by City obviously suits their attack, which is their overwhelming strength, but the Wanderers exploited it by basically taking City's wing-backs out of play in transition and also putting enormous pressure on their lone central defender.

Western Sydney attacked City's one-man middle with clever passing and through balls and out wide they got past the retreating full-back by creating two-on-one situations, or, if they were already past the full-back, continued quickly and crossed the ball before either defender could get back.

You have to be good enough to get it right and the Wanderers were. Whether other teams are also good enough remains to be seen, but they have seen the template.

Three at the back with two wing-backs is described as a brave approach for good reason - it is essentially a roll of the dice.

City have displayed fabulous goal-scoring ability, with 43 in their 17 games. Next best are the Wanderers, with 29.

But City have conceded a whopping 31 goals and only Central Coast Mariners are worse in that department, with 38 against.

In their last six games, which resulted in two wins, two draws and two losses, City have a goals for-and-against record of 14-14. Conceding so many goals puts a hell of a lot of pressure on their attack to keep scoring.

Do they need a better balance? Will van't Schip hold firm or change the formation?

You kids are soft! You lack discipline!

Another famous "Arnie" - Arnold Schwarzenegger - kindly agreed to provide Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold with some tips on how to rally the troops in the wake of their disappointing, 3-1 home loss to Brisbane Roar.

False 9 is not sure if it will work, but anyway.


Kenny Lowe-isms

The Perth Glory coach, having just watched his team get a 3-2 win over Melbourne Victory, was enjoying himself at the post-match media conference.

On the subject of a depleted bench after Aryn Williams was ruled out just before kick-off due to injury and sat as an unused substitute:

"We were actually going to pull somebody out of the stand, but he was probably into his fourth pork pie so we didn't want to do that."

On how happy he was for Andy Keogh to get his first goal since rejoining the club:

"I was just happy for me. I wasn't happy for Keogh, I was happy for me. He scored, we were winning, I was over the moon."

On how long the focus had been on players taking greater responsibility in front of goal:

"Well, since we were missing a shitload of chances."

And on former La Liga player Diego Castro having flown under the radar until his recent run of great form:

"Just keep flying under the radar, I'm not going to say anything. Just forget about him, ha ha, leave him alone."

Now don't be sad, 'cause two out of three ain't bad'

Where have all the hat-tricks gone? Last season we had nine of them, including six by this stage, but this season, after 17 rounds and 85 games, we're still waiting for our first.

Plenty of doubles, but no-one sticking three away.

Last season's hat-trick heroes were Andy Keogh, Besart Berisha, Henrique, Nathan Burns, Archie Thompson, Robert Koren, Marc Janko, Steven Lustica and Jamie Maclaren. Who will be the first player to register one this season - if there is indeed a hat-trick at all?

Meatloaf was on about something completely different when he sang Two Out of Three Ain't Bad, but since when does that matter with False 9? Take it away, big fellow . . .

Tweet, tweet #1

Central Coast Mariners are milking the Luis Garcia connection for all it is worth - and good luck to them!

Tweet, tweet #2

Former Socceroos defender Steve Horvat delivers Melbourne City a bouquet, quickly followed by a brickbat.

Tweet, tweet #3

Genuine commitment from this young man.

Man of the hour (and a half)

Federico Piovaccari was supposed to be doing the bulk of the goal-scoring for Western Sydney Wanderers this season, but he fluffed his lines too many times and now can't even get into the team. Fortunately, Mark Bridge has stepped up to fill the gap at striker.

Bridge set up the first goal and scored the next two as the Wanderers established a 3-0 lead before Melbourne City fought back to 3-2. Eventually, Western Sydney won a classic contest 4-3 and Bridge was able to celebrate.

Normally a wide-left attacker, Bridge is looking right at home down the middle and now has eight goals for the season in a team that has adopted a more possession-based, fast-paced style.

"It’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time, I guess, but collectively everyone’s working hard," Bridge said.

"I think the style is suiting me. We have quality midfielders, and Mitch (Nichols, also with eight goals) in behind me as well. It makes my job a lot easier and more often than not I seem to have a tap-in. We’re playing extremely well and now the most important thing is keeping everyone injury-free."

Can't wait for . . .

Surely all roads - and all flight paths, since it's an interstate clash - lead to Etihad Stadium for Saturday night's massive clash between competition leaders Western Sydney Wanderers and defending champions Melbourne Victory.

The Wanderers have already knocked Victory over once this season, 2-0 at Pirtek Stadium in round 10.

Victory is in fourth place, six points behind Western Sydney, and will have dropped to fifth by kick-off, with either Adelaide United or Sydney FC going past them depending on the result of Friday night's game at Coopers Stadium.

The heat is on Victory to win, because if they lose and second-placed Brisbane Roar beats Central Coast Mariners, in the early Saturday game at Suncorp Stadium, they will be nine points behind first place and seven behind second.

And under the current finals format, which is heavily weighted towards the teams that finish first and second in the regular season, the top two have made the grand final in each of the last three years.

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6 min read
Published 2 February 2016 at 4:32pm
By Greg Prichard