The False 9: Round 22 - Amazing stats show Bridge is on fire for Wanderers

There are many A-League players who receive more publicity, but extraordinary statistics suggest Mark Bridge is not only the most valuable player at Western Sydney Wanderers, but also one of the most valuable in the entire competition this season.

Bridge

Source: Getty Images

Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic and Bridge's teammates won't need the stats to tell them what he brings.

Bridge has been an integral part of the set-up since the Wanderers first played, in the 2012-13 season. But the figures will ram home the facts to many others.

This season, Western Sydney have won 50 per cent of their total games (11 from 22), but in the five games in which Bridge didn't play, they won only one and that was against Central Coast Mariners, who are tailed off in last position. The Wanderers won 2-0 away against the Mariners in round eight.

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The other four games he missed resulted in a 3-1 home loss to Brisbane Roar in round one, a 3-2 away loss to Roar in round 22, last Friday, and draws with Adelaide United away in round two (1-1) and Perth Glory away in round 11 (2-2).

Also, when Bridge scores, the Wanderers almost always win.

He has scored nine goals in eight games and Western Sydney won the first seven of those games, with the only loss coming in the round 19 game against Wellington Phoenix, 5-2. The Wanderers were totally out of sorts as a team that day.

Bridge is the team's equal-leading scorer, with Mitch Nichols, and is the outright leader for goal assists, with six. And he has recorded these figures despite playing away from his best position for a large part of the season.

Most comfortable as a left-sided attacker, Bridge was switched to the lead the attack when Popovic got sick of waiting for Italian marquee striker Federico Piovaccari to fire.

Bridge isn't wasting opportunities and he has only taken 35 shots for his nine goals.

His high level of composure means he tends to weigh situations up very well and make good decisions about whether to shoot or try to set up a teammate. 

He's just having a great season.

Taking it down a notch

The fourth official was in the firing line again at the weekend, with Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic in particular giving the man on duty for the game against Roar a fierce work-out.

False 9 has learned that, as a result of the recent verbal hammerings that have been sustained across the board by the "FOs", the suits at Football Federation Australia headquarters are secretly testing revolutionary new methods of protecting their men from the constant assaults on their ears.

One of our operatives sent us this picture.   

Ears
 

When they had hair

False 9 found the shot below of Graham Arnold and Kevin Muscat shooting the breeze a decade ago, well before they became coaching rivals.

But it hasn't been so friendly this past week, with Melbourne Victory's Muscat claiming Sydney FC's Arnold contributed to Kosta Barbarouses being suspended for two games because the Sky Blues boss publicly criticised a studs-up tackle by the Victory attacker.

The tackle had only resulted in a free-kick during the recent "Big Blue".

"No doubt in my mind (Arnold’s remarks) did affect it," Muscat said.

"He (Arnold) wasn’t questioning any match review panel when a goalkeeper (Mark Birighitti) lost eight teeth and nothing was done by the MRP in that instance, so we assume the referee saw it and thought it was OK.

"I didn’t see 'Arnie' questioning (Vedran) Janjetovic coming out of his box and pushing Matt McKay behind play. All of a sudden Arnie’s got an opinion and it seemed to work this time."

Muscat was referring to an incident earlier this season in which Newcastle Jets goalkeeper Birighitti was hit by the boot of Sydney striker Shane Smeltz.

It resulted in Birighitti needing to have two teeth reinserted and about 30 stitches to fix the cuts.

"I made the tackle, did I?" Arnold said in response to Muscat’s comments.

"It should have been a red card. Muscat is just deflecting attention away from his own team, and you blokes (the media) fall for it every time.

"FFA have never listened to me, except when they fine me, so why should they now? For once they got the right decision."

Muscat
 

Tweet, tweet #1

If you look hard enough for positives, you'll find one eventually.

Tweet, tweet #2

Looks like Kaka, who almost played in the A-League (in other words, he came to Australia for a holiday and posted photos of himself renting our bicycles, swimming with our sea turtles and planting gum trees for our koalas), is a Peyton Manning fan. Thumbs up from False 9 for that.

Tweet, tweet #3

Luis Garcia loves his broccoli, unlike Newman from Seinfeld!



How did that feel?

It could only have felt great for Bruno Fornaroli when he scored all three of his team's goals in Melbourne City's shut-out win over Sydney FC, as he broke the A-League goal-scoring record with five rounds still to go.

The Uruguayan has racked up 20 goals, one better than the old mark of 19 that was shared by Besart Berisha and Shane Smeltz.

City coach John van't Schip was naturally delighted with Fornaroli's performance and said: "Up front he's always available to play the ball into. He fights, he's the first one to roll up his sleeves  to go out and do the dirty work. And of course he's scoring goals. He's been great for us and the A-League."

Sky Blues on the outside looking in

Sydney FC's fall and Perth's rise has finally seen the Sky Blues vacate the top six, with their place taken by Glory.

Can Sydney get back in? The odds are against them - with disappointing form, AFC Champions League commitments, a tough A-League draw and Alex Brosque's injury.

 

Can't wait for . . .

Adelaide United versus Melbourne City at Coopers Stadium on Friday night.





Now that Adelaide's long unbeaten run has taken them to the top of the table - will they keep it going? Or will they have a mental lapse and ease off the gas a bit, to their detriment?

City are not a great defensive team, far from it, but to make up for that they have Bruno Fornaroli scoring plenty of goals and Aaron Mooy registering numerous assists.

City will come knocking, as they always do, so Adelaide will have to be right on their game.


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6 min read
Published 8 March 2016 at 3:53pm
By Greg Prichard