Three wins on the trot, our second clean sheet in three matches and another dazzling performance by Mitch Nichols. Here’s what we learned after our 3-0 win over Melbourne City on Friday.
Wanderers 2.0 moving through the gears
There aren’t many teams playing better football than the Wanderers at the moment. After losing two of their first three games, the team has responded brilliantly with three wins on the bounce to catapult themselves into the top four.
And they’ve done it in considerable style too, controlling games like never before in a fresh, expansive possession game. Some of the side’s football during the past two matches especially has been a delight to watch with Andreu and Dimas dictating the tempo from deep and Dario Vidosic and Mitch Nichols dovetailing together exquisitely.
Only the Mariners (18.2) have had more shots per game than Tony Popovic’s men (17.2), whilst the Wanderers have created more goal scoring opportunities than any other team (14.2 per game). Whilst the season is still young with much work to do, it’s hard not to be impressed with how seamlessly the squad has adapted to Popovic’s reshaped blueprint. Check it out yourself this Saturday when the team takes on Wellington Phoenix, tickets here.
Super Mitch at it again
With three goals in his opening six weeks as a Wanderer, Mitch Nichols has established himself as one of the league’s most in-form players and has made himself an early shout for signing of the season.
The Southport boy was almost walking on water against City on Friday, laying chances on a platter for the likes of Piovaccari and Vidosic with a catalogue of impressive passes and ghosting past defenders with exquisite movement and poise. Along with the rest of the Wanderers midfield, Nichols is running games at the moment and has emerged as one of the team’s real leaders.
Only Aaron Mooy (19) and Michael McGlinchey (18) have created more chances than Tony Popovic’s chief playmaker (15) this season, and if he can maintain this a shred of this kind of scintillating form he might force a certain Ange Postecoglou into some serious chin-stroking.
Empty your pockets, Jonathan
Melbourne City’s Bruno Fornaroli cut a formidable figure prior to our clash on Friday. The league’s in-form Uruguayan had scored five in five before facing a revitalized Wanderers back four, led by the peerless Nikolai Topor-Stanley and the hugely impressive Jonathan Aspropotamitis.
The poise and maturity shown by the nineteen-year-old in particular will give Tony Popovic a real selection headache when Alberto returns to full fitness, and with Brendan Hamill waiting in the wings, the Red & Black have their defensive stocks well supported.
Generally, the Wanderers back four appear back to their formidable best. Great Scott’s Neville and Jamieson have flown forward with great aplomb but have also performed their defensive duties with diligence. The team look hugely compact and regimented in their structure at the back, but they’ve also demonstrated great composure and concentration to generate possession from their own half.
It seems the steely underbelly of seasons one and two has returned with only Sydney FC facing less shots on target per game (2.6) than the boys from Western Sydney (2.8).
Pio has the last laugh
It hasn’t been the easiest start for Italian marquee Federico Piovacarri, but the Pied Piper was finally rewarded for his persistence when the Melbourne City defence forgot the offside rule in the second half.
In what’s been the Italian’s story of the season so far, it was a matter of inches again for Pio on Friday night with some desperate defending coming to the aid of the City rearguard.
The marquee man has displayed some impressive touches in his first five Hyundai A-League games, often lost amidst the natural fallout that accompanies a disappointing result. But now, with the monkey off his back and the Wanderers approaching the box with menace and guile, the floodgates are potentially open for the number nine.