Schneiderlin’s Southampton lesson fuelling trophy hunt at Wanderers

Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin says his new club’s pursuit of silverware this season is all about “momentum” – a lesson he learned by pushing for promotion to the Premier League at English club Southampton FC.

Schneiderlin scored his first Isuzu UTE A-League goal in the Wanderers’ 4-0 mauling of Macarthur FC at CommBank Stadium on Saturday night. It was his second start since his January arrival in Wanderland, capping off an exquisite evening for the Frenchman which also included an assist for Romain Amalfitano’s first-half goal as the red and black turned on the style to move back up into third spot on the league table.

The Wanderers now look a near-certainty to feature in the finals series this season – a concept which can at times appear strange to international recruits accustomed to league position being the decisive factor when naming the champions.

The Premiers Plate appears all but sewn up with nine rounds to play, with Melbourne City far-and-away leaders at the top of the table – but then comes the finals, and the hunt for the championship.

Schneiderlin believes he’s well prepared for the post-season push due to many years spent at Southampton battling for promotion to the Premier League from the Championship, which concludes each year with post-season play-offs. 

“The (finals), it’s about momentum,” Schneiderlin told Paramount+ after the 4-0 triumph. “I knew that from the Championship where I played in England when I was young. And after, like you said, everything is possible.”

Schneiderlin added: “It’s a big step (coming to Australia), but in that stage of my career I needed something different. 

That’s why I chose to come to Australia: to see another culture, to see another country, and to see another championship for my playing career.

“That was the most important thing, trying to find something that motivates me to come every day in training, to come every day and to perform…  so that’s what I’m finding here.

“I’ve found a great changing room with good players, so I’m happy. But like I said from the beginning, I’m here to play well, to give something extra to the team, and the more I’m going to have game time, the more I’m going to be even better in this team.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 25: Morgan Schneiderlin of the Wanderers scores a goal from the penalty spot during the round 18 A-League Men’s match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Macarthur FC at CommBank Stadium, on February 25, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

The same can be said for Schneiderlin’s fellow mid-season Wanderers arrival Amor Layouni who, after scoring a remarkable goal on debut, backed it up with an impressive display in Western Sydney’s 4-0 rout of Macarthur. 

The Tunisian international was announced as a new Wanderers signing on the final day of the transfer window in mid-February; head coach Marko Rudan singled the versatile attacker out for praise as he impressed again against the Bulls, operating down the right wing whilst Brandon Borrello continued to turn on the style whilst leading the line for Western Sydney. 

“It’s interesting,” Rudan told Paramount+, “when I moved Brandon into that central striker role, because he has all the ability to do that and the skill set to do that, I thought the area (to improve) -once we got (Schneiderlin) into the team and at the club – was that right-hand side.”

It’s the position Layouni appears set to fill through the remainder of the season after two encouraging performances in red and black.

“I do like players coming in (from wide areas) as well,” Rudan continued, “it creates good combinations and gives headaches for the opponents. We kept an eye on him, and he’s one that we spoke to during that break as well. Everything came to fruition, he was really keen on coming as well, it’s always important when I speak to players that they’ve got a bit of hunger about them, and a will, and a want to join and build this club back up to where it once was.

“A fantastic guy, (we’ve) got to be smart with him as well but games like this allow him to get a few more minutes as well when you play against 10 men. The fitter he gets, the better he’s going to be.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 25: Calem Nieuwenhof of the Wanderers celebrates a goal with team mates during the round 18 A-League Men’s match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Macarthur FC at CommBank Stadium, on February 25, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Layouni admits the A-League Men is above what he expected prior to arriving: “I came here to play and enjoy football, and I’m doing that, so that’s the most important,” he told Paramount+.

“I didn’t expect it to be such good fields here, and the fans and everything, the big stadiums. It took me by surprise, but it’s very nice, it’s lovely.”

And as for his belief in his new side’s ability to end the season by adding silverware to the club’s cabinet, Layouni shares Schneiderlin’s ambition and confidence: “Absolutely, we have very good quality (in) all positions,” he said.

“We are our own opponents now.”