Derby Loss Tip of the Iceberg

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Last night, Sydney FC produced one of the more insipid performances in the club’s history.

That may be a harsh statement, however what was produced against Western Sydney in the derby at Allianz Stadium was plain and simply not good enough.

It was diabolical, shambolic, pitiful and down-right disastrous.

When you are on your own turf you must make a statement of intent.

A statement that will reverberate through your opponent to make them fully aware that this is your home ground and you are not going to let anybody tell you otherwise.

The Wanderers told Sydney FC last night otherwise.

Sydney FC were so withdrawn in their approach to the derby, it was as if Western Sydney were the home side at Allianz Stadium.

The Sky Blues rarely tested their opposition at any point during the encounter.

In fact, their first shot on target came in the 83rd minute.

The Wanderers defence never broke a sweat, as time after time Sydney FC opted for the same tactics of playing balls into the box aerially to try and hit targets like Yairo Yau. Yau simply can’t meet the challenge of trying to duel with Nikolai Topor-Stanley or Michael Beauchamp in the penalty area and in turn the game was simply played into the Wanderers’ hands.

If the Sky Blues’ players were having their courage and commitment to the cause questioned after last week’s display against the Brisbane Roar, then last night in my opinion wasn’t much better.

If not worse.

This questioning of commitment and lack of fighting spirit comes back to the points made earlier that they didn’t adopt the siege mentality of defending your own turf, especially when it comes to facing your cross-town rivals.

Sydney FC are the older brother in town and should be putting the Wanderers in their place, not vice versa.

Nevertheless with all this being said I still feel that the issues at Sydney FC lie much deeper than simply the player’s attitudes and questioning some of the tactical decisions being made by the coaching staff.

The main issue stems from the premise of commercialising the brand that is “Sydney FC”.

Sydney FC has always been about making “that big name signing” to put it on the map, for that signing to sell shirts and ultimately put bums on seats. Yet, this philosophy simply won’t work in Sydney.

Sydney sports fans want success and are incredibly fickle if that doesn’t happen. The fluctuations in Sydney’s crowds over the years should have been a glaring sign of how this city works and these supporters think.

When Sydney won their championships, the people flocked to the SFS the more the season went on and the more Sydney FC frequented the summit.

Whilst players like Dwight Yorke, Alessandro Del Piero, Kazu, Juninho and Benito Carbone, just to name a few, have all been signed to give the club that glamour image, the fact of the matter is none of these players have actually altered the way the Sky Blues play for the better.

This is no disrespect to any of these players who are all immense talents including the current marquee in Del Piero, but these players have simply carried Sydney FC teams that have gone before us and have only covered up the true problems at heart.

Commercialism will bring you short term joy in the bank balance. However, commercialism won’t get a football club anywhere in the long run when it comes to success on the pitch.

What really brings about financial success as well as this obsession of building the “brand” is attractive and decent football that will make the fans and other Sydneysiders want to return to Allianz Stadium.

The irony of all of this is that Western Sydney adopted that very philosophy. Whilst they signed Shinji Ono to attract fans, his acquisition actually made sense from a football perspective when fitting into Tony Popovic’s system of play.

In turn, their attractive and expansive brand of football has appealed to the masses out west and they have reciprocated by turning up week in and week out to see a team that plays as a team, with a purpose and a drive to succeed for the people that follow it.

As embarrassing as it is to say this, Sydney FC must look to its younger brother in the Wanderers when looking forward as a club.

Instead of focussing on commercialising the brand by making multimillion dollar signings who simply put the club on the Australian football and sporting map for the short term, the club’s hierarchy must look to building a philosophy and system on the pitch that will express smart and attractive football to draw the crowds in for the long term.

This is a philosophy that should have been installed from the very beginning at Sydney FC.

Players like Alessandro Del Piero won’t be around at Sydney forever.

Yet, great and exciting football can be if you want it to be.

With this being said, the latter will in turn bring about far greater reward both on and off the pitch for the club than by making lucrative signings every couple of seasons.

So a message to Sydney FC: give the fans what they are crying out for which is decent football to watch week in and week out and a playing group that will play for its fans. Then the days of fluctuating crowds will have evaporated and consistently significant crowds will be a given formality.

Until this happens, it will be Western Sydney showing the older brother in Sydney up.

Nicholas Anderson

Nick was the lead writer with Robbie Striker and now will continue his work on Football Central covering Sydney FC and continuing to interview players and other people around the game, telling their football stories.

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