Del Piero Can't Do It On His Own

Sydney FC is now on the bottom of the A-League ladder after only two wins and seven losses. Despite two stunning goals from Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero, his performance wasn’t enough for his team to collect any points. As talented as Del Piero is, he can’t do it on his own. A player of his ability can create something out of nothing in matches but he can’t fix up every flaw Sydney has. Finding a replacement for Ian Crook won’t be enough. Sydney FC needs to take a serious look at their playing roster and its next coach needs to greatly improve this team tactically.

Herald Sun’s David Davutovic said that when Crook coached the Sydney youth team, his team played ‘some scintillating football in the youth league last season’. For the seniors this season, the Englishman has struggled to make the right decisions, especially from a tactical standpoint.

Currently the weakest point of the Sydney team is the defence. Absences have been used as an excuse, mostly in the social media but the Sky Blues have looked too open in defence. When the defence is not open, the defence is too static. Sydney’s defenders haven’t been able to read the play or even press their opponents. Playing against the Sky Blues has looked like a stroll in the park for the likes of Travis Dodd from Perth Glory and Brisbane’s Besart Berisha.

Dutch defender Pascal Bosschaart didn’t make his season debut until the match against Melbourne Victory at Allianz Stadium. He scored his first ever professional goal in the match but he couldn’t prevent the Sky Blues from losing 3-2 to the Victory. His presence still wasn’t enough in Sydney’s 4-2 loss to the Brisbane Roar last Friday night.

Ivan Necevski was the main reason the Sky Blues only lost 2-0 to the Wellington Phoenix in round one. He made some good saves to prevent further humiliation. Recently his goalkeeping has been questionable. He hasn’t had a quality defence to protect him but after watching the match against the Roar, his reading of the ball and anticipation was poor and he was as much at fault for the goals as his defenders.

Sydney’s midfield has struggled to put passes together without Del Piero but Ali Abbas has been a positive in the central midfield role and when he isn’t complaining to the referees, Brett Emerton has been useful on the right-wing, combining on a few occasions with Del Piero. The Italian ‘fantasista’ has been the one trying to keep things together though. Losing 7-2 to the Central Coast Mariners and the defeat against Victory showed that without him, the Sky Blues have trouble creating chances.

Jason Culina hasn’t made his debut for Sydney yet but will the former Socceroo really going to make a difference? He is the Australian Sergio Busquets. All he can do is pass backwards and sideways! Aesthetically, his style isn’t pleasing to watch but if Busquets can serve a purpose for both the best club and the best national team going around, perhaps Culina can be useful to Sydney’s team. It would be good if he added something to his game like making late runs into the penalty box or even try a long pass for a change.

Crook struggled to find a partner for Del Piero in attack and one option used was Krunoslav Lovrek, who has been one of the worst purchases the Sky Blues have ever made. This veteran striker was a youth international with Croatia over 10 years ago and he has been a journeyman throughout his career. After a few stops in Asia, he is now in the A-League and he has been a genuine waste of space. He can’t link-up with any of his teammates, he can’t pass, he can’t shoot and he can’t header the ball. Foreign signings were intended to improve the standard of Australian soccer but he has added nothing and doesn’t look likely to do so. One can only wonder why Sydney brought him to Australia instead of using another youth team striker. I'd rather see Petratos play!

Crook’s replacement shouldn’t have to worry about playing Lovrek too much in attack thanks to the surprising yet pleasing addition of Panamanian international Yairo Yau. Typically a winger, he has been converted into an out-and-out striker in recent matches and his pace has been troubling opposition defences. If Yau can read Del Piero’s passes better, he could form a deadly partnership with the Italian great.

Steve Corica is the caretaker coach for now but whoever replaces Crook full-time needs to give the Sky Blues structure and an identity. Among the favourites to get the coaching role are Frank Farina and Miron Bleiburg and there is even talk of Pierre Littbarski returning, Sydney’s coach when it won the first-ever A-League title. If one of those managers does get the job, they would be expected to play in an attacking style, especially Bleiburg. A coach can have a philosophy but organisation is important and the players need have an idea of what is going on.

Del Piero has been the marquee signing the A-League has been crying for and he has delivered. The same can’t be said about his teammates. Whoever picks up the pieces has to appreciate Del Piero’s gifts but also realise that without the right support, Sydney FC won’t get the success that it craves.