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Each week, Australia Scout has a short segment on the popular From the Stands A-League podcast where we dissect the tactical features from one game of the round. In our second appearance, we had a look at the tactics behind Melbourne City’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle Jets.

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Hey guys, great to be back again on the show this week to talk about Sunday’s fixture between Melbourne City and Newcastle Jets, where the former were making their home debut since the City takeover. This was an interesting if not spectacular game where City’s periods of dominance bookended a spell of Newcastle pressure during which they scored the opener.

However, for the entire first half the Jets had struggled to get forward primarily because City dominated possession. Like against Sydney FC last week, they established control of the ball early on and were able to bring it forward effectively from the back. Erik Paartalu has gone straight into the side and into the same role he used to play for Brisbane Roar, playing as a #6 at the base of the midfield three and dropping in between the two centre-backs when City are playing out from the back. With Newcastle defending in a solid 4-4-2 shape, this meant Paartalu was creating a 3v2 advantage in deep positions and City were able to easily play out around the Jets front two.

The second problem from Phil Stubbins’ point of view was the freedom of Aaron Mooy and Massimo Murdocca further ahead of in the City midfield. What these two players do is when City have possession in the middle third, they move towards the flank to allow the full-back to push forward, which in turn creates 2v1 or 1v1 situations for the winger higher up. While last week it was Murdocca moving to the right, combining with right-back Ross Archibald to free up Damien Duff against Sydney’s Matt Jurman, here it was Mooy moving to the left, getting lots of ball and allowing Iain Ramsay to overlap energetically past him, which in turn freed up David Villa, who was playing from the left, to drift inside into narrow positions.

Mooy finished as the game’s highest passer and frequently created neat combinations between the lines with Ramsay, Villa and centre-forward David Williams.

However, while City created a few decent half-chances, they lacked genuine penetration. Part of the problem is that their possession play and the rotations in midfield tend to create a passing sequence that would look something like a big ‘arc’ – they work the ball down the flanks and from side to side, but struggle to get players on the ball in central positions. Therefore, much of their attacking play results in a cross either floated or drilled into the middle. While this is not a fault in itself, there are a lack of targets in the box for these crosses which means many of them were comfortably dealt with by the Jets centre-backs. You could say that the potential signing of Josh Kennedy could alleviate these concerns, but with a player like Villa through the middle, would probably be better off trying to create chances through the middle.

Another problem for City was that Villa, playing on the left wing, contributed very little defensively and often stayed high up the pitch when his side didn’t have the ball. You could call it the ‘Del Piero conundrum’ – he clearly has to be included in the side for his sheer quality when on the ball, but his poor defensive contribution will leave the side undermanned in a certain zone.

Here, it was Jets right-back Scott Neville who took advantage of the lack of pressure, and constantly got forward past Villa to get into dangerous positions high p the pitch. There were several clear examples of this, which you will find in a video on our website this Wednesday. Neville’s runs concerned Van’t Schip enough that he eventually swapped Villa and Williams after thirty-five minutes, which meant the Spaniard was back into his traditional centre-forward position.

The key change of the match, however, was at half-time, when the Jets looked to press high up the pitch after the half-time break, with Marcos Flores working hard to occupy Paartalu and Edson Montano closing down energetically on the City centre-backs. This meant they couldn’t build up possession as easily, and gradually, the Jets got a foothold on the game, helped by the more positive passing of substitute Zenon Caravella, who came on for Taylor Regan in the centre of midfield, who helped to bring their full-backs higher up the pitch by playing neat passes towards the flank. Carney, in particular, became more involved, combining nicely with Johnny Steele ahead of him and putting in some dangerous crosses. We saw evidence of this last week against the Mariners, he was involved in the build-up to the goal, carrying the ball forward into the final third and then helping to switch it across to Joel Griffiths, who provided the assist for Montano.

From that point, the game reverted back to its previous pattern, as City pushed forward for an equaliser. Encouragingly, Van’t Schip was very positive with his use of the bench. Immediately after conceding he introduced Dugandzic for Williams, playing the former from the left. Later, he removed Paartalu, bringing on Paolo Retre, and moving Mooy back into the #6 position. With a better passer in that deep-lying midfield position, City were able to bring the ball forward more comfortably.

With nine minutes left, though, and chasing the game, the manager made his most daring change – removing left-back Ramsay, bringing on attacker James Brown, and switching to a back three, with Jason Hoffman moving from right-back to become a third centre-back. This switch initially lead to some confusion, with players uncertain of their roles, and Zenon Caravella really should have made it 2-0 but missed horrifically in front of goal.

The main benefit of this change was to simply get more attackers into the final third in support of Villa. It wasn’t necessarily a clever tactical tweak, but a proactive one, and throwing caution to the wind helped City find an equaliser.

For more tactical analysis, head to, where we’ve got in-depth analysis of the Adelaide Melbourne game, as well as the Sydney derby, plus much, much more.

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