It might be stating the obvious to suggest the absence of Thomas Broich is key to Brisbane’s recent slump, but let’s look at why.
It might be stating the obvious to suggest the absence of Thomas Broich is the key to the Brisbane Roar’s recent slump, but here I explain how.
The Brisbane template under Ange Postecoglou is very much built around the use of width.
The Roar, utilising a 4-3-3, stretch opponents like no other team in the history of Australian football, using just about every millimetre between each sideline.
Their whole game is built around patiently switching the play from one side of the pitch to the other, and back again, until something opens up, either through a penetrating run or pass, or a combination of both.
The aim, inevitably, is pull the opponents out of shape and, with an overload created and an opponent struggling to adjust, exploit the space created through a killer ball and cunning piece of movement.
The circulation of bodies and ball is often too much for opponents to handle.
Henrique, like Besart Berisha, is great at making these penetrating runs between defenders, and there-s no doubt the Roar have also missed the Brazilian in recent times.
However, if the opposition defence is able to adjust quickly and block off the space, the Roar tend to rely on something a little different, or what a technical man like Han Berger would describe as a “difference player”.
That is someone with that little bit of magic in his feet that allows him to take on his man in a one-on-one situation and create an overload.
By shifting the ball quickly, into the wide areas, Brisbane give Broich every opportunity to go to work, and nobody is better in these one v one moments.
With his ability to come inside from a starting position out on the left sideline, he is often seen setting up the play, taking a touch, surveying his options, before deciding what to do next.
Mostly he takes on his immediate opponent. By skipping past him, often infield, he has created an overload, and is now running at the next opponent, either looking to go past him or link with a teammate.
Even when he starts centrally, as he has been throughout this season, Broich is able to jump out wide, or drop deep, and start the play by taking on a man.
It is this special one-on-one skill that the Roar have missed the most in the past month. And that-s even before mentioning his delivery at the set piece.
While Postecoglou has used a number of other options out wide, they have, in the main, not been able to provide enough creativity to open up opponents.
It’s not a great surprise really. After all, this is exactly why Postecoglou chased the German hard, as I explained in this recent story.
Without him, the manager has been seeking solutions. In Dunedin a week ago he used Issey Nakajima-Farran on the left and Kofi Danning on the right.
On only one occasion can I remember Nakajima-Farran skipping inside one or two defenders and creating a shooting opportunity.
When he replaced the Canadian late in the second half Postecoglou looked exasperated, an abrupt hand-shake telling much.
Against the Central Coast Mariners on the weekend, in another classic contest between the two, it was the turn of Rocky Visconte on the left, with Nakajima-Farran switched over to the right.
After a good first few minutes down the left, the Mariners took control. Pedj Bojic, in particular, dominated Visconte, much as he has been doing all season.
But forced into a change by an injury to Shane Stefanutto, Postecoglou finally stumbled upon a solution in the second half, with Jack Hingert proving a real handful from left back, where he combined well with Visconte, often bursting beyond him.
Soon after the manager answered a question on the other side, introducing Kofi Danning for central midfielder Mitch Nichols and shifting Nakajima-Farran to the centre, where he looked far more effective.
With Danning tucked in, in a position Kosta Barbarouses made his own last season, it allowed Ivan Franjic to go beyond, to the byline. Suddenly the Roar had penetration on both flanks, something they have been lacking in recent weeks.
While they managed to peg one back and controlled the flanks in the second period, there-s no doubt they lacked that final-ball quality to round off this control.
Had Broich been on the pitch, there’s every chance he would have made all the difference.