After another loss on Friday night against Melbourne Victory, the Josep Gombau era at Western Sydney Wanderers has so far only seen three wins in 12 matches.
Although the issue currently dominating the headlines is this worrying statistic, Gombau’s influence is starting to become apparent with the basic ideas of positional play, or Juego de Posición, beginning to emerge from the performances of his team.
The intention behind this article is not to defend Gombau, nor is it to say that the recent performances of his charges have been acceptable; the purpose is none more noble than simply to highlight what these performances consist of from a tactical perspective, with one eye on the future and on what may be seen in months to come.
A key takeaway message from Gombau’s early press conferences was one which called for patience during the transition between playing styles; it is not exactly out of the ordinary for a newly-arrived coach to ask for time and cool heads, but in the case of Gombau, it could be said that there is a valid reason for this.
Positional play as a concept is not a particularly simple philosophy, and is certainly not inherent within Australian football. When these factors are combined with the mechanised and rigid structure of former coach Tony Popovic, Gombau is effectively asking his squad to learn how to play football again.
This is no easy task, and is most likely why media reports abound regarding player fall outs – every time an individual learns something new, it first requires an ability to lessen one’s ego and acknowledge that the subject was not already known.
Professional football players are consistently associated with high degrees of ego, and some may find the process of learning a new approach more difficult than others.
Despite this alleged resistance, there has been a clear progression in the execution of the game model over the past few weeks, and it could be posited that this trend will continue into the near future.