Just two games into the new A-League season, some critics are already questioning whether Carl Robinson has the vision and methodology to provide Western Sydney Wanderers with a discernible identity.
Two season opening A-League Men draws against Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets have exposed Robinson’s side as sometimes flaky, often shaky, posing more questions than answers for the Welshman after 13 months at the helm.
But midfielder Steven Ugarkovic - controversially spirited away from the Jets in May - believes the snipers are missing a trick - and Robinson’s plans and plots will crystallise into a solid and viable structure as the season unfolds.
“You’re going to get that in any sport (and the criticism) is a little bit unfair,” Ugarkovic told FTBL.
“But when you take on a job like the Wanderers and all the publicity that’s been around the club over the last year (after Robinson’s contentious Jets exit) then everything will be highlighted.
“I’m sure the boss would have expected that and he’s dealing with it well.
“We know our roles and our directions - anything else is just outside noise.
“I think all the boys share that belief, so what people say outside the club doesn’t really affect us or the coaching staff either.
“There’s a method there - a way we want to play and a way we are playing.
“We haven’t put it together for 90 minutes so far this season, but not too many teams in the league have.
“There hasn’t been a game where a team have dominated for 90 minutes I feel.”
Certainly not Wanderers in the 2-2 draw with Newcastle, depicted by Robinson as “lethargic” and “passive” in patches.
Ten off-season recruits - an impressive array of names including Jack Rodwell, Terry Antonis, Rhys Williams, Dimi Petratos and Adama Traore - was never going to blend instantly.
But blend they will, according to Ugarkovic.
“It comes with time and being more comfortable with each other and trusting each other,” he added.
“It’s coming each game - I feel our performance in the second half against the Jets was the start of it. We just need to push on from here.”
Ugarkovic contends that the addition of former Premier League star Jack Rodwell, who spurned a glorious chance to put the game out of sight against the Jets, will be key to their prospects.
Two Rodwell cameos have provided a glimpse of what the ex-Everton, Manchester City and Sunderland midfielder can offer.
“He’s great on and off the field with his experience and leadership,” said Ugarkovic.
“He’s very calm on the ball and you can see he’s played at the highest level possible. He brings a different dynamic.
“We have a great squad with terrific depth on paper - and it’s up to us to exploit that.
“You look at our bench and the players who came on the other night (against the Jets), it was incredible.
“Now it’s all about finding the right connections within the team - it’s all up to us now on the field.
“I’m a positive person and the vibe within the changing room is very good.
“Even when we went behind against Newcastle there was always a belief we’d get back in it. That’s a strong sign to say we’re on the right track.”
All eyes will be on Wanderers when they face Wellington (four points from two games) In Wollongong on Friday, with Ugarkovic adding: “There a footballing side and that will suit us.
“Ufuk Talay is doing a great job there - these are the sorts of games you want to play in.
“For me at this club I am at an age now (27) where I want to take that next step.
“I want to push forward this season, be more vocal and more of a leader within the squad. I started like that and I just need to keep going, and make myself a presence.
“If the team does well, you do well and things happen.”