In its third season of the A-League Men, Western United is out to claim redemption on the 2020/21 season and experience that finals feeling once again.
After its impressive fifth place and semi-final finish in its inaugural season, Western United slumped to 10th position in 2020/21, leaving people question what is it the club is playing for?
Head coach Mark Rudan was sacked at the conclusion of last season after the horrid ending, despite a year remaining on his contract. Former Socceroo, John Aloisi, takes over the roll in an attempt for Western United to bounce-back to another finals finish season.
Western United’s first off-season signing came through Brisbane Roar’s Dylan Wenzel-Halls, and despite only being 23 years old, and a name among a larger list of signing, his youth and eagerness to contribute will be noticed.
Wenzel-Halls made his A-League Men debut in 2018 and has made 67 appearances for the side. The striker has also scored 14 goals. His best was seen in the 2020/21 season, where he hit the back of the net seven times.
The young prospect’s burst of energy in the forward line is an exciting addition to Western United which no doubt went for his ability to come out of the woodworks and deliver some impressive plays.
His young age shouldn’t be a factor in doubting his ability. Wenzel-Halls is definitely one to watch not only at United, but in future seasons of the A-League Men.
Lining it, he may not be the first pick in the starting XI to begin with, competing for a sport alongside Lachie Wales, Alessandro Diamanti and new addition Rene Krhin, but will put up a strong fight for the spot
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It’s hard to look past the departure of Besart Berisha, not only from Western United, but from the A-League Men and his incredible contribution to the game across 142 games in 10 years.
Berisha joined Western United it its inaugural season, and made history as its first ever goal scorer, his first of 19 in 2019/20. A quieter second season saw him contribute a lesser seven goals, but still was able to secure the club’s golden boot award in both seasons.
Berisha wasn’t offered a contract extension at the conclusion of his two-year deal at the club, despite his interest in at least one more season on Australian soil. There was slight interest from his former side Melbourne Victory, but new head coach Tony Popovic failed to see him as a regular in the starting XI, and turned to Perth Glory’s Chris Ikonomidis.
In the A-League Men, Berisha enjoyed very successful stints at Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory before heading over to Western United.
Already working through his coaching badges, Berisha is hoping that when qualified, his coaching career could see him back at the A-League Men.
What to expect:
Comparing the transfer ins to those who have departed Western United, it seems that it has recruited to hold onto its current rung of the ladder, rather than recruiting to improve.
Western United has stuck to its old ways and given players closer to retirement than their prime time of their career, a lifeline. Berisha was let go because of his age, 36, however it matches the age of what looks to be his replacement, Nikolai Topar-Stanley. Jamie Young and Neil Kilkenny, also both signed during this off-season. The pair are 36- and 35-year-old respectively and will join Diamanti in age, 38.
In saying that, incoming coach, and former Socceroo John Aloisi has the ability to make something good out of the players presented to him. He is also no stranger to the A-League Men, with stints at Melbourne Heart and Brisbane Roar.
The green and black have also been unsettled with finding a home ground for the upcoming season. Games scheduled to be played at Lakeside Stadium have now been moved to AAMI Park, including games that would have been scheduled for Lakeside in the fixtures later to be announced. In also a training ground move, Western United have signed a deal with AFL club Essendon Bombers to use the NEC Hangar in Tullamarine as its home base for its administration staff and A-League Men team.
With so much going on: a new coach, a hefty clean out and induction of players, and moving around Melbourne for matches and training, it’s hard to determine where Western United may just finish this season, but time will tell.
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