15/04/2024

The Inner Sanctum 2021/22 A-League Men's Season Review: Western Sydney Wanderers (PHOTO: Western Sydney Wanderers/Design: Will Cuckson)

The 2021/22 season was another disappointing one for the Wanderers and their fans, as the Red and Black failed to qualify for finals once again.

The 2021/22 season was another disappointing one for the Wanderers and their fans, as the Red and Black failed to qualify for finals once again.

The early off-season signings of Jack Rodwell, Dimitri Petratos, and Rhys Williams gave Wanderers’ fans something to look forward to, coming into the new campaign. But after only one win in their first six games, they were quickly brought back to reality.

Carl Robinson paid for the results with his job, and a managerial search was on for the fifth time in the same number of years. Mark Rudan was appointed on the final day of January and was tasked with an almost impossible task.

The Highs

After the turn of the year, and the arrival of Rudan results slowly changed for Western Sydney. After losing two of his first three games, the former centre-back went on somewhat of a streak, losing only three of his next eight.

The former Western United head coach got rid of the back-five formation, that Robinson favoured so much, and tried to play to the strengths of his squad.

He got the best out of veteran players like Jack Rodwell, James Troisi, and Tomislav Mrcela (who he signed) and gave valuable minutes to youngsters such as Phillip Cancar, Ramy Najjarine, and Alessandro Lopane.

Another positive for the Wanderers’ supporters was the 2-0 win over Sydney FC at CommBank Stadium. In front of 14,002 people, Rudan’s men dominated the game and managed to win after goals from Tomer Hemed and Keanu Baccus.

The Lows

Poor recruitment decisions, wrong foreign signings, injury and fitness problems, and consistency struggles. The negatives have certainly outweighed the positives during the 2021/2022 campaign.

During the whole entirety of the A-League Men’s season, the Wanderers never managed to win two games in a row. All of their six wins came in different periods of the season and after every win followed a disappointing loss.

In 26 outings, they scored 30 goals (third lowest), from a total of 40.2 expected goals, and only 17 of those goals came from open play. Five were scored from penalties, six from set-pieces, and two were own-goals.

(PHOTO: Western Sydney Wanderers)

Big-name signings such as Keijiro Ogawa, Dimitri Petratos, and Terry Antonis failed to fulfil the expectations and, in the latter stages, even fell down the pecking order and dropped to the bench.

The loss of captain Rhys Williams, due to a torn hamstring tendon, was another massive blow for the Wanderers and their ambitions. Had he been available all season, life may have been easier, but without him, the defence struggled.

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MVP

James Troisi, Jack Rodwell, and Adama Traore all deserve shoutouts for their stellar season. But the consistency of the youth product, Keanu Baccus just edges them out.

The 23-year-old sustained a knee injury in a friendly against Wellington and was sidelined for almost two months. It’s no coincidence that during that time, the team won only one of five A-League Men’s games and lost to APIA Leichhardt in the Australia Cup (formerly known as the FFA Cup).

Baccus was also crucial in almost every good team performance during the season, assisting one of the goals in the three-all draw against Melbourne City, scoring a header in the ‘Sydney Derby’, and providing an assist for the win against Adelaide.

Breakout Player

Philip Cancar was undoubtedly the standout youngster for the Wanderers throughout the year. The Wollongong-born defender cemented a spot in the heart of defence alongside Tomislav Mrcela and his good run of form earned him a move to Scotland.

Final Words

With Mark Rudan set to be given a full pre-season and license to re-shape the squad as he likes, it will be crucial for the Wanderers to get their recruitment right.

As it stands, half of the squad are already certain to leave, and signing the right profiles, instead of just big names, must be the goal.

The attendance record dropped off significantly during 2021/2022 season and if the board wants to get things back on track, the results and the football on display must improve.

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