After an underwhelming campaign last season, there’s plenty of optimism surrounding the Brisbane Roar, who look poised to bounce back.
After a brilliant 2020/21 campaign, it was second season blues for Warren Moon as the Roar’s head coach, finishing at the tail end of the table amongst the worst teams in the competition.
The 2021/22 A-League Men campaign was one of the worst seasons in the club’s history, winning just seven games for the season.
And though a drop-off was expected with several key players from the 2020/21 season departing such as Dylan Wenzel-Halls, Jamie Young, Joe Champness, Macaulay Gillesphey and Riku Danzaki, a bottom two finish was still underwhelming.
They’d get off to a rough start, with their first win of the season coming six weeks into the campaign, winning 1-0 against the Perth Glory, facing struggles of their own. By the end of the first 10 rounds they had a record of 3-7.
Though they’ve never been renowned for being a side which is steady in defence, the Roar were especially vulnerable at the back last season.
Having conceded 28 goals in both the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons in which it still made finals, Brisbane struggled defensively this season with no reward. Conceding 39 goals, the Roar boasted the third-worst defensive record in the league.
Registering fewer shots than their opponents and rarely finishing a game with the majority of possession, they were often on the back foot. Additionally, the side kept a clean sheet just four times this season and only once while victorious.
There would be some positives, with Nikola Mileusnic joining the club and having a good first season, while Jay O’Shea was the shining light for the side in midfield. Henry Hore, a relative unknown, made the step up from the NPL and worked his way into the starting line up.
Having made six signings this offseason, none have been bigger than the arrival of English forward Charlie Austin, with the 33-year-old joining the Roar to much fanfare.
Prolific in both the Premier League and EFL Championship with Southampton and Queens Park Rangers, the Englishman brings much needed firepower to the Roar.
A proven fox in the box, Austin has been an excellent goal scorer during his time in England. Scoring 272 goals in 598 career games, Austin is best remembered for his 2014/15 campaign which he scored 18 goals in the Premier League in a QPR side which was relegated.
He would later become a reliable attacker for Southampton, scoring 20 goals in 81 appearances, before returning back to QPR to become a great role player in the Championship.
No player from the Roar registered more than six goals last season, with Brisbane scoring the second fewest goals in the entire A-League Men competition.
The club lacked fire power, though have now looked to address this with Austin expected to be the focal point in attack for the side this season.
While he does not possess blistering pace, he’s clinical, having garnered a reputation for being at the right place at the right time. With a similar style of play to Jason Cummings and Jamie Maclaren, who’ve been prolific in recent seasons, Austin has the tools to be a damaging player.
Having released four players during the offseason, Argentine Juan Lescano being one to get the chop was a surprise. Amongst the Roar’s better players last season, he’d leave the club at the end of the season in a mutual agreement to part ways.
While he didn’t reach double figures for goals scored last season, he finished the campaign with six goals, and only O’Shea contributed to more goals for Brisbane last season.
Though the side aren’t lacking depth in attack following the arrival of Carlo Armiento from the Perth Glory and Joe Knowles who recently joined having starred on trial from the Oakleigh Cannons, the club does lose some experience which the 29-year-old attacker provided.
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What to expect
If their Australia Cup run is an indicator for how Moon will structure his side for the upcoming A-Leagues campaign, he will be utilising a 4-4-2 formation. Having structured his side in this shape on numerous occasions last year and in 2020/21, it’s not a complete overhaul on how he’s traditionally set up his team.
Their Cup run also suggest that Brisbane will sit deeper and compact central areas when defending, though having been vulnerable at the back last season, inviting the pressure could see them exposed against the top sides.
Outside of the additions of Anton Milnaric who joins permanently from Sydney FC after a loan spell and Jordan Courtney-Perkins returning, the club has largely kept the same defensive line which caused them issues last season.
Moon prefers the likes of Nicholas Olsen, Kai Trewin, Tom Alfred and Josh Brindell-South starting in defence, and it’ll likely be the same again this season.
With Milnaric and Courtney-Perkins 21 and 19 respectively, the largely inexperienced duo won’t be expected to come in and change their fortunes defensively either.
In possession, O’Shea will be the man looked upon to provide a spark and be the driving force of the side in midfield again. He was one of the most creative midfielders in the league last season with 13 goal contributions, and he’ll be relied on again.
Though still looking to be prone to conceding goals this season, the bolstering of their attack will hopefully mitigate some of the damage.
Austin will be leading the attack playing a fox in the box type role will being supported by Mileusnic. Though Danzaki was a maestro in attacking midfield in his first stint the Roar, Moon has primarily used him as a tricky winger in pre-season and Cup ties, and will have him causing headaches out wide with his pace and diagonal passing to stretch the play.
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