The Western Sydney Wanderers celebrate a goal during the 2021 A-League season. (Photo: Western Sydney Wanderers/Twitter)

The Western Sydney Wanderers season fell away towards the end of the A-League season but proved they could be at the top of the league.

Finishing Position: 8th (35 points, nine wins, eight draws, nine losses)

The highs

Needing to get their season back on track, the Western Sydney Wanderers hosted Western United at Bankwest Stadium in Round 20. The Wanderers completely outplayed their opponents, claiming a 5-0 victory their largest winning margin of the season.

In an all-around 90-minute effort, the Wanderers had four individual goalscorers – the fifth coming from an own goal against Western United’s Dylan Pierias. James Troisi and Ziggy Gordon got things started in the first half while Bruce Kamau and Bernie Ibini scored in the second half.

It was a big win for the club after holding onto a 3-2 home win against Sydney FC the week before, the back-to-back wins becoming important to keep their season alive.

It was a crucial moment for the Wanderers as prior to these two wins, they hadn’t won in six games with three losses and three draws.

The consecutive wins kept them on equal points with the sixth-placed Brisbane Roar, and equally, the five goals saw the Wanderers trailing by two in goal difference.

The lows

Directly after the aforementioned Round 20 win against Western United, Western Sydney went on a three-game losing streak that began with a 5-1 away loss to the Perth Glory.

It was an agonising game for the Wanderers who, with this result, undid all their hard work to make up a goal difference deficit two weeks prior.

The Wanderers were down by two goals before Bruce Kamau scored just minutes after halftime to get them back into the contest.

However, Andy Keogh’s four goals and an extra-time shot that found the back of the net at the end of the game from Joel Chianese were disheartening.

Consecutive one-goal losses against Sydney FC and Wellington followed, each loss contributing to a fall from seventh and more than two games out from the top six, even though they secured four points from the final two outings of the season.

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James Troisi has a huge claim to winning the Wanderers MVP for the 2020/21 season, his late switch from Adelaide United two weeks out from the first round worked wonders for the club. The Socceroo and A-League Champion with Melbourne Victory in 2018 signed with Western Sydney on a two-year deal but has impressed in his first year.

The attacking midfielder scored four goals from 24 matches but also had seven assists, starring in a Round 20 win over Western United with a goal and three assists. He had 33 shots for the year, shooting almost two shots a game as his minutes were up from last year in Adelaide.

Breakout player

Bruce Kamau has had previous stints at Adelaide, where he won a Championship, from 2014 to 2016 and Melbourne City from 2016 to 2018, before making Western Sydney his third A-League club.

However, the third-year Wanderers player took advantage of being his club’s leading man upfront in 2021, becoming a striker after being used as a wingback in previous years under former coach Markus Babbel.

The switch forward worked well for Kamau after former Western Sydney captain and the club’s leading goalscorer from last season, Mitch Duke departed the club for Saudi Arabian side Al-Taawoun.

Kamau appeared in 23 matches this season and was in the starting lineup in 12 of those. He enjoyed being a striker for the 2020/21 season, scoring nine goals to sit equal seventh in the league.

This included a brace in Round 15’s 2-2 draw against the Central Coast Mariners.

This season he achieved a career-best goals tally (nine), a career-high shots tally (41 with 18 on target) as he controlled the games he appeared in, sending off over three shots a game as his minutes were up from last year also.

Final word

The Western Sydney Wanderers coach, after the Round 22 loss to Wellington effectively labelled his side’s season as a failure after the club would all but miss finals for the fourth straight season.

Carl Robinson, who joined the Wanderers ahead of the 2020/21 season, in a post-match press conference after the 1-2 loss to the Phoenix lamented the club’s missed opportunities in a dull season.

Western Sydney Wanderers coach Carl Robinson was vocal about his team’s performance after a Round 22 loss.
(Photo: Western Sydney Wanderers/Twitter)

Despite this admission from Robinson, the future in Western Sydney remains strong. Even with striker Mitchell Duke coming back for the final month of the season, Robinson and the Wanderers found new positions for certain players and the team ended up being an attacking threat.

Robinson has shown his coaching style is different to his predecessors, indicating a great change in Western Sydney and an opportunity to compete for the top six sooner rather than later.

Wanderers fans also proved they would turn out for their club in droves, despite the up-and-down performances. In 13 home games, an average of 8,061 fans attended matches at Bankwest Stadium.

It was the highest average crowd count of all the A-League clubs in the 2020/21 season – the second-highest was Sydney FC with an average of 7,813 spectators while the league-wide average sat at 5,660 for the regular season.

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