After recovering from a minor injury that kept him out of the last two A-League Men games, Jack Rodwell made his second starting appearance in midfield alongside Steven Ugarkovic and Keanu Baccus.
At the start of November, the former Manchester City midfielder agreed on a one-year deal with the Western Sydney Wanderers after being club-less for nearly five months, following his departure from Championship side Sheffield United.
“This move is really exciting for me, I’ve been looking at the opportunity to play in Australia for a couple of months and with my wife being from Western Sydney, the Wanderers was the perfect destination,” were some of Rodwell’s first words as a Wanderers player.
“Australia is like a second home to me, it’s my favorite country on earth, it’s where my wife and her family are from; we love the place.”
Rodwell showing versatility
Upon signing, Rodwell was viewed as someone who could add solidity to the Wanderers midfield, or perhaps even offer a different option for Carl Robinson at the heart of defence. He’s played 19 times as a central defender back in England (according to Transfermarkt).
But the Englishman’s role was slightly different on Sunday night at AAMI Park. He was deployed further up the pitch as the most advanced midfielder with Ugarkovic and Baccus sitting behind him.
Playing that type of role allowed the Wanderers to make the most of his late runs in the box and even saw him score his first A-League Men goal with a good shot around the near post of Tom Glover.
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But despite starting, on paper, in a more attacking position, most of Rodwell’s touches (as seen from his heat map) came in his own half. While picking up the ball deeper, he did manage to progress it effectively with 17 of his 37 passes finishing in the opposition half (according to FotMob).
The tall midfielder also completed four out of his five attempted long balls and made one key pass, which lead to a good chance for the Wanderers.
One thing that head coach Carl Robinson, who was unable to lead his team from the dugout, would likely want to see more is Rodwell using his strength better. The number five won only two of his seven ground duels and one out of three in the air.
Considering his recent niggling injury and severe lack of match fitness, it would be harsh to say that he is physically not up to the task, especially considering the many positives that he showed on the night.
But once Rodwell is 100 per cent fit and firing, Robinson and his staff will expect regular dominant performances similar to those that convinced Manchester City and Roberto Mancini to pay 15 million Euro for the Everton youth product in 2012.
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