On Thursday night, Western Sydney Wanderers announced the signing of former England international Jack Rodwell on a one-year contract – but is the signing too much of a risk given his injury history?
Rodwell is a versatile footballer that can play as a box-to-box midfielder or a defensive midfielder, with an impressive resume that includes almost 10,000 Premier League minutes including a two-year spell at Manchester City.
He originally made a name for himself whilst playing for Everton, making 85 appearances for the first team after being in the youth system since the age of seven.
His performances earned him a spot in the England national team, as well as a $27 million AUD transfer to Manchester City in 2012.
However, a long stretch of injuries saw him only make 16 total appearances at City, and he was eventually sold to Sunderland in 2014.
Rodwell enjoyed a couple of relatively fit seasons, before injuries struck again in the 2016/17 season, restricting him to only playing half of the Premier League season, a season where his club would end up relegated to the Championship.
At this point, football started going downhill for Rodwell.
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He continued to struggle with injury and performances, as did his club Sunderland, who were relegated to League One in 2017/18.
Rodwell’s contract was terminated in June 2018 by the club, and since then he has only made 22 appearances in three years.
Fast-forward to the present day and the former Premier League midfielder arrives in Sydney, looking to revitalise his career.
A move to Australia had been in the works for ‘a couple of months’ Rodwell told the club’s website on Thursday, however, he was always keen for a move down under due to his wife’s family being from here.
“I’m really excited, I’ve been training for a couple of weeks now, it may take a couple more [weeks] for me to get that match fitness but I’m really looking forward to getting in the squad,” he said.
“As a team we want to win, this is a big club and we are trying to win the league.”
As Rodwell stated, he will be a few weeks away still from being match fit, but when that time comes how does he fit in the starting XI?
He has been selected in the squad for the Round 1 derby against rivals Sydney FC, but it is highly unlikely he will start for Western Sydney.
The Wanderers midfield is arguably their most talent-filled position on the pitch, with ex-Socceroo James Troisi, Terry Antonis, Dimitri Petratos, Steven Ugarkovic and Keanu Baccus all pushing to find a spot in the midfield three.
With the only wide-midfielder in the squad being new Japanese signing Keijiro Ogawa, it seems almost certain that Carl Robinson will be starting the season off playing a 4-3-3 formation.
Whilst there is incredible competition for a spot in that midfield – there is a slight edge that Rodwell has over the other players.
That edge being the fact that he has the most experience playing as a box-to-box midfielder, and is versatile enough to play either said role or as a defensive midfielder.
Both Troisi and Petratos are pure attacking midfielders, whereas Ugarkovic, Baccus and Atonis are predominantly defensive midfielders, however Antonis is familiar with a box-to-box role as well.
As players settle into the season and managers begin to familiarise themselves with their squads, it’s possible that a midfield three of Baccus-Rodwell-Antonis could be a regular one, with Petratos or Troisi even pushing out to a left-wing position.
However, past evidence suggests that Rodwell would have to be extremely fit to get through the season un-injured, so whilst it is unlikely the former England international plays majority of the campaign, there is no doubting that his quality is almost unrivalled in the squad.
Catch Rodwell and the Wanderers in action this Saturday night in Round 1 of A-League Men action as they take on Sydney FC in the Sydney Derby.
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