Sydney FC has been struggling defensively and could miss out on the top six for the first time since the 2015/16 season.
After 24 A-League games, Sydney FC has conceded 34 goals. That is the third-worst defensive record in the league, equal with Perth Glory who already look guaranteed to finish bottom of the ladder.
Before the start of the 2021/22 season, the Sky Blues lost veteran defende, Ryan McGowan, who joined Kuwait SC, with former Melbourne Victory stopper, James Donachie, coming in to replace him.
At that time, the departure of McGowan wasn’t seen as a massive loss, especially after Alex Wilkinson’s decision to sign a new deal with the club. But since then, things haven’t looked great for Sydney and Steve Corica.
The form of, now 37-year-old, Wilkinson has dropped considerably, and his partnership with Donachie has clearly lacked the balance and stability that McGowan and Wilkinson once had.
Ben Warland is the only other centre-back who has played in the league, mostly when Donachie has been absent, but his performances have been inconsistent and it seems like Corica doesn’t trust him to be first-choice.
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Could Lachman be Sydney’s new “cornerstone”?
With both Donachie and Wilkinson’s deals expiring in June, the Sky Blues will require defensive reinforcements, and ironically the player we think could solve their issues is no other than Perth’s number 29, Darryl Lachman, whose contract is also up in the summer.
The Amsterdam-born defender hasn’t enjoyed a particularly successful season, but it is hard to blame that on his own ability. The lack of a consistent partner, rest, and the injuries in the squad have affected the Curaçao international’s performances.
Despite all the struggles, Lachman has still been one of, if not the most consistent player in this Glory side, starting every single A-League match since the beginning of the season, and boasting some impressive numbers.
Standing at six foot two tall, Lachman leads the Perth side in ball recoveries (157), challenges won (77%), and successful tackles (77%). All these numbers show that he is a strong and solid defender, something that Sydney desperately needs.
But one thing he definitely isn’t, is your old-day “No-Nonsense Defender”. Although the former Twente man can be aggressive and tough when needed, he can also play with his feet, and he can do it really well.
At the time of writing, Lachman has a passing accuracy of 94% from his 1,528 passes in the 2021/22 A-League Men’s season, the highest rate of any player with more than 150 attempted passes.
Lachman also compares very well to the current Sydney FC defensive duo and actually ranks higher than them in a lot of the defensive and passing metrics this year.
We used data from FotMob and InStat to compare the Wilkinson-Donachie partnership to Perth’s prime defender and the Ajax youth product came up on top in five out of seven per90 figures.
How would he fit in?
Throughout his career in Australia and overseas, Lachman has played in a variety of different formations and positions and is capable of doing a job in almost any defensive role.
Despite being predominantly right-footed, he has also played a massive number of games as the left-sided centre-back (as seen from his SofaScore heatmap below) in a back-three or even as the covering defender in that formation. Although, the latter wouldn’t be his preferred role, considering how dominant he can be in tackles and duels.
Sydney FC usually plays with a back-four, and that will likely be the case next season, with or without Steve Corica at the helm. Lachman has played most of his games for Perth in a similar shape and coming in and doing a job shouldn’t be an issue.
The 32-year-old’s way of playing and passing prowess would also suit Sydney’s style of build-up. The Sky Blues like to start attacks from the back, inviting pressure from their opponents in order to open up spaces for their quick attackers, something that suits Lachman perfectly.
Signing Lachman won’t be an easy task. As sources report, Perth is very keen on keeping him at HBF Park and talks are likely to start soon as his contract is up in less than two months.
But if last years’ grand finalists really want to solidify their defence and challenge for titles again, going all-out on one of the A-League’s best defenders should be a priority.
Too many times in recent years, the club has resorted to signing the big-name foreign attackers with not much consideration for how they fit into the squad, and trying an alternative approach could get them back where their fans want them to be – at the top.
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