The atmosphere generated by both sets of supporters was immense, and from a tactical standpoint the match saw Western Sydney take advantage of perceived weaknesses in the Sky Blue defensive set-up.

The problem: Sydney FC’s compact block

The excellent defensive record of Sydney FC is a topic of conversation which has been dominating the headlines for the previous year.

Conceding just 12 goals throughout the entirety of last season, with only four of them coming at home, Graham Arnold’s side have earned themselves a reputation of being stingy in what they give away at the back.

After three games this season, they have already conceded four – is this due to poor execution of the existing plan, or have some Hyundai A-League coaches identified chinks in the armour?

Sydney FC’s compact block against Melbourne Victory in their round one win.

To provide a recap of earlier analysis on Sydney’s defensive scheme, it is generally considered to be built around the creation and subsequent maintaining of defensive numerical superiority in central areas of the pitch.

Including the goalkeeper, the team is positioned on four horizontal lines in a compact fashion. The compactness of this block is such that it restricts the space available in the middle, making it difficult for opposition to alternate passes between outside and inside, thereby increasing the predictability of opponent possession and decreasing the risk of penetration through central areas.

At the same time, this structure provides cover for teammates who are vulnerable to losing in 1v1 situations, as well as facilitates counter-attacking football with the low-medium block pulling players away from their positions, creating space in behind. All-in-all, Sydney FC under Graham Arnold have been one of the best, if not the greatest, sides in the history of the A-League, largely down to their detailed approach to being without possession. detailed approach to being without possession.

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