LINCHPIN: Leonardo is pivotal to reviving the Jets’ attacking fortunes against Wellington on Sunday. Picture: Getty ImagesTHE Jets have not scored in six games. Their ninegoals in 14 games this season is the worst in the A-League by some distance,six fewerthan Perth’s 15. They rank last for shots and for shots on target. Only four Jets players have scored this season.
Interestingly, according to Opta, the A-League’ssports data supplier, the Jets rank fourth in the league for what it terms “big chances”, with 27, but last in conversion rate, at just 22%, which lends credence to captain Nigel Boogaard’s observation this week that “as a group we are creating the chances”.
However you look at it, the side’s attack has been poor, even accounting for yet another disjointed preparation in the hangover from Nathan Tinkler’s sorry regime.
The mantra at training this week has been that the team do not need to change their approach and that the goals, and results, will eventually come.
“We’ve got ourgame plan, and we’re not going to shy away from that,” defender Daniel Mullen said.“We’re not going to change it. We know that it works.’’
Nevertheless, on Sunday, the Jets are at home toWellington, who have not won outside New Zealand since round two, have themselves scored only once in three games and are missing six-goal striker Roy Krishna.
Coach Scott Millerhas not apologised for sending his side out with a conservative mindset. A horrible defensive record last season (55 goals in 27 games) needed fixing, and to a large extent he has done that.
But it will be interesting to see whether he regards this weekend as a chance to take some risksand bank on his team’s improved resilience.
What are his options? Introducingyoung legsoff the bench earlier in the game? Committing more troops forward?The fans won’t hang him for trying.
Much will depend on whether Leonardo is fit, as the team’s counter-attack pivots off the littleBrazilian, takingpressure off David Carney. The No.10 tends to cheat a little when the team is under pressure, and they will need his positional sense and ability to beat the first defender to open up a Phoenix defence which has conceded 22 goals in 14 games.
Leonardo has trained through the heat this week after a month out injured and appears likely to start.
The transfer window swung open 10 days ago, and the FFA-owned Jets have made no signings to boost their attack, but it is hard to believe that, with a few hundred thousand in the kitty, they won’t find reinforcements before it closes.
On the plus side, Carney and Mark Birighitti are still at the club, despite rumoured interest from abroad, and Miller has signed OlyrooSteven Ugarkovic.
Ugarkovic looks like the kind of midfielder the Jets need, a mobile, technically strong player who can play the ball forward thenlink with teammates further up the pitch. For all the talk of the final third, this is an area of the Jets’ game which has been lacking for years.It is too much to ask that one player, let alone a 21-year-old, can transformthe team, but Jetsfans will see any change as good change.