Experienced Western Sydney Wanderers defenders Michael Thwaite and Robbie Cornthwaite say they are pleased with their team’s start to life under Josep Gombau.
Western Sydney have spent just three training sessions under the Spaniard’s tutelage but still managed to fight out a 1-1 draw against Melbourne City on Sunday night.
Gombau was named as Wanderers coach a fortnight ago following the search to find Tony Popovic’s replacement; he departed suddenly to take charge of Turkish club Karabukspor at the start of October.
In many ways, the two approaches are total opposites; one focusing on keeping the ball, the other on conceding possession and punishing opposition errors.
Against City, signs of Gombau’s philosophy were already there, while features of Popovic’s aggressive style remained.
Western Sydney played in excess of 100 passes more than City, 473 to 366, and boasting the lion’s share of possession at 56%.
In their 19th-minute goal off Josh Sotirio’s boot, Popovic’s five-year legacy was evident; Oriol Riera was sweating on Osama Malik and caught him in possession, allowing the Wanderers to pounce in a dangerous area.
Western Sydney’s first chapter in the Gombau story pleased captain Cornthwaite.
“It’s only been three days that he’s taken the trainings and started to implement his style,” he said after the game.
“I thought in trying to play the way he wants, I thought we were fantastic.
“The execution is obviously going to take time. I thought there were patches where we played some very good football and there was patches we didn’t.
“Defensively, it takes some adjusting as well now that we play quite spread and quite open.
“There’s a lot to learn. Four draws, four away games in a row, we didn’t lose any so that’s a positive.”
Defensive partner Thwaite, who was recalled to the lineup after a spell out with injury, echoed his skipper’s sentiments.
Thwaite said he was enjoying Gombau’s “simplified” outlook on the game, with the key message to be bold with the ball.
“I think he just simplifies the game, he’s got a set philosophy,” he explained.
“He’s got a number of rules which we’ve got to abide by, otherwise you’re not going to play.
“We’ve only had three sessions under him, so it’s probably something that’s going to take a good five, six weeks.
“He wants us to be brave, he wants us to play.
“He’s going to take responsibility for the results and he just says be brave and play the way he wants.”
Gombau himself stressed the task in front of him would not be easy, but hoped to use his first games in charge as a learning experience.
“It’s not easy … but the timing is the timing, we don’t choose the timing,” he told his post-match media conference.
“It is not an excuse … we need to work with this timing.
“We have something in mind … we take these first games as an experience the build something and be competitive.”
Western Sydney will be back at home after four games on the road next week against Wellington Phoenix.