Kill the body and the head will fall. That is the approach Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold is taking to nullify Melbourne Victory marquee Besart Berisha on Saturday night.
There are dangerous players in every team, some who require special attention, man-marking or even a specialist tagger for 90 minutes. When it comes to Berisha, Arnold believes even these tactics won’t help.
So potent is the Albanian striker once the ball is at his feet that there is little defenders can do from preventing a scoring chance, something even Manchester United can attest to.
Sydney FC boast the most lean defence in the league and have built a reputation of their own when it comes to intimidation, but even they aren’t taking any risks against the lively Berisha in his new backyard.
Arnold was full of praise for a player who scored his sixth goal in eight games last week, playing on a cricket pitch amid a storm against Central Coast, and said his best chance of stopping Berisha was to starve him of possession. Sydney won’t deploy any special tactics directly towards him, but will instead focus on shutting down the creative players around him so as to cut off supply to the danger man.
“Look, he’s a fantastic player, I said it before, we saw the energy that he gave Brisbane when he was at Brisbane and what he did up there with the goals he was scoring and his energy is now rubbing off on Melbourne Victory players,” Arnold said.
“We just have to try and make sure we cut off the supply to him. Defensively we have to be very, very strong and give nothing away. We’ve analysed them this week and hopefully I can expose a few of their weaknesses that I’ve seen with where we can be strong. It will be a matter of just going down there and sticking to the game plan, and also being ready for the fight.”
The Sky Blues travel to Melbourne after suffering their first loss of the season in a 2-1 defeat to Perth Glory last week but will be buoyed by the return of their own marquee, Marc Janko. The Austrian captain overcame a niggling injury and has been declared fit to play against the club’s oldest rivals. Defender Sasa Ognenovski, who has a thigh injury, appears no closer to a return.
A nine-day break gave Sydney plenty of chance to reflect on their loss to Perth but Arnold says their confidence has not been hit.
“After analysing the game, it was probably our most consistent performance for 80 minutes but unfortunately we gave away two cheap goals from set-pieces,” he said.
The Sydney coach has been overwhelmed with offers to sign players from abroad, now that he has two spots available as injury replacement covers for Ali Abbas and Corey Gameiro. Arnold is looking at foreign players, but says he is interested in signing one who will improve the standard of the first team, not their depth.
“I want competition for places, we’ve lost two starting eleven members with Corey and Ali Abbas, and we’ve got to have depth in the squad but I’m not going to bring out somebody to sit on the bench or somebody to put depth in the squad,” he said. “I want quality, otherwise I want to give Australian kids an opportunity.”