Football 3 years ago

How good Issy?

  • How good Issy?

The Johnny Warren Medal has again thrust adulation upon a team's greatest asset, the goalscorer. And this precedent explains why Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC will compete in this season's A-League Grand Final, despite being statistically outplayed in their respective Semi-finals.

Melbourne City and Adelaide United each edged the possession statistic over their opponents, but finished with a shot accuracy of 28.6% and 33.3% respectively. Their status as Semi-Final losers is hereby justified. Statistics matter little come finals time where you must be ruthless in attack; City failed at this, and United lacks the player to do so.

For Adelaide United, the 2014/15 season was a relative success further strengthened by Gombau's decision to consolidate his squad, aligning new player contracts with his Adelaide tenure. Much of the team's success can be credited to midfield sensation Isaias Sanchez whose technical ability, work-rate and uncanny interception skills have impelled his teammates to grow and improve.

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Although Marcelo Carrusca and Sergio Cirio placed in the top five of the Johnny Warren Medal count, Isaias' consistent output makes him more endearing and worthy. Of course, this is an unrealistic proposition, "when has a defensive midfielder ever won a league's top honour?" But, he should at least be applauded if not commended.

Fans of other A-League clubs may be unaware of his significance, due to his defensive mindset and discreet approach, and this is understandable. But, from an Adelaide perspective, Isaias is quite possibly the greatest footballer to put on their red jersey. He may not score 15 goals a season, but when the chips are down, he stands resolute, driving his team to succeed.

His efforts in Adelaide's 4-1 Semi-Final loss to Sydney are a cogent example. For the second and fourth goal, Isaias is seen busting his gut to position himself goal-side and defend where Adelaide's defensive line is not.

The Spanish midfielder won Adelaide's highest honour - the 2013/14 'Club Champion' award - in his debut A-League season, but remained on the periphery. It took an entire season for Adelaide supporters to respond to his methodical manner and overt awareness, and still he is greatly underrated by the competition as a whole.

His ability to drag opponents out of position when he drops into defence affords his teammates ample space to advance from defence or midfield. This is a trademark of Adelaide's attacking process, but secondary to the Spaniard's passing range and technical nous. Isaias also doubles as a defender, which complements Gombau's attacking tactics, quite often switching to three in defence.  

This season, the 'Club Champion' votes will most likely favour Tarek Elrich, who too has had a remarkable campaign, and deserves the ultimate acclaim. But, Isaias is definitely a close second, and his first goal for United - in the 7-0 hiding of Newcastle Jets - was certainly one to savour.

Isaias has certainly improved in his second season in the A-League, and he could be the foundation for Adelaide's practical next step under Gombau, an A-League Grand Final. Any A-League team-of-the-year snubs should be considered as a blatant oversight.

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