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  • Writer's pictureChristian Marchetti

Are the Mariners the real deal this season?

The Central Coast Mariners are off to a great start to the new season, winning both of their opening matches against Newcastle and Macarthur.

But what is the secret to their success, and will Alen Stajcic be able to take the team to greater heights in 2020-21?

Firstly, it has been fascinating to see how the Mariners have set up so far from a tactical perspective.

Stajcic opts for a rigid 4-4-2 system both in and out of possession.

Thus far getting back to basics has suited his team.

They set up two stubborn banks of four behind the two strikers, who have been Matt Simon and Alou Kuol, before picking their moments to counter-attack.

It worked an absolute treat against Macarthur last Sunday.

They picked off the Bulls twice on the counter through Daniel De Silva before halftime, then Jordan Smylie sealed all three points right at the end.

Jordan Smylie (centre) celebrates his goal last Sunday with his teammates. (Getty Images)

This style also relies on the team being clinical, which they were, scoring twice from just three shots on target.

However, as opposed to most teams that use a defensive 4-4-2, the Mariners are comfortable allowing the opposition to cross the ball into the box.

Macarthur had 27 crosses during the match at Campbelltown Stadium, whilst Newcastle whipped in 26 the week before.

Are the Mariners fortunate that their opponents cannot deliver a decent final ball?

Or, do they finally have a back five good enough to deal with it?

I would say it is the latter, mainly due to Ruon Tongyik and Mark Birighitti's form being nothing short of outstanding.

Tongyik regularly clears any dangerous crosses into the box and is a towering presence, winning 100% of his tackles so far as well.

Meanwhile, Birighitti has the focus and concentration levels to step up when needed.

The 29-year-old has made nine saves already in just two matches, including spectacular stops from long-range strikes by Angus Thurgate and Ivan Franjic.

The ex-Swansea City keeper is arguably the best in the league in his position right now.

As always with the Mariners, it is also great to see young players such as Kuol and Joshua Nisbet play regular minutes and impress.

However, could this be the season that De Silva finally lives up to his much-discussed potential?

Daniel De Silva has impressed so far for the Mariners. (Getty Images)

The early signs are promising.

The 23-year-old netted an excellent strike after a late surge into the box against Macarthur.

He was generally much more of a creative threat and is precisely the player that Stajcic needs in those counter-attacking moments.

For the Mariners, right now, it is just early signs of potential and a competitive team.

Even last season they were very competitive early on, in the top six after seven rounds, before fading drastically.

However, with foreign signings such as Marcos Ureña and Michał Janota still to come into the fold, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic in Gosford at the moment.


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