Youth in focus: Jake Hollman
The battle for the top six in the A-League Men continued its surprising inconsistency again last round, with three teams now tied for points in the Wellington Phoenix, Newcastle Jets, and Macarthur. The gap between sixth and tenth place is only five points, and it is in this region of the table that we travel to for this week's Youth In Focus. Front Page Football highlights the contributions of Macarthur's Jake Hollman as the 21-year-old begins to cement his spot at the base of the Bulls midfield.
Jake Hollman joined Macarthur ahead of their inaugural season in 2020/21. (ABC Sport)
The Macarthur Bulls have struggled for consistency this season. Currently sitting eighth in the A-League Men standings, Macarthur fans have witnessed dazzling displays against Adelaide United and Sydney FC, a stylish win over the Central Coast Mariners, and a pre-season Australia Cup triumph. However, a 6-1 battering at the hands of Melbourne City was preceded by a tumultuous falling out with former manager Dwight Yorke. Add to that a stale inconsistency over a one to two-month period, which has forced new boss Mile Sterjovski to look for answers in their current roster.
A career renaissance looks to be on the cards for Liverpool local Moudi Najjar, whilst a recent win against fellow finals hopefuls Wellington may have some Macarthur fans optimistic heading into the back end of the season. However, it's the consistent output of Jake Hollman, an inaugural signing for the Bulls back in 2020, that we look to highlight as Sterjovski builds around his stability and positional awareness for the remainder of season 2022/23. Never breaking out from the Sydney FC youth setup, Hollman has enjoyed some success at Macarthur since joining the side but has taken his game to a new level in 2023.
A star in the Sky Blues' academy, Hollman earned their Player of the Year honours in 2020, beating promising prospect and Socceroo Marco Tilio to the award. Initially playing as an attacking midfielder, the Young Socceroo has found his feet in the A-League Men in a deeper midfield role, using his fantastic awareness and playmaking ability to his and Macarthur's advantage. Meanwhile, he's also built on his commendable defensive solidity under both Yorke and Sterjovski this season. Sydney FC may soon lament the release of such a versatile talent, as news of Hollman's recent two-year contract extension with the Bulls earned widespread praise from fans and media alike.
Hollman had positive words about his extension and commitment to Macarthur.
“There was a lot of competition but when Macarthur came to the party, there was no real question mark for me," Hollman told NCA NewsWire's Marco Monteverde upon signing the extension.
"It was the first club I played professionally for and they gave me an opportunity, so it feels great to stay at home and extend for another two years."
Since his appointment to the top job at Macarthur, Sterjovski has indicated that he wishes to play attractive football and bring a new sense of motivation to the squad. It looks like Hollman is a critical figure in this process.
Hollman has shown his keenness to progress the ball for Macarthur on numerous occasions this season, even from a deeper role than he has played previously. The 21-year-old has completed 80% of his total passes in seven starts this season, averaging 83 minutes per match. However, more telling of his potential as a box-to-box midfielder is a 74% pass accuracy when attacking the opposition's half. It shows his willingness to get up and down the pitch to support his teammates in attacking and defensive scenarios. His defensive output has significantly increased in 2022/23, averaging 4.6 completed tackles per game along with 3.7 interceptions, showing more maturity and game management than other midfielders at his age. These statistics, coupled with his superb technical ability, which has contributed 1.1 successful dribbles per match at an 80% completion rate, means Hollman has all the hallmarks of a midfield utility who can play multiple roles in that area of the pitch.
Hollman has an opportunity to assert himself further under a new manager at Macarthur and will be looking to cement his future for years to come. Should he become consistent with his current output, especially with Sterjovski's style of football, Hollman could become an Angus Thurgate-esque presence in a dynamic midfield. He's also alongside some genuine attacking talent in Al Hassan Touré, Daniel Arzani, and Ulises Dávila, with the ability to defend opposing onslaughts and quickly spring counter-attacks in transition. Realistically, Hollman has the potential to reach the heights of current Socceroo and Hearts midfielder Cameron Devlin, with several similarities in how they conduct themselves on the pitch. If Hollman stays fit, he may be surrounded by suitors from Asia's elite clubs, with a European future still on the cards.
All statistics sourced from SofaScore.
Click here to read last week's 'Youth In Focus' on Canberra United's Vesna Milivojevic.