‘If I was any team in the league, I’d be trying to sign him’: Podcast View

Watch all the highlights from Round 4 in the Isuzu UTE A-League.

The Official Isuzu UTE A-League Podcast unpacks an enthralling weekend of Round 4 action.

The Official Isuzu UTE A-League Podcast is back, and available every Monday to review the action from the weekend. Here’s a snapshot of some of the talking points from Round 4, discussed by KEEPUP’s David Weiner, Tom Smithies and David Davutovic.

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‘If I was any team in the league, I’d be trying to sign him’

In the opening weeks of the Isuzu UTE A-League season, new names have shown signs they could be set to join the roll call of foreigners who have announced themselves as stars on Aussie shores; led by the likes of Melbourne City’s Tolgay Arslan and Melbourne Victory’s Zinedine Machach.

However, don’t sleep on an import who has been doing it year in year out in the A-Leagues and is actually approaching 100 matches in the competition.

This weekend, Macarthur FC captain Ulises Davila delivered an emphatic reminder of what he is capable of, playing a key role in all three of his side’s goals in an extraordinary 3-3 draw with Melbourne City.

“Davila… let’s just talk about that for a minute or two more. We’ve talked about (Daniel) Penha, Arslan last week, but we’ve got a gem who’s not new – he’s been here for a couple of years – it was just so great to see him pulling the strings. It was magnificent,” Weiner said.

Smithies replied: “The really interesting thing about Ulises Davila is the number of times he has affected actions, things that actually change the course of the game. It’s wonderful to watch.

“There are a lot of players in the league who are ones to watch, but his executions of wonderful movement into tangible outcome is really remarkable.

“Involved in all three of the goals; lovely finish for the first, wonderful through ball for the third and heavily involved in the second, putting the cross in for Jake Holman.

“If I was any team in the league, I’d be trying to sign Ulises Davila. He’s such a smart player. He knows how to make things actually happen and just does it all in a beautiful way.”

Davutovic added: “Great use of the body, nutmegs… an absolute joy to watch. In this kind of form, he would have to be among the favourites to claim the Johnny Warren Medal once again.”

Davila, who shared the 2020-21 Johnny Warren Medal with Milos Ninkovic, has racked up 90 appearances in the Isuzu UTE A-League for 30 goals and shows no signs of slowing down, having regained his spot in the starting XI after two matches as a substitute.

Sky Blue turnaround

Sydney FC returned to form with a bang on Saturday night.

In new coach Ufuk Talay’s first game in the hot seat, the Sky Blues trounced Adelaide United 5-1 at Coopers Stadium, claiming their first points of the new season.

Incredibly, those five goals were also their first of the season, having gone goalless in their opening three matches before Talay took over from Steve Corica last week.

“One of the great all-time new manager bounces,” Smithies said.

“The funny thing is, it’s a new manager – and yet it’s not. Ufuk Talay knows so many of those players so well. He said himself: ‘I don’t know what I can claim for that – I’ve been here three days’, but clearly the players, for whatever reason, felt liberated. 

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“The intensity was there. The intensity that has been lacking all season, and was lacking way too often last season. They were first to the ball, they were first to the second ball, they were first to the tackles. They just went at Adelaide, in the same way the Mariners did last season, that showed if you really go hard at them and go early, suddenly Adelaide can panic.

“Their execution was superb. It was brave of Talay to put Jaiden Kucharski in straight away for his first start, and look how he’s rewarded him.

“Talay will know Kucharski really well from having been the assistant coach at Sydney previously, and having coached against him. If they play with that intensity every week, and add to the quality they’ve got then suddenly Sydney FC are a very different proposition.”

Davutovic added: “Those two finishes (Kucharski’s) were unbelievable. Extraordinary composure; he still had a lot to do for the first, and the second one was an outstanding finish.” 

Victory new signing ‘owning’ midfield role after impressive start

It may only be four weeks into the new Isuzu UTE A-League season, but Ryan Teague is already starting to build a case to be one of the signings of the campaign.

The new Melbourne Victory midfielder has slotted seamlessly into Tony Popovic’s side, impressing with his tremendous technical ability, defensive hardness and, as shown in their 1-1 draw with Wellington Phoenix, an ability to hit the scoreboard.

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Teague – who arrived from Portuguese side FC Famalicao during the off-season – scored his first goal for the club last Friday night, opening the scoring with a lovely finish.

“He’s very much owned that number six, number eight role,” KEEPUP’s David Davutovic said on the Official Isuzu UTE A-League Podcast. 

“Beautiful, elegant left-footer, a great passing range, and that goal underlined his all-round capabilities as a midfielder. A perfectly-timed run into the box and a fantastic finish to cap it off.

“Very interesting that (Tony) Popovic has gone with Tegaue as well as Fabian Monge in midfield when they’ve got (Jake) Brimmer, Leigh Broxham (and Rai Marchan) on the bench. A number of different options there.

“Teague’s form has been very, very good and clearly the last few years in Portugal have done him well, even though he hasn’t played as much football as he would have liked.”

‘They need a win – and quickly’

Three losses on the trot and the pressure is beginning to build at Western United.

After defeating Melbourne City in their season opener, Western have fallen to consecutive defeats to Western Sydney Wanderers, Macarthur FC and most recently Newcastle Jets, failing to score in any of their three losses.

John Aloisi said he was quite happy with the performance, just not the result,” KEEPUP’s Tom Smithies said.

“But that’s three (losses) now in a row. Eventually you get to a point where players start wondering: ‘Where is the win going to come from?’

“And I understand why he’s talking up the performance, and it was, particularly in the first half, a coherent performance – but they need a win, and quickly.”

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Davutovic, however, is confident they will turn the tide after the international break, even if there are some issues surrounding their attacking output.

“Western United were too desperate to score, and I think that’s been a part of the problem – and Daniel Penha almost epitomises that,” he said.

“They’re really trying to force the issue, and Penha is just so desperate to get off the mark himself and get his team scoring.

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“I think it will come; like a lot of teams they will get better. But someone like Nikita Rukavytsya who came on the eve of (the) season, that’s his second appearance, he got a solid 35 minutes in, I think with another decent two-week training block he puts his hand up to start in that next game.

“I think that makes a big difference to them, and I wouldn’t be surprised, even though he came on for Noah Botic, if they start as a front two.”

The early pace-setters after a month

The first international break of the Isuzu UTE A-League season has arrived, providing an opportunity to reflect on the opening four weeks of the campaign so far.

After four games, the standings are gridlocked, with one point separating first placed Western Sydney Wanderers to sixth-placed Brisbane Roar, while down the other end, reigning champions Central Coast Mariners are still without a point.

But who out of these sides have set the bar for the rest of the competition?

“There are teams that are building quietly: Wellington Phoenix, four games unbeaten. Melbourne Victory – Tony Popovic’s teams always grow slowly,” Smithies said.

“Macarthur: they were moments away from knocking off the Premiers and they would have gone top of the table if they’d done so. It’s kind of a story of heavy underachieving and quiet overachieving, that’s how I’d sum up the league table at the moment.”

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Davutovic added: “We said at the start of the season it was really open, and nothing that’s happened since makes me think otherwise. Wanderers, Victory, Wellington, Macarthur all locked on eight points, then you’ve got three points separating them and seventh-placed Newcastle.

“I don’t think anyone has been outstanding throughout – but Wanderers would probably be the top of the pops in terms of consistency. Although Victory’s first two performances were very, very good.

“Wellington, in terms of where you thought their starting point was – they’ve been super impressive.

“Adelaide United have shown amazing glimpses – then they absolutely fell off a cliff at the weekend. It’s really tantalising to see how this season unfolds because there’s so many twists and turns to go.”