Isuzu UTE A-League season preview: Western United

Enjoy KEEPUP’s season countdown with our club-by-club previews. Scroll down to the foot of the page to access your club’s article.

With John Aloisi at the helm and key signings set to reinvigorate the playing squad, Western United is a club eager to leave its forgettable 2020/21 Isuzu UTE A-League season behind and return to the Finals Series in a new campaign.

You can expect plenty more shimmering skill from the ever-brilliant Alessandro Diamanti in 2021/22, but will the Italian maestro find suitable support in the players around him to guide the green and black back up the table?

Major ins

Leo Lacroix, Aleksandar Prijović, Dylan Wenzell-Halls, Rene Khrin

Major outs

Victor Sánchez, Besart Berisha, Andrew Durante

Head coach: John Aloisi

Melbourne Heart/Brisbane Roar record: 134 games, 46 wins, 30 draws, 58 losses

The Socceroos legend returns for his third crack at leading an Isuzu UTE A-League outfit into battle this season, taking over as head coach of Western United after the departure of Mark Rudan, who guided the club through its first two seasons in the league.

Rudan helped United secure a fifth-place finish and Finals Series football in 2019/20 before plummeting down the table in the following season. A tenth-place finish and a goal difference of -17, the second-worst in the league, meant that a fledgling United was in need of new direction in 2021/22.

Stepping into the vacant head coach role was Aloisi, who previously coached Melbourne Heart and Brisbane Roar. It’s been nearly three seasons since Aloisi last paced the pitch-side technical area in the Isuzu UTE A-League – and with a win percentage of just over 34% from his previous two head coaching ventures the Socceroos icon will have plenty of motivation to do better with a team similarly in need of positive results.

Aloisi watches on as his United squad ramp up pre-season preparations

Can’t take your eyes off: Alessandro Diamanti

“Poi Bo” is Diamanti’s mantra. It’s plastered across the Italian’s social media profiles, and clearly embedded in the mind-frame of the jovial Italian, who is full of life – and plays like it. 

The Italian expression loosely translates as a call to all who hear it to “live in the moment”. So make sure to do exactly that as United’s 38-year-old magician goes to work in the new Isuzu UTE A-League campaign.

Diamanti was low on his goalscoring output last season, but led the league in assists with nine. His craftsmanship with the ball at his feet is a sight to behold, with his left peg responsible for creating an array of scoring opportunities, whether by the way of intricate through passes, curling set-piece deliveries or invasive long balls picking out the feet of willing runners with pinpoint precision.

Reasons to be cheerful

Slowly but surely, United’s squad has incrementally strengthened through the off-season with the arrival of a number of impressive recruits.

Some, like Neil Kilkenny, Ben Garrucio, Dylan Wenzel-Halls, Jamie Young and Nikolai Topor-Stanley, come with knowledge of the league and an eagerness to impress in a new club environment.

Others, meanwhile, bring immense experience accrued on the international stage, such as Slovenian international and former Inter Milan midfielder Rene Krhin and Serbian striker Aleksandar Prijović.

And keep an eye on Australian U23 striker Noah Botic, who joins the club after a two-year stint at German Bundesliga club Hoffenheim. The 19-year-old expressed his delight in joining the club to further develop under the watchful eye of former Socceroos striker Aloisi, who could enhance his national team legacy by helping to grow the nation’s next top striker. 

… and reasons to be fearful: 

No Victor Sánchez, no Iker Guarrotxena, no Besart Berisha, no Andrew Durante – the green and black are without four of their most experienced campaigners heading into the 2021/22 season. 

The departing quartet take experience aplenty with them as they depart United and the Isuzu UTE A-League. Aloisi has recruited well, but with turnover comes the unknown – how long will it take for a new-look side to find its feet amongst the 11 other contenders?

Fan’s’ eye – Anton Cananzi 

Why we believe: I just love that you’re welcomed, everyone at the club welcomes you in no matter when you joined, where you’re from. To support a team like Western United is awesome, a new team starting from the beginning, trying to get new supporters to help them hit the ground running. That was something I really wanted to be a part of.

My friends supported United, and I loved the idea that they were in the active support. They are all still a part of it, and from that I’ve made a lot more friends in the active support. It’s a tight little community we’ve got there.

Being able to get behind a team chanting at games, making a great atmosphere was something I always wanted to do. 

Who we believe: Everyone comes to see Diamanti. A player with as much experience as he has, playing for a team like us starting off a little bit later than every other A-League team, bringing his experience to that team, it’s unmatched. He’s played in Europe at teams like West Ham, he’s just a different type of player. His passes are unrivalled. 

His personality is all about good vibes, and he brings that to our active support and to the whole club, really.

The magic of matchday is… being within the active support. There’s just nothing better than going to a game and being able to lose your voice after the 90 minutes of chanting, yelling and getting really into the game whether it’s a win, loss or draw. Being with the team, supporting them and trying to get them over the line, that’s one of the best experiences you can have. 

Usually the Western Service Crew go to a pre-game pub, depending on location. If it’s in Geelong we usually go to the Barwon Hotel, if it’s at AAMI Park we usually go to either The Precinct or the Corner Hotel. Usually from there we just let all Western United supporters know if they’d like to come along, then we all head to the game together and create the same atmosphere there.

If I could change one thing about my club… number one would be to let me play for them! But I think I’d encourage the club to foster an insane amount of active supporters, so we can create an atmosphere that no other team would be able to match. Obviously that’s going to come with time.


By Tom Smithies and Matt Comito

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