Why Western Sydney Wanderers were right to sack Josep Gombau

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Time was a luxury the Spaniard failed to earn this time around

No pre-season. A squad that wasn’t his. Stuck playing out of two stadiums not designed for football. The excuses are there for Josep Gombau, but the reality is he failed as a coach during his short tenure with Western Sydney Wanderers and left them with no choice but to fire him. 

Attempting to replace Tony Popovic, a coach that literally built the club, was never going to be easy.

Thrown into the ring in round 6, Gombau was always going to have his work cut out not to be knocked out. 

The Wanderers' first goal under the Spaniard in that game against Melbourne City perhaps perfectly summed up his time at the club. A scrambled Josh Sotirio finish that was the product of desperation and persistence rather than any particular skill.

As Gombau said from the outset, he was going to need time to get Western Sydney playing the Barcelona-style of football he envisioned.

But time was something he was never going to have at a club accustomed to success and the former Adelaide United coach's tactical inflexibility and poor player management during his time in charge sealed his fate well before the Wanderers missed out on finals for the just the second time in their history. 

Josep Gombau

Back at the Reds, Gombau had a lolly jar players were allowed to forage through and while it appears he opted not to bring the sweets with him to Western Sydney, the jar itself symbolises the stark differences between the him and the man he replaced at the club and why it was never going to work.

Where Gombau preferred the carrot, Popovic was a man that succeeded with the stick.

His ruthless approach to training, and the transformation of Josh Risdon in particular, a testament to his ability to get the most out of his players.

Speaking of players, Gombau struggled from the outset to win the men in red and black over with a lack of respect and perhaps lollies doing him no favours.

The abrupt departure of last season's captain Robert Cornthwaite in less than civil circumstances early on WAS a sign of things to come, with Kearyn Baccus, Oriol Riera and Roly Bonevacia among those reported to be less than happy under the Spaniard.

Gombau's hot and cold relationship with Riera in particular was interesting with the striker's angry reactions to being substituted highlighting the fractured nature of the player/coach relationships being established.

Josep Gombau Western Sydney Wanderers

On the pitch, the Wanderers never really clicked as they won just seven of Gombau's 22 games in charge with 10 losses and five draws. The club's embarrassing 5-0 loss in the Sydney derby a further sign things weren't destined to end well. 

Though they ultimately did play a Gombau-brand of attacking football, Western Sydney never mastered it and were often made to pay on the counter. 

Their 380 shots throughout the season was more than any other side could manage, but the fact they only got 115 of those on target illustrates the fact Gombau didn't deploy his side right. 

The positioning of Alvaro Cejudo in particular was a cause of constant frustration with the marquee man played far too deep in midfield for much of the season before finally showing what he could do in the final few games played higher up the pitch.

Gombau's time in charge wasn't all bad though it must be said. The emergence of Keanu Baccus despite his red card in the final game of the season is worth noting, while securing Chris Ikonomidis on loan was a great scoop too.

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Given a pre-season and more time to work with, who knows what Gombau could have done. He eventually worked wonders with Adelaide after a slow start, but a sluggish and controversial beginning to life at Western Sydney meant such a repeat wasn't going to be on the cards here. 

At the end of the day, coaches are hired and fired based on their ability to win games and earn the loyalty of their players.

Two things Gombau simply didn't do during his short tenure and was left to pay the price for.

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