Having just beaten title contenders Adelaide United away from home, it was suggested to Brisbane Roar interim coach Frans Thijssen that he had tapped into untested wisdom by shifting playmaker Thomas Broich to a central area.
Broich has largely weaved his artistry from the left-side of attack for the three-time A-League champions since arriving in 2010. The position has allowed him the freedom to confound defenders with dazzling dribbling ability, link up with both overlapping fullback and central striker, and to roam in attacking areas with few defensive duties. Two Johnny Warren Medals and a rightful reputation as the competition’s most effective player have followed.
Yet, the question put to Thijssen on Saturday evening was something of an oversight. Coaches preceding the Dutchman have indeed attempted to mine the German’s talent for even greater rewards. Men as educated as Ange Postecoglou, in fact.
The now Socceroos boss originally paired his finest weapon with Mitch Nichols to compensate for Matt McKay’s departure after the club’s inaugural double in 2010/11. New signing Issey Nakajima-Farran was afforded the first attempt at replacing Broich on the left, while Henrique, James Meyer and Kofi Danning all had auditions in wide areas. After missing the mid-season slump due to injury, Broich was restored to the left and Massimo Murdocca to midfield for Roar’s run-in to a second straight Grand Final victory.
Three years into the future and the lure of a central schemer has again proved too great for another willing to gamble on Broich’s creative influence not being curbed. It’s happened before. Instead of heightened potency, the Bavarian found space cramped and accountability increased. Mike Mulvey wisely gave Broich licence to instigate from the left en route to a third championship last season.
Thijssen, however, has returned. With his side inconsistent – not able to entirely control the contest like they previously could – and Jean Carlos Solorzano, Brandon Borrello and Andrija Kaluderovic gelling in attack, Broich now starts alongside captain McKay. The 34-year-old is healthy, fit and central – literally – to Roar’s chances of a late-season revival.
“Thomas is an important player,” Thijssen said after seeing off Adelaide.
“Thomas is not a goalscorer himself, he needs runners and then the pass (from him) will come. When you have Borrello and Nico (Solorzano) and Dimitri (Petratos) on the outside, players who can do that, Thomas is very important.
“He’s an experienced player, like Brattan and McKay, we have experience in the midfield and in every team that’s very important.”
Failure to settle on a third member to partner those two has partially necessitated Broich’s re-positioning. Adam Sarota has been ineffectual, Steven Lustica deemed untrustworthy and Devante Clut an understudy, albeit a supremely talented one. Merely having Broich on the pitch has been an immediate boost, as evidenced by their confident 6-1 drubbing of Central Coast Mariners two weeks ago.
His return and an improving stable of available defenders are a substantial aid to Brisbane’s hopes of salvaging the season.
Ousting any of the top sides from the finals remains unlikely. The mid-season turnaround from talented rabble to within one match of another decider in Mulvey’s initial half-term of 2012/13 was performed by a more settled side with only fleeting Asian Champions League commitments. This team will take more renovation to again become title contenders.
But if Thijssen finds a way to ease his star’s latest transition, there is hope yet for a vintage late surprise or two this season.
Broich will rise into third on Roar’s list for most appearances when the Queensland club hosts Melbourne Victory on Wednesday night, but as usual he ranks first in importance.