Essendon Round 4 Preview: Need for speed?

Written by Harry Doyle (@thefootysocial) on 14 April 2017   

The Bombers fly to South Australia to face the undefeated Crows in their domain of Adelaide Oval.

Essendon is coming off a loss to their old rivals in Carlton and will certainly want to rebound strongly in this Saturday evening clash to prove last week's game was a one-off bad performance. I'm sure the fans are hopeful for a dry condition match at Adelaide as the MCG downpour last Sunday was an exhausting grind to watch, especially with the result being negative.

The Crows battled their cross-town rivals in Port Adelaide last week, in an always physical contest and the Dons wouldn't mind if the Crows carry a few bruises over for the upcoming contest. The Bombers can't be relying on a sore Adelaide outfit to sing the song at end game this week but will need to bring back a relentless attack that saw them kick over 100 points in the opening rounds to compete with the Crows high scoring side.

What needs to improve!?

Considering the wet clouds of the MCG aren't travelling with the Bombers to Adelaide this week, analysing the key fundamentals of the wet weather football played against the Blues won't intertwine too much for the Crows clash.

There was one vital problem that stood out in last week's game, and that was the faith in positive ball movement. The Bombers will seriously need to fix this issue if they are any chance to defeat the Crows at their home ground.

Now, this ball movement issue is likely the "chemistry being exposed" part that John Worsfold (Woosha) stated in his post-match conference, and he's probably on the money there. Essendon is a very fresh team, and bonding is still in the works, but I'm sure Worsfold would agree with me here, you just got to take the game on. Switching play, taking risky kicks and being aggressive for four quarters is the fast lane for developing connections and chemistry.

When Essendon had clean possession last week, we saw them play a safe brand of wet football, kicking down the lines and trying to hold the ball while slowly moving forward. This type of football does not mix well with the current best squad; Worsfold has built a team with a solid blend of physical pressure (contested ball, tackles) and speed which is suitable for an aggressive form of attack. When Essendon attack through the corridor and create space, it is lethal, the Brendan Goddard goal last week was a perfect example of how fast positive ball movement can pay off.

There will be times where skills will let the team down, and Adelaide will punish, but it shouldn't mean the Bombers should crawl into their shells.

Changes and Impacts

The Bombers have made two changes to their line-up, and it's clear that Worsfold is chasing a need for speed with the return of Josh Green and the Irishmen Conor McKenna.

Heath Hocking's exclusion of the team has made his first return to football a short stint after his quiet game against the Blues.

Marty Gleeson has been put to the sword by the coaching staff and has likely been told to address his aggressive attributes in the VFL. (I'm not knocking Gleeson and I love his game, but with the omission of Hartley last week. Woosha means business this year).

With a low score of 42 last week, Green will be welcomed with open arms as his creative endeavours are required for a shootout with the Crows.

Conor McKenna's inclusion will bring a quick rebound out of defence and will assist when the Dons get stuck in an Adelaide press. Expect to see the occasional intercept mark from McKenna as he will essentially replace the defensive role of Gleeson.

The additions of pace will help fight and match the speedsters Charlie Cameron, Curtly Hampton, and Wayne Milera in the Adelaide line-up.

Crow Watch

Rory Sloane

This man is on fire, and the Adelaide Oval is his fortress. Rory Sloane has dominated clearances and contested possessions for the last fortnight across the competition.

With Buddha Hocking not included in this lineup, expect to see the Essendon midfield rotate on Sloane as to limit his versatility.

Sloane's biggest weapon is to fall deep down in defence and read the ball brilliantly off the opposition’s foot. His opponent will have to travel forward and create pressure himself to counter Sloane's influence down in the Crow's back half.

It's a big game for

Matthew Leuenberger

A delayed start to the year for Matthew Leuenberger, but he is now the favoured ruckman and at this moment is a lock for the year. The Bombers need a huge game from Leuenberger, after being predominantly beaten in the midfield for hit-outs and clearances in previous weeks.

Lining up against the big man is Sam Jacobs who has had a big influence on Adelaide's results thus far in the 2017 season and will need to be shut down to prevent the Crows gaining the first touch.

Midfielders Dyson Heppell, Jobe Watson and Zach Merrett have been finding plenty of leather even with the lack of assistance from their tall men in the centre, but if Leuenberger can get rolling, he can be the key to unlocking the full potential of the Don's midfield.

Mark Baguley

Another big role for Mark Baguley this week as he battles with Eddie Betts. Betts has been in top notch form on the goal tally, opening his three games with ten goals. Apparently, this magician has his own pocket at Adelaide Oval? Well, it's time to make it yours now Baguley. A little win is a big win when facing Eddie Betts. Baguley had the success of shutting down Cyril Rioli earlier in the year, and if anyone can stop Eddie, it's Baguley.

Confidence in abilities will ensure a rise on the ladder for the Dons in 2017, but if they play a similar brand to last week, bad habits will form, and that's not what the football club needs on the field right now. 2017 is a comeback year, but it's also a year to set a high standard football performance.

This clash is a daunting task, and the Bombers history hasn't been too flash at Adelaide Oval, the last win being back in 2014 against Port Adelaide.

The Crows form has been the best in 2017, and there is no reason they should drop this game at home, but this Essendon line-up is fast, the fastest it's been in a very long time.

The Bombers can jump on the undefeated Crows, and with Worsfold spending some quality time with the opposition not too long ago, he'll know some secrets that can get Essendon over the line. Go Dons! 

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