Babbel spent last season pointing the finger of blame at the squad he inherited when he took the job but has now tailored it to his liking and admitted in the pre-season there were no longer any excuses for poor displays.
But ahead of the A-League’s two longest away trips – to face Wellington Phoenix at Eden Park in Auckland next weekend, then Perth Glory at HBF Park – Babbel once again put his players in the spotlight and said they had a simple choice to make.
“I have to talk to the boys. They have two options – go the freestyle way and I don’t think we will have success, or if we follow our structure, there’s a good opportunity there to get results again,” he said.
“It’s got nothing to do with skills or talent or whatever, it’s just a decision: ‘I want to do it, I don’t want to do it.’
“It’s very simple, and if you are ready to do it, you will see we’ll get results.”
Western Sydney’s form slump would be much worse were it not for the continued heroics of Daniel Lopar, the Swiss goalkeeper brought in by Babbel. Lopar produced eight saves to keep the Jets at bay on Saturday night until they inevitably broke through with two late goals.
Lopar, 34, could see a team straying from their agreed blueprint from his vantage point between the sticks – but, like his boss, he also could not explain why.
“We had a game plan, and we didn’t do it 100 per cent. That’s the reason why they created so many chances,” he said.
“That can happen, I think. It’s just disappointing. In the second half we changed it and after it was a 50-50 game.”
For the second week in a row, a key refereeing decision went against the Wanderers. Kwame Yeboah was denied what appeared to be stonewall penalty in the 53rd minute when Newcastle defender Lachlan Jackson tackled him in the box and took him down without getting much purchase on the ball, if any. Referee Kurt Ams stuck with his original call after reviewing the incident on the pitchside VAR monitor.
“Kwame is in full speed motion and it’s a little contact,” Lopar said. “For me it’s a penalty but the momentum is not on our side and we need to work hard to take the momentum.”
Babbel said “everyone in the stadium” saw the penalty except for Ams, but admitted the Wanderers couldn’t blame that one moment for the result. “Even if we got the penalty I’m not sure if we could score,” he said.
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.