Central Coast coach Graham Arnold concedes some of his players failed to deal with hype surrounding Western Sydney’s A-League debut.
The Mariners struggled to break down the competition new-boys at a rain-swept Parramatta Stadium, relying on the heroics of goal-keeper Mat Ryan to escape with a 0-0 draw on Saturday.
It was an unusually subdued display from the Mariners on what was an emotional and historic match for the home side and Arnold believes the significance of it played a part in their performance.
“It was a really good atmosphere and the occasion probably got to a few of our younger boys,” the Mariners boss said.
“It’s just good to get the first game out of the way because of the unknown.
“There was the unknown of Western Sydney and how they were going to play. We scouted them, we’ve watched them but friendly games mean nothing until you get into the action and emotion of (league games).
“You noticed this evening there was a lot of emotion from the crowd, the players, it’s the first game in the history of their club and to get a point I’m happy.”
While there was little of the fluent and composed football that saw the Mariners claim the Premier’s Plate last season, Arnold said it was due to a new system he is trying to implement with his side.
Instead of playing with a diamond formation in midfield, the Mariners have reverted to using two holding players in the middle of the park to add a bit more stability.
Arnold said it was natural for it to take a bit of time for his troops to gel to the style and is confident it will make them more adaptable and unpredictable as the season goes on.
“I wanted to rechallenge the players in long off-season and that was to change the system a little bit,” he said.
“With the diamond at times you can get stretched when you play against real good teams.
“We’ve worked on something over the last six weeks to try and break down the long off-season with different system we can revert too.
“You could see when I changed it in 70th minute and went two up front, because it was so entrenched in them (from last season) they know exactly how to play it.
“It’s great we can go to another system in the game and carry it out well.”