Jacob Farrell has been one of the many success stories of the season from the Central Coast Mariners, with the left-back stylishly adapting to his first season of A-League Men’s football.
Farrell came into fruition for the Mariners during his four games in the FFA Cup (now renamed the Australia Cup), where fans were surprised at his seamless transition into professional football.
The 19-year-old left-back held his starting spot for the first match of the A-League Men’s campaign against the Newcastle Jets, and marked his debut in stunning style, scoring a header to help his side to victory over their local rivals.
Following that match, Farrell has been a fixture for CCM – he has missed just 11% of the Mariners’ minutes all campaign.
Ahead of Central Coast’s elimination final against Adelaide United on Saturday, Kick360 analyses Farrell’s strengths, and how his defensive ability has contrasted into an important attacking weapon for the Mariners.
Perhaps Farrell’s most lauded trait that’s come into focus during his debut campaign with the Central Coast Mariners is his ability in defensive actions and duels.
Despite not being particularly fast or having a heavy physical presence, Farrell has been a formidable defensive presence throughout the campaign.
His defensive prowess comes from intelligent positioning and anticipation to win the ball for his side.
Farrell always looks to defend on the front foot, guiding his opponent towards the touchline through his body shape before pinning him in, and capitalising on a loose touch to win the ball.
When positioned in the back four, he always looks to come aggressively off the line and Sheppard opponents into making a loose touch.
He’s also capable of blocking passing angles before shifting back into possible tackling actions, due to his agility, balance, coordination and strong spring from his ankles and knees.
He often takes a step forwards to face the defender, before jockeying, always with the intention of capitalising on a loose touch from an opponent to win the ball.
Again, thanks to his agility, spring and quick thinking, he’s able to profit from heavy dribbles from his opponent with aplomb.
He also often wins possession when the opponent has beaten him for pace, recognising a poor body shielding body shape from the ball carrier, who thinks he has passed Farrell and winning back the ball impressively.
He twice caught out Callum Talbot making driving runs in their 3-2 loss to Sydney FC within a four-minute spell, winning the ball from behind on both occasions:
Meanwhile, slightly uniquely, he sometimes looks to lead into sliding tackles with his weaker foot, catching the dribbler off guard.
It’s a clever strategy from Farrell which is usually successful – a key aspect of his play this season is that he rarely gets stood up in 1v1s, apart from when being beaten for pace or power.
However, he utilises his acceleration cleverly and effectively when coming off the defensive line, anticipating poor passes and winning the ball back for his side.
He’s done it multiple times throughout the season, and it’s an important feature for Nick Montgomery’s defensively active side.
Gaining possession with off the opposition while they’re flooding forwards on transition or attacks has been a key focus for the Mariners this season.
They look to benefit from open defensive structures quickly when winning the ball back, which is why Farrell has become a subtly key attacking weapon for their side – his ability to gain possession in positions where not expected catches the opposition off guard and allows Marco Urena to receive the ball and drive forwards with time, which is one of the many strengths of the Costa Rican forward’s game.
While not being the most productive and assertive player attacking wise, Farrell has become a playmaker for his side in a different aspect through his defensive strength and intelligence.
Subtly, Farrell has become a key aspect of the Mariners’ chance creation off attacking transitions, with the left-back able to win the ball and play quick progressive passes against an often spaced out, stretched midfield and backline.
These attacking opportunities following the gaining of possession come consistently when the opposition is making a counter-attacking move of their own, as it means the defensive structure is usually even more disorganised, from which the Mariners can profit.
Farrell wins the ball in positions where it’s unexpected, which can form the crux of the Mariners’ opportunities off double attacking transitions – where they counter attack the oppositions counter attack.
When in possession moving forwards, Farrell is reluctant to carry the ball into space, and instead looks to sit and wait for passing opportunities to present.
However, Farrell is clever in his forward passing, following simple passing patterns set out by Nick Montgomery and his coaching staff to look to find the winger with a simple pass wide, a striker making a run in behind with the momentum over their defender and a striker dropping in to receive the ball with time.
He doesn’t often take charge of playmaking responsibilities in possession, and while sometimes looking to play the progressive pass himself, he often looks to shuffle the ball through the double pivot instead of engaging assertively in attacking responsibilities.
When in the final third, he looks to find inside runners making movements towards the byline and often disguises his crosses to find one of the two strikers with a cutback.
His crosses and defensive play speak towards a general sense of footballing intelligence – he rarely looks to float balls in when attackers don’t have momentum over defenders and instead looks to find moving players who are finding or are in space.
His bipolar relationship with Lewis Miller has been interesting to watch; Miller has formed the assertive, aggressive fullback, while Farrell has been more laid back and part of the system.
However, while a clean player, Farrell is aggressive in his defensive positioning, and utilises his clever anticipation to win the ball for his side off loose touches and passes from the opponent.
It appears, particularly considering this is his first season of professional football, that Farrell still has to develop on a technical and tactical scale, with his final form as a player perhaps yet to be discovered.
However, he’s been an unqualified success for the Mariners this season, through his clever defensive strength and traits, which has in turn allowed him to become a subtle attacking weapon within the Central Coast side.
Image Source: Central Coast Mariners