For the second season in succession, Luke Brattan will be facing his former side Melbourne City in the grand final of the A-league.
Brattan moved to Sydney FC from City in the 2019/20 season, while Joshua Brillante, who played in a similar position to Brattan for the Sky Blues, went the other way.
But the two are the perfect example of the difference between a position and a role.
While they mainly covered the same ground for Sydney, Brillante was much more of an energiser, a recycler in possession.
Brattan meanwhile, is less mobile but much more creative, capable of spraying passing wide and using his fantastic playmaking ability and technique to progress the ball forwards.
This season alone, he’s created 49 chances for his side.
He’s also attempted the most passes for his side and passes in opposition half, showcasing his importance to Sydney’s build up in possession, completing 1456 passes throughout the campaign.
Only seven players have completed more passes than Brattan, with all of them except for Benat Etxeberria being central defenders, meaning they naturally are an open option and have time, especially in the A-league where teams look to take breathers through recycling possession around the backline.
While not the most press-resistant of a midfielder, Brattan is a typical deep lying playmaker.
He likes to receive possession with time on the ball, which can happen in two ways.
Either, he drops into the defensive line, usually in between the central defenders…
…Or on the right of the two centre backs, creating a back three both ways.
From here he can dictate play, recycling the ball along the backline with short passes.
He also sometimes remains in midfield, allowing either for Anthony Caceres to drop and use his dribbling ability and close control to carry the ball forwards or allow the defence to pass the ball wide.
From there, he will usually remain free in the middle, and can pick up possession centrally with time to assess his options and play long passes wide or over the top towards Kosta Barbarouses or Adam Le Fondre.
When progressing the ball, Brattan looks to spray long diagonal passes wide. When dropping in it’s usually to Joel King while when moving forwards centrally, he usually finds Rhyan Grant.
The move that won the A-League championship for City last season came from Brattan receiving the ball centrally, where Retre passed it to his midfield partner, who was free due to City’s low block.
Brattan received possession and played a fantastic ball through to Rhyan Grant, who unorthodoxly chested it past Tom Glover to give Sydney a 1-0 win over City last year.
But another, perhaps underrated part of Brattan’s game is his awareness of those around him, and how he can move to create better chances for his side without the ball.
He understands the importance of his role in build up play for Sydney, but often uses that to his advantage, making dummy runs and forcing pressers/markers to focus on him and allowing his teammates to flourish.
Sydney’s second goal in the semi final was a wonderful, fluid, seventeen pass move.
Brattan only played the ball in the 7-8 pass and 11-12 pass, with the twelfth being a good switch out to Paulo Retre, but was vital in the chance creation for the sky blues.
After Brattan played the ball wide, Paulo Retre and Kosta Barbarouses played a one-two on the right wing.
Retre checked inside, looking for Brattan, who was being tracked by Stefan Mauk.
But Brattan saw Caceres free, and instead of staying in the same line, made a dummy run forwards while pointing for Retre to pass back to Caceres.
Caceres, now with space and time, was free to play a long ball out to Joel King, who squared it to Bobo with a fantastic first touch.
The brilliant Brazilian made no mistake with the finish, converting what would turn out to be the goal winning game for the Sky Blues.
Looking onwards to the grand final, Brattan could play a major role in Sydney’s bid for the threepeat.
His intelligence, vision and passing range are key qualities to the Sky Blues, especially with Milos Ninkovic possibly out with injury.
His ability to drop into the defensive line and progress the ball could be the key for Sydney once again securing the A-League title.
The importance of Luke Brattan in Sydney FC’s build up play cannot be overstated.
Images Supplied: Fox Sports