Tomi Juric says Western Sydney Wanderers are more than just a side that hits opponents on the counter and after their ruthless performance in the 2-0 win over Central Coast Mariners, the young striker boldly declared they are the team to beat this season.
The 22-year-old striker converted a stunning bicycle kick to mark his return from a lengthy lay-off due to injury. As his club continued its pursuit of league leaders Brisbane Roar, he believes they have set a new standard in the A-League.
The Wanderers have been accused of relying too heavily on counter-attacking football and high-pressing defence to achieve results, but Juric says their attacking fluidity against the Mariners proved their doubters wrong.
Both Juric and his team were unlucky not to have scored more against the A-League champions on Monday night and he believes their newfound varied style of attack could mean they go one better than last season in May.
"We're not just a counter-attacking side, we're a side that can attack in all sorts of ways," he said. "We've got the players to do it, we've got the players to play counter attack, possession football and all kinds of football. We just showed again [on Monday night] that we're the team to beat this year."
Juric's 20th-minute goal against the Mariners is an early contender for the best of the season as he unleashed a superb overhead kick to slam the ball into the back of the Pirtek Stadium net. His efforts drew the praise of his coach Tony Popovic – who in the past has been quick to play down Juric's performances to keep him grounded. Juric has spent the past five weeks on the sidelines due to a knee injury and the Wanderers boss says he has noticed a significant improvement in Juric's maturity as a result of his time away from the field.
"Yeah, I think I'm more calm now and the injury was hard to accept and it was something out of nothing that happened pretty much. It was something I had to accept in the way it was and move on from there," Juric said. "It was a tough time for me, those five weeks to be off the pitch, seeing the boys playing and not being able to help them. I tried hard to think about which ways I can improve my game mentally and I think I've done that."
Juric was fit to play against Newcastle Jets in round 10 but was rested as Popovic was not convinced he was confident enough to be effective. Popovic said that Juric was not finishing with the accuracy he is renowned for or was attacking the ball with his normal conviction. "Yeah I think he's right, I think I needed to build up my confidence, just that little bit of extra belief in myself that I can go out there and do the job like I did tonight and I think I could have done a few more things better," Juric said.