The personnel changes at Western Sydney Wanderers have continued under the reign of new coach Josep Gombau after Japanese winger Jumpei Kusukami and midfielder Jacob Melling agree to leave the club immediately.
The departure of Kusukami comes 17 hours after he snubbed a handshake from Gombau when substituted late in the Wanderers’ 2-1 win over over Melbourne City on Monday night.
The 30-year-old came on in the 10th minute as a replacement for injured marquee Alvaro Cejudo but in an unusual circumstance, didn’t finish the match despite starting as a substitute. He was withdrawn in the 85th minute and replaced by striker Brendon Santalab.
Kusukami was visibly unhappy with the decision and appeared to brush a handshake from his coach in a curt exchange on the sideline.
It is understood both Kusukami has accepted an immediate end to his tenure with the Wanderers, having received offers to play elsewhere prior to Monday’s match against Melbourne. Kusukami leaves after making 38 appearances for the Wanderers over the past two seasons, scoring four goals. His departure means there are no Asian players in the A-League.
Twenty-two year-old midfielder Melling ends his two seasons with the Wanderers in a spell plagued by injury. It is understood Melling sought a mutual termination of his contract having accepted a deal to sign with Central Coast Mariners, set to be completed by the end of the week.
The departures of Kusukami and Melling follow former assistant coach Hayden Foxe as key figures who have left the club in little over a week.
The Wanderers are understood to be planning to use the departure of Kusukami as an opportunity to add another foreign player to their roster in the January transfer window.
Meanwhile, Gombau says he won’t deviate from his project to change the club’s football philosophy mid-season, despite making some minor tweaks on players’ advice to help snap their poor run of form.
The newly appointed Wanderers coach bought himself more time after Western Sydney fought hard to clinch a narrow 2-1 win over Melbourne City on Monday night to seal his first home win since taking charge of the club in early November.
“I don’t feel this pressure, I am very clear with what I would like to do and that’s the way I like to work,” Gombau said. “For me, at the end it’s my job. Every single coach has pressure. Every game is an exam … For me, it doesn’t change my mentality, it doesn’t change anything. I believe in one certain way to do the things, and I do the things like this but no pressure.”
Adhering to the process is the priority for Gombau who was pleased with the movement of his team on Monday night and says the target is to finish inside the top six.
“This year we need to be competitive, we have to try and finish in the top six to make the finals and after that everything can happen,” Gombau said.
Striker Oriol Riera played a pivotal role in guiding the Wanderers to a victory, scoring an equaliser before setting up the eventual winner. A determined performance from the Spanish marquee pleased fans demanding more commitment from the players and says the players spoke with coaches about tweaking their style of play, including returning to a more disciplined structure in defence.
“I think that we changed many things … the way the players and the staff think this way we’ll be very successful for us – more compact, more intensity in the fights, one v one, those moments,” Riera said. “I think today with this performance, we were very good on the field and most importantly, we must maintain this. That’s the most important.”