Melbourne Victory defender Nick Ansell says he’s feeling no extra burden to step up despite the departure of Adrian Leijer and the club’s recent defensive woes.
Victory have conceded three goals per game in three of their past four matches, collecting only five points from a possible 12 in the process.
Former club captain and regular centre-half Leijer signed off on a deal in China this week, leaving a hole in the Victory defence.
Ansell, who turned 21 last month, said he didn’t feel there was pressure on him to step up in Leijer’s absence.
“I wouldn’t say I need to step up, but I think there is an opportunity there,” said Ansell who has made 11 league appearances this season.
“In saying that, it’s not a bigger opportunity than the one which was there when Adrian was here.
“He’s definitely vocal and a leader out on the pitch and I’ve learnt many things off him from when I started playing alongside him three years ago.”
Leijer missed Sunday’s 3-2 home loss to Wellington Phoenix, where Ansell was partnered by Leigh Broxham in the centre of defence.
In timely news, French beanpole defender Matthieu Delpierre returned from a foot injury off the bench in the match and is close to resuming from the start.
Delpierre’s return will provide Ansell with plenty of assistance. The Frenchman played 10 minutes on Sunday and has been pushing for a starting return in training this week.
“He’s been training well, but it’s up to Musky (coach Kevin Muscat) if he plays,” Ansell said.
“He’s a massive addition to our squad and a quality player.”
Ansell said Victory wouldn’t change their approach defensively despite their recent issues.
It doesn’t get any easier for Victory, with league leaders Perth Glory their next opponents on Saturday night at AAMI Park.
“We need to tighten up at the back, but if we play our best football we can win on Saturday,” Ansell said.
“We are a very attacking team. It’s paid off for us this season. We are sitting pretty nicely in second spot and we should be higher on the ladder.”
Victory have played Glory three times this season, losing twice and drawing once and conceding nine goals across all contests.
Ansell admitted the lure of taking top spot in the contest had been discussed, particularly after failing to capitalize on the same opportunity on Sunday, when they lost to Wellington.
“It’s definitely full throttle,” he said. “We have to win, we have to take the three points, and if we don’t we could end up being fifth at the end of the weekend so it’s a massive game.
“All the boys are definitely disappointed with what happened on Sunday. It was a massive chance for us to take top spot and we didn’t.”