JETS marquee Ronny Vargas can make the ball sing.
The former Venezuelan international is an artist with the ball at his feet.
His exquisite goal against Wellington Phoenix – turning on a dime and bedazzling defenders with footwork before sublimely lifting a left-foot shot into the top left corner – was worthy of the best leagues in the world. Jaw-dropping stuff.
It’s the Ronny Vargas that coach Ernie Merrick wants to see more of, even if it means the midfielder forgoes some of his defensive workload.
“The more I can get Ronny into the box, the more goals he will score like that,” Merrick said. “That is the Ronny we want to see and I think it has a lot to do with his positioning. He is very conscientious and drops back to help the midfield and defence, which I understand, but he doesn’t need to drop back as much. He and Dimi Petratos are the same. There is a certain amount of work they have to do to win the ball back in the middle third.
“I really like Dimi when he is inside and he is high, and not just in a position for crossing but for goal-scoring. Sometimes I think they should save their energy for where it counts – in the front third and in the box.”
“I had a similar conversation with Andrew Nabbout [last season]. I said are you playing left back or left wing. He was conscientious of getting back. I said ‘no, we want you to be conscientious of getting in the front third and particularly the penalty box’. It changed his positioning and his mindset entirely.”
“I think Ronny can give us more in the front third if I take the workload off him.”
Vargas has scored four goals but has often painted a frustrated figure. At times, he and Petratos have seemingly tried to do too much.
“A goal always gives you confidence and more motivation,” Vargas said. “I am working hard on and off the pitch for the team. I want to do the best for the team.”
Vargas is looking forward to getting “forward more and trying to assist” against Persija Jakarta in the Asian Champions League qualifier at McDonald Jones Stadium on Tuesday night.
A chance to play in Asia was part of the attraction to signing with the Jets last season.
“It was in the plan,” Vargas said. “I knew Newcastle didn’t have the chance to play this last year but when you win and do well, you get the chance. Unfortunately we could not be directly in the group.
“I played in the European Champions League with Brugge and Anderlecht. With AEK Athens we were in the same situation where we had play-off games to qualify. I have never been in the Asian Champions League. For me it is new and exciting.”
With that in mind, Vargas simply wants to get past the Indonesian champions.
“The most important thing is that we win this game,” he said. “It does not matter how. I don’t care if we play ugly or bad or whatever. The important thing for me is to win and try to get to the group stage. This is a tournament where only the winner can go. We need to do whatever it takes to get three points.”