Melbourne Heart were underwhelming under John Aloisi last season – their 4-2-3-1, with Fred flanked by hard-working wingers and a fairly basic back six, was tactically uninspiring, while their results were similarly tame: decent at home, poor away.
The new signings are interesting enough, with Aloisi likely to deploy Harry Kewell in the centre attacking role of a 4-2-3-1, flanked by, Aloisi says, “wingers who will not just stay up there but they will have to run up and down the flanks.”
That suggests he’ll continue with the two banks of four approach he favoured last season and is becoming the staple for most A-League clubs – the likes of David Williams, Iain Ramsay and Mate Dugandzic are industrious enough to fulfil Aloisi’s instructions, but with Engelaar, who was pegged as the deep-lying creator the Heart have never had, ruled out for a large portion of the season, and the other players in his position disciplined but not hugely incisive, it feels like a large majority of the creative burden will fall upon Kewell.
When at Melbourne Victory, Kewell was used in a variety of positions, including left and right wing and striker, but it was behind a centre forward he appeared most comfortable, working the width of the pitch and also comfortable dropping into deep positions. He’ll replicate that role at his new club, and it’ll be fascinating to see whether he can strike up a partnership with new marquee striker, Michael Misfud, who should be more prolific than Josep Tadic or Dylan MacAllister, who scored just 7 goals between them last season – three of those penalties.
The lack of a prolific striker last season was somewhat compensated for by the directness of the wide players, with David Williams and Golgol Mebrahtu both converted strikers and always looking to dart into penalty-box positions.
In long periods of possession, the full-backs move forward to provide width, and while Aziz Behich has long been one of the league’s outstanding full-backs and should prove handy on his return, the use of versatile Jason Hoffman on the right is concerning. In whatever position he’s played, he’s rarely ever looked convincing, and going forward, his decision-making is underwhelming. Youngster Jeremy Walker, who enjoyed a run of starts in the second half of last season after Behich’s initial move to Turkey, must fancy his chances of solidifying a first team place.
Meanwhile, a potentially brand-new centre-back partnership could start the season, with both Rob Wielaert and Patrick Kisnorbo in line to make their debuts in the opening round debut, and Patrick Gerhardt pushing into midfield. Alternatively, Engelaar’s injury replacement Andrea Migliorini (described as “Pirlo-like” by teammates, though that remains to be seen) could start alongside Massimo Murdocca. Aloisi has a number of options at his disposal, and after an off-season of much personnel change, he has few excuses left if the Heart don’t improve this season.