The first game of the new season finished as a comfortable win for the home side.
The main story in Wellington last season was all about Gareth Morgan’s bizarre mid-season decision that “the style of football will be determined by the club, not by the coach,” which was a fair enough call.
Some people say that the hardest thing in football is to win something twice, and that might prove a challenge too much even for the fairy tale that is the Western Sydney Wanderers.
Sydney FC seem to be reverting back to type, both with the ‘Bling FC’ image but also with the disorganised, chaotic attempts to progress towards a more ‘modern’ brand of football, which they attempted to implement under Ian Crook last season – to disastrous effect.
Although he enjoyed a distinguished playing career – including a 93 game stint at Perth Glory – and risen through the ranks of the national team setup as coach, including stints as National High Performance Consultant and FFA Assistant Technical Director, very little was known about Alistair Edwards’ style when he was appointed coach after the sacking of Iain Ferguson.
Gary Van Egmond was responsible for Newcastle’s stunning surge to the 2008-09 A-League title, but his return to the club has not inspired them back to such lofty heights. He’s now the second longest serving coach at a current club in the league (behind Graham Arnold), but he’s many people’s choice for first sacked, illustrating the pressure he’s under this season after last year’s frustrating inconsistency.
In his first season at the Victory, Ange Postecoglou quickly established a framework for one of the most intriguing and thrilling tactical systems the league has ever seen. In simple terms, the most advanced players in the 4-2-2-2 formation were a foil for wide forwards Marco Rojas and Archie Thompson, who darted into the space vacated by Guilherme Finkler and Marcos Flores in central positions. The cohesion and understanding between the front four, and especially between Rojas and Thompson, was remarkable – but importantly, the system also encouraged individual creativity, and Rojas particularly flourished.
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.
As always, the Mariners are having to cope with losing key players despite success. Last year’s Championship triumph wasn’t enough to stop five starters from the Grand Final – Matt Ryan, Bernie Ibini-Isei, Pedj Bojic, Patrick Zwaanswijk and Oliver Bozanic – leaving for pastures new.
There are effectively three broad phases to the history of Brisbane Roar in the A-League – the pre-Postecoglou era, the Postecoglou era, and the post-Postecoglou era. Their poor results and performances in the phases without him illustrate how important he was to their incredible success during the October 2009 to April 2012 period, and it’s up to Mike Mulvey to buck the trend.