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A profile of new Brugges signing Mathew Ryan

It always feels particularly difficult to provide an overview of a young goalkeeper when you consider the occupational hazards of the position. No other player touches the ball less frequently – no other position is judged as decisively on the basis of one single action. Just as one magnificent save can be enough to exaggerate a keeper’s talents, one solitary mistake can be enough to end a career.

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Will Wellington Phoenix’s drastic philosophy change prove costly?

Wellington hasn’t ever been seen as a proponent of ‘modern’, attacking football, but with two consecutive finals appearance, this didn’t seem to be a huge problem. A Ricki Herbert side was always strong defensively, physical and organised, and most importantly, produced results. That was, until recently, when the new owner Gareth Morgan recently discussed his desire for the side to play a more entertaining style.

“The important thing is we want a style of football that the club is known for and we will essentially hire coaches that give us that style,” he said. “So in other words the style of football will be determined by the club, not by the coach.”

As an excellent article by Brett Taylor notes, Morgan’s comments are somewhat unfounded. “For starters, Mr Morgan,” he memorably states, “you probably will win the league by being the best defensive team.”

The result is that Herbert and the squad are torn between two styles of football – the pragmatic system, and the supposed ‘Total Football’ enforced by Morgan, and there’s been a distinct and alarming drop in form since the controversy emerged.

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How Tony Popovic’s belief in structure has paid off for the Wanderers

It feels like it’s been said repeatedly, but there’s no getting away from the main story: in the space of half a year, the Western Sydney Wanderers was born, Tony Popovic has built a cohesive and integrated squad with a clearly identifiable system and a realistic chance of success in the finals, meaning thousands of fans have flocked to Parramatta to see what all the fuss is about.

Popovic played under Graham Arnold when the latter was Socceroos coach, and has borrowed many of his ideas in building his side on principles of structure, discipline and hard work. The beauty of such a system is in its simplicity, allowing for rotation and meaning new players can easily adapt to the rigorous demands of life in Western Sydney – which makes perfect sense, considering the majority of the squad are/were on one-year contracts.

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Gary Van Egmond’s overhaul better in theory than in practice

The last few years have been nothing short of disaster for Newcastle – there has been an identity crisis both on and off the pitch, most notably with their change in jersey colour, and more importantly, there has been an attempted change in style under Gary van Egmond.

While it was initially difficult for the former Premiership winning coach to establish his own mark on a side given he took over a few weeks into a new season following the controversial departure of Branko Culin, but his profile was stamped all over the club’s off-season business: there was a clear focus on signing young, technically proficient young talent that would mould into Van Egmond’s preferred style of play. He wants a high-tempo, possession-based game, inspired by the success of Brisbane.

“We’re pretty close to having the largest clean-out from last year’s squad to this year’s in A-League terms,” said Van Egmond. “That reflects the type of football we are trying to play – based on possession, mobility, targeting age groups that can be effective.  But also, we have one eye on three to five years down the line, when these younger players are going to be very good indeed.  I think that’s important, the long-term plan – Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

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