Saturday, December 30, 2006
The team I'd play as coach...
As version one drew to a close, the Roar promised a rebuilt team for version two. A team that would take us to the finals. The players of next year would be better than this. During the off-season we saw Miron searching the globe, we saw him eating egg and chips in Israel with a fighting striker from the EPL, who scored a goal and got a better deal from his club. A midfield genius from the Bundesliga. A young Scottish striker. And later, a Chinese David Beckham.
As round one of version two materialised, and other teams solidified and their new players like Milton Rodriguez and Carbone turned games around, what happened? The team that was there, was glimpsed, that showed promised, did not shine through.
The team that Queensland needed to gel and make, and win the finals, was there. Why did it stay hidden?
Fitness was given as an early reason, sorry I don’t buy that. This is clearly the fittest team in the league. Too fit. Key players have too often been injured at training rather than on the park.
Too attacking - could be, but in the 0-0 in the first round with Adelaide they missed 24 sitters. Under coached, yes I am coming round to this view. Certainly in the second half of the season the defence has been layed bare. And Ognenovski’s training injury was partly responsible.
Surprisingly, the players don’t appear to expect to have their tactics layed out for them by the coach. But if not the coach then who? We are told a captain is not that important and we have seen Gibson, McCloughan and McLaren in the role. McCloughan was the winningest but none were particularly spectacular. How about throwing the arm-band to Matt McKay? Of all the players, Matty seems to have a plan.
Version two is tougher than version one and several players are not up to the standard. Under the new coach that had to be proved all over again.
So who is this team?
For me, it needed to be Milicic as the leading goal scorer. Which, as of last night, he is (with Dario) with four goals. I am not sure why he starts on the bench. He needs to be front and centre. Ante has proved, that for the Roar he can put the balls in front of goal in the net. Alas, Mori has not proved this for us.
Centre forward number two - in the team the Roar needed to be champions - had to be Zhang. He needed to live up to his reputation and, as it turns out we needed, and could afford, to give him the game time he needed to learn the Australian way. The reality has been surely slow and dogged by lack of English, but some of the ball placement has been sublime (but his back-heel air-swing in front of goal still haunts).
Striker number three, and in behind the other two, is Reinaldo. He has scored three cracker goals including a penalty that I watched Miron insist he take. And he set up three more plus many others missed by his striking partners (as well as missing a share of his own). In recent weeks he has been sat on the bench or starved of play time till the final minutes. A shame, a waste.
The attacking mid-field should not be controversial. On the left, and of course team captain (every week and calling the plays - like Muscat does to win for Melbourne), Matt McKay. On the right, but destined to be everywhere and trying to get every ball, is Dario Vadosic. Dario needs to be given the lead in the game plan. No player should be left to make it up as he goes along. Particularly not one not used to being goals down.
The central mid-field should be making the Roar the top team in the competition. They should be keeping the ball from the opposition and directing pinpoint passes to set-up the goal scoring plays. Of which there should be less. But resulting in more goals. We have seen glimpses of Spase Dilevski as the best player in Australia in this position. He has scored from a free kick and pounded a couple into the cross bar. But they have been fleeting and marred by time off through injury. And why is he starting off the bench? Marcus Wedau could have delivered the Roar their season. Really he hasn’t played poorly, it is just we have not seen the brilliance. Supposedly he is now injured, will we see him again this season? Like Zhang I hope so, and like Zhang, he had to succeed for the Roar to succeed. Their replacements were not going to have the experience, and probably skill, to carry the required weight.
In defence there are three outstanding players. They have the determination and energy to beat the league’s best strikers. Packer, McCloughan, Ognenovski. A wall of defence with Packer adding strike power options.
In goals I would have Tom Willis. Last season he had the best record in the league. This season a fluke led him to be second keeper. A dispute in Newcastle that drew in a rugby league legend and whose logic had disappeared by mid-season. Tom deserves better. He could take us to the top.
The bench would define this side. Massimo Murdocca promised so much. He had rhythm. He never gave up on a ball. His presence through the season could have made the difference. Simon Lynch offers pace and attacking options - he does not seem to be able to make the most of his skills for 90 minutes. Ben Griffin is an exciting new find. He is of the new breed of versatile players, like Dario and Andrew Packer, that can run over the whole park and score goals. Seo is perhaps a surprise exclusion. However, in this ideal the combination of Matty, Spase, Macus and Dario should be un-best-able. I admit I would rather see Seo cross or chip the ball for the strikers than shoot from 30 metres. And finally, McLaren for squad support.
The coaching spot is critical. It needs an active participant. To be in the players ears at training. Talking to them at the game, shouting if necessary. I don’t like to see them throwing things. That is going too far. But yes I like to see them showing an interest off the pitch as well. Getting to know the players, if only for the 21 rounds of the year. Getting to understand their strengths and weaknesses and their motivations. Using the team he has. Making it work. Getting everyone 100% committed, 100% of the time. Don’t leave them alone. Not even at Christmas. Give them a game plan, get them rhythm. The priority is 1. Develop and lead team spirit. 2. Develop the captain and the game plan for each team - there is only 7 to beat. Know them and how to beat them - backwards. A great frustration is the extent to which the players seem to be left to themselves. What is the point of the focus on fitness without an individualised, for each player and each opposition, game plan? 3. Develop skills, building plays, set pieces and shooting. Aim to have 60% possession. Possession wins games (last night NZ had 60% possession and the Roar had 21 shots). Then ensure they score when it counts.