Are Victory fans patient enough for Postecoglou?
A-League's most successful coach, Ange Postecoglou. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)
Last week’s A-League opener not only exposed some of Melbourne Victory’s frailties, but it also revealed the club’s legion of fans may not be patient enough for Ange Postecoglou’s plans.
The sounds of frustration, and perhaps even anger, from the blue half of the bumper crowd were inescapable in the final 30 minutes of the exciting match. As the Heart snuffed out each of Victory’s attacking raids, howls of discontent rained down at Etihad Stadium.
Of course, being the Melbourne Derby, it was completely expected the Victory fans would be disappointed and annoyed with a loss to their brief but bitter rivals. These were emotions they became all too familiar with last season under Mehmet Durakovic and Jim Magilton. But the fact it all came flooding back in the very first game, in what was meant to be a very promising season, raises some questions.
The Victory fans’ apparent lack of patience is twofold: patience within the course of a game, and patience over the course of a season.
The most obvious tactical change Postecoglou has implemented with Victory is the preference to pass the ball out of defence rather than just lumping it long. It was one of the cornerstones of his successful system at Brisbane Roar and he has brought it south with him.
Yet on Friday night many Victory fans were jeering this very tactic almost from the get-go, especially when young goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas and his defence exchanged short passes. “What on earth is this keeper doing?” and “Just get rid of it!” were phrases this contributor constantly overheard at the game.
Unfortunately, the Victory fans seemingly didn’t see the benefit of such a tactic. Had they been as patient as the players themselves, they would have seen that the ploy aims to draw opposition players to the ball and create an open midfield to exploit.
It also seems the disgruntled Victory fans did not, or were reluctant to, recognise the terrific impact John Aloisi’s own tactics had on the Victory’s frustrating performance. The Socceroo legend had his Heart charges harrying and pressuring their opponents to a level rarely seen in the A-League before.
While the Victory have adopted a Barcelona-like passing game, the Heart countered it with a Barcelona-like pressing game. The first half-hour of the Derby saw the Heart follow something almost identical to the Catalans’ six-second pressing rule, in which they have six seconds to win the ball back.
The effect of this was that the Victory players rarely had a free passing option or had little time to even spot one.
It’s understandable the Victory fans want to see immediate success. After all, the club has recruited well, and no more so than with Postecoglou – a man who set a new benchmark for the quality of football in the A-League. The new Victory coach has also had an entire, and very lengthy, preseason to drill his system into the squad.
Postecoglou clearly conveyed in his post-derby press conference that he expected his side to have adapted to the radical change of style. But in reality, even he must know a handful of preseason friendlies against Victorian Premier League and State League sides aren’t going to fully prepare the Victory for the cut and thrust of the A-League, and especially not a Melbourne Derby.
Their style will settle over the next five rounds or so and it would be a surprise if Melbourne Victory aren’t still considered contenders at the end of the season.
But will the Victory supporters, who have been brought up on a culture of success, have the patience to put up with any pain in the meantime?
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