Call it the inevitable response to Friday’s column on “Why Adelaide United will win the A-League“, but the Reds aren’t alone in having an off-season of exciting change and continuity.
After inheriting a team and a formation bequeathed by predecessor Ange Postecoglou, Kevin Muscat has used his first offseason as manager to reshape the Melbourne Victory in his own image.
Last season Postecoglou experimented with a 4-2-2-2. It was potentially dynamic and, when on-song, destructive. The interplay of Mitch Nichols and James Troisi was a particular highlight.
But the formation relied heavily on Mark Milligan and Leigh Broxham bossing the midfield. A lack of width was exposed when opposition teams could outnumber the tenacious twosome. As I have written previously, without the pace of the departed Nichols and Troisi, the creativity upfront was greatly diminished.
In addition, it should be added that the defence was young and porous, with 43 goals conceded. And without Troisi, the team was looking at relying on an ageing Archie Thompson to provide the goals.
The Victory have rarely been shy in the transfer market. But even so, they have rarely been so successful (at least on paper) at addressing the deficiencies of a previous season.
Rather than deploy two attacking midfielders, Muscat has put his faith in last year’s nine-goal super sub Gui Finkler. Where last season the Victory had no target man, now stands Besart Berisha, arguably the A-League’s top marksman.
Having retained Mark Milligan, experienced international Carl Valeri has been signed to provide the extra steel that the lovable but limited Leigh Broxham could not always provide.
But arguably the most important acquisitions are in defence. Alongside Adrian Leijer (or possibly Nick Ansell) will stand the experienced Matthieu Delpierre, winner of the Bundesliga with Stuttgart in 2006-07.
Although Adama Traore has been lost, the Victory have pulled off a potential coup by signing Daniel Georgievski, a defender of Champions League pedigree who won’t even take up a foreign visa spot.
In the wake of these signings, I picture a 4-3-3 (or 4-2-1-3, if you will) formation lining up.
Murnane, Leijer/Ansell, Delpierre, Georgievski
Bench: Thomas, Geria, Broxham, Pain, Nabbout
Of course, this is all on paper. Berisha may lose his touch outside Brisbane ala Jean Carlos Solorzano and Delpierre might be more Marcel Seip than Matt Smith. And a lot will depend on how those on the wings assist the men in the centre.
It could be a replication of terrific season two, or indeed the sobriety of season seven. And it all rests on the shoulders of the man on the sidelines – will Muscat emulate Ernie Merrick, or Jim Magilton?