Needed - a new A-League technical leader

Despite the outstanding dominance of Sydney FC in the current season, the A-League suffers from a degree of sameness and technical uniformity not seen since before the glorious era of Brisbane Roar between 2010 and 2014.


Ange Postecoglou's philosophies brought him A-League success Source: Getty Images

In those years, during which the Roar won three championships and once went 36 games without defeat, Brisbane provided a brand of technical leadership which inspired all connected with the A-League, including rival teams.

The league lacks that kind of leadership today.

Of course Sydney FC today is a wonderful and efficient team, superbly organised and has a balanced squad with good back-up players for just about every position. With those qualities they will probably win the league and will deserve to do so.

But you couldn’t say that Sydney, unbeaten in 16 games, have brought an innovation in their technical or tactical approach that will revolutionise the league.

On the global level there have been many teams in different eras which provided such leadership and which revolutionised football: Real Madrid of the late 1950s, Ajax of the ‘70s, AC Milan of the early ‘90s and, of course, Barcelona in the Pep Guardiola era.

Such teams inspire others and effectively change the game.

They do this not just by winning things, which they do, but by playing differently to any other team then and before them.

These technical and tactical leaders usually emerge under the guidance of innovative coaches who embark on a quest to win trophies by breaking away from established norms.

In this they take risks by not following past winning formulas. This takes courage.

The most recent example is Jorge Sampaoli, FC Sevilla’s Argentine coach, whose methods threaten to shake up the duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain.
As I write they are second on the La Liga table, sandwiched between the big two and just one point behind leaders, Madrid.

It’s Sampaoli’s methodology which got them there: aggressively attacking football, high pressing, relentless greed to hold onto the ball.

When in attack, hunting for goals, Sevilla will have four, five, sometimes six players in their opponents’ penalty area.

It was with this that Sevilla only recently inflicted on Real Madrid their first defeat of the season and brought the league leaders’ 40-match unbeaten run to a shuddering halt.

When Ange Postecoglou went to the Brisbane Roar in 2009 we can be sure he already carried revolutionary concepts in his mind.

After a player clear-out and the bringing in of some new blood he perfected his attacking, lightning fast passing game which brought him two league titles before he went to Melbourne Victory.

Later with Ange’s methods and largely his team Mike Mulvey brought another championship to Brisbane.

At the Victory, Postecoglou attempted to repeat his Brisbane successes with the same philosophy but he was rudely interrupted by the offer to coach the national team.

Similarly, Josip Gombau brought a technical revolution to Adelaide United which, in turn, reaped a league title for his successor, Guillermo Amor.

Now, I am convinced as a result of the golden Brisbane era, there is just about no team in the A-League that doesn’t try to play the passing game, even if not all of them do it well.

But the league is now crying out for new technical and tactical leadership to take it, yet again, to a new level.

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Published 26 January 2017 at 11:56am
By Les Murray