The False 9: Round 10 - Popovic best coach in the A-League. Any arguments?

No wonder Western Sydney Wanderers were so keen to re-sign Tony Popovic as coach at the end of last season, even though the team only narrowly avoided finishing last. He is the best coach in the A-League and is proving it all over again.


Source: Getty Images

If Popovic isn't the best, then tell False 9 who is? Sydney FC's Graham Arnold? Melbourne Victory's Kevin Muscat? Wellington Phoenix's Ernie Merrick? There is really no-one else in the argument, but when you weigh it all up it has to be Popovic.

The Wanderers had an impossible task in the A-League last season, due to the club's 2014 AFC Asian Champions League campaign.

They created history by becoming the first Australian team to win the ACL, but it cost them locally because of ridiculously crammed scheduling. End of story.

This season, Popovic has already proved he is not a one-dimensional coach, having drastically changed both his squad and the team's playing style, which has sent the Wanderers on a seven-match winning streak and to the top of the A-League ladder, after the team took the first few rounds to gel.

Popovic clearly won the coaching battle against Muscat on Saturday night with the Wanderers excelling in transition and taking advantage of spaces left behind whenever Victory attackers Besart Berisha, Kosta Barbarouses, Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Gui Finkler were all well forward.

In his first three seasons at a new club, Popovic's side won an ACL, an A-League Premier's Plate and made two grand finals.

Now they are on the rise again and all the while Popovic is gaining in experience.

While he hasn't won an A-League championship yet, he seems destined to. The sky is the limit for him.

They said it

Adelaide United defender Dylan McGowan doesn't tweet very often, with his most recent tweet before Friday night's game against Sydney FC being back on 5 November.

But after Sydney coach Graham Arnold's statement at the post-match media conference he felt compelled to return serve himself.

Referee Strebre Delovski awarded Adelaide what turned out to be a match-winning penalty in added time after McGowan was brought down in a clumsy challenge by Sydney defender Jacques Faty.

Arnold said: "Dylan McGowan said it wasn't a penalty. He said it to the players," while McGowan responded with this tweet.

Penalty decisions often provoke argument about whether the referee's decision was justified. False 9 believes Delovski got this one right.

Kaka digs Australia - literally

Kaka is still out there, somewhere, in the Australian wilderness, or at least a nice hotel as close as you can get to it without having to pitch a tent.

Last week, False 9 delighted in capturing his movements on an end-of-season holiday Down Under, cycling around Sydney, chasing the sea turtles, that sort of thing. This week, the Brazilian great has been doing his thing for the environment by planting gum trees.

Our koalas says a thousand thank yous!

No doubt Kaka was talking about Wolgan Valley, north of Lithgow, as opposed to "Wogan Valley" when he tweeted a picture. We'll forgive the great man for that, he's a tourist for God's sake!

Unfortunately, though, there is still no sign of Kaka parlaying his holiday into a possible guest stint for an A-League club. But, more importantly, since he has been out Lithgow way, has anyone seen him taking a ride on the Zig Zag Railway?

It's a must for every football superstar kicking back after another tough season.

Take that

The eagle-eyed among you would have seen the strange coming together of Melbourne City players Aaron Mooy and Patrick Kisnorbo on the field in the minutes after the team's 4-0 flogging of Newcastle Jets.

Tired teammates were congratulating each other in typical fashion, with handshakes and hugs, when Kisnorbo moved in to apparently do the same to Mooy only to suddenly and aggressively bump him away.

Mooy wandered off, looking more tired than stunned. But it looked like it had to be an in-joke and that was what it was, Mooy describing it as "rough love" when asked about it on social media.

How did that feel?

Pretty damn good to Romeo Castelen, but in typical Western Sydney Wanderers fashion under coach Tony Popovic, he was talking team rather than individual after setting up one goal and scoring the other in the 2-0 win over Victory.

"We are playing a totally different system this year and it is enjoyable to be part of this team," Castelen said.

"We play a possession-based game where attack is the main focus. If you have the ball the other team cannot score so it is less running defensively.

"We press very high and that is very good for me because now we win the ball up higher and we can be more dangerous, so it is very pleasing to play in such a system. The boys did fantastic today and when we went back to the dressing-room we all said how unbelievably well we pressed them.

"I think Besart Berisha had no space to breathe because he had three, four defenders around him. All over the pitch, teammates were backing each other up. That was the key.

"We were very aggressive when we didn't have the ball and we kept our composure when we had it.

"It was a great win."

Tweet, tweet #1

There is no harder marker of Victory goalkeeper Danny Vukovic than himself - and he does it publicly. This was his reaction after failing to hold a shot from Castelen and seeing the ball pop into the back of the net against the Wanderers.

Tweet, tweet #2

Marcelo Carrusca was very quiet on Twitter in November, apart from promoting fund-raising through his involvement in the very worthy Movember cause.

He had strangely been left out of the Adelaide United starting side and wasn't talking much football.

Probably a smart way to go about things as social media can be a very dangerous tool when you're not happy.

But now Carrusca is back in the starting XI and Adelaide have finally started winning, the Argentine has returned to his normal, enthusiastic self.

Tweet, tweet #3

Mariners veteran Josh Rose has not been tied to one of those palm trees at Central Coast Stadium and left to melt in the midday sun after wishing Liam Reddy well at the Wanderers. Well, not yet anyway!

Can't wait for . . .

The Melbourne derby, of course.

If City don't beat Victory at AAMI Park on Saturday night, then Sunday will mark 12 months to the day since the last time they were victorious in the Melbourne derby.

Victory has won the last three clashes, 3-0 in round 16 last season, 3-0 again in the finals and 3-2 in round two this season.

That is the longest winning streak either team has enjoyed in derby clashes.

It's time for City to either stop the recent drought against a Victory side, that will be playing their third game in eight days and has had to travel to Sydney and Perth during that time, or accept that it still has a lot of catching up to do.

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7 min read
Published 15 December 2015 at 4:28pm
By Greg Prichard