Saturday, 8 October 2011

Perth Glory 2011-12 Season Preview

Where to begin. Perth must hate the A-League; optimistic pre-seasons coupled with limp performances have become the norm for the club on the shores of the Indian Ocean. Perth's A-League track record is a far cry from their name sake, not to mention their previous dominance in the old NSL. This season, once again the Glory begin anew. A whole new squad for radically different times in Australian football. Can Ferguson finally secure finals football for Perth?

Velaphi, Coyne, Pellegrino, Todd, Jelic, Skorich, Griffiths and Robbie Fowler, key contributors to the Glory's campaign last season have all departed. In their place Vukovic, Dodd, Smeltz, Miller, Van den Brink, Berger, Hughes, Mehmet and Andezinho have arrived; to form a practically whole new XI.

Vukovic is a quality keeper, Van den Brink a versatile defender; Ferguson will need to coax both to perform at their best for Perth to mount a concerted challenge. Berger and Hughes are proven, not necessarily spectacular, performers in defence and midfield. The key arrivals are going to be Dodd, Smeltz and Miller. Dodd was fantastic on the right wing for Adelaide; his combination of raw speed and aggression should ensure an injection of attacking intent into Perth's forward line. Smeltz is the best poacher in the A-League, our own Michael Owen; he's predatory in the opposition box and near supernatural when it comes to finishing - whereever he goes, whatever badge he wears, whomever he plays with, Smeltz scores a bucketload. Miller is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown, and his impressive pedigree includes Celtic and Manchester United; the Scottish playmaker will be handed the role of orchestrating Perth's attacking forays from midfield.

Of the players who remained behind from last season's campaign, Coyne and Burns will be crucial in providing leadership and cohesion within a renovated squad. Sterjovski needs to improve drastically to justify his marquee status; he has the potential to become a major creative force for Perth. He will probably be more effective as a second striker, linking with Miller and finding space between the opposition lines, rather than out wide.

By all accounts, on paper at least, Perth's new squad has been improved in every department. Where the Glory may be lacking, is in the dug-out. Now let me preface this by acknowledging that there is more to managing a football club than tactical nous. Dealing with the transfer market, addressing the physical and psychological demands of players and staff, interacting and at times mollifying fans and the executive board; there's an infinite list of considerations that require balanced attention. Having said that, previously Ferguson has been fixated on employing a 'British' 4-4-2 system for Perth; a strike partnership, two wingers, a back-four and a creator/destroyer in midfield. If Ferguson persists in utilising an orthodox 4-4-2 against teams like Heart, Adelaide, Central Coast and Brisbane, who congest the centre of the pitch with midfielders, Perth will be undermanned in central midfield. They will lose control of the ball while also becoming vulnerable down the centre; not a particularly comforting combination.

Danger Men: Miller and Sterjovski can become the creative hubs of this Perth squad. Coyne and Burns will be vital in providing leadership among the squad. Smeltz will score; whether or not relying on his goals alone will be enough remains to be seen, but my initial instinct is Perth need to be playing fluent and attacking football to figure in Finals contention.

No comments: