First off, Happy New Year to you all - hopefully your holiday hangovers are a distant and fuzzy memory.
Brisbane returned back to winning form, halting a worrying run of five matches without a win, by easily disposing of a disorientated Victory. Mehmet Durakovic has his fair share of detractors, but this was easily his worst tactical performance against a title contending team yet. By contrast, Ange Postecoglou was masterful in the dug-out, completing bamboozling his counterpart, by tailoring his system to exploit key weaknesses.
Durakovic deployed the Victory in their customary 4-3-1-2 shape, with some notable omissions compared to the side that contested the recent derby against Heart. Covic was in goal, Franjic and Vargas were paired in central defence, with Fabio and Foschini at left and right fullback. Broxham, Celeski and Ferreira formed the midfield trio - probably the most negative midfield of the round, with three defensively minded players screening the back-four. Hernandez, Kewell and Thompson made up the forward trident, the former in his usual trequartista role. with the latter two in a strike duo.
Postecoglou radically altered his team's shape, to exploit Victory's lack of width. Jurman, Smith and Adnan formed a three-man backline with Paartalu in the holding role. Brattan and Nichols were paired in midfield, with Franjic and Stefanutto at wingback. Visconte was at left wing with Berisha the lone striker.
Permanent Three-Man Defence:
This match was the first time we have seen Brisbane utilise a permanent three-man defence. Postecoglou has usually deployed Paartalu as a 'modern centre half', and through the towering No 6, is able to alternate between a conventional back-four and a narrower back-three; when Paartalu drops deep from defensive midfield becoming a third centre back, which allows the fullbacks to advance into midfield as wingbacks.
Against Victory however, Postecoglou modified his formation, by using all three of his senior central defenders in the backline. The use of three centre backs worked perfectly, with two of Jurman, Smith or Adnan marking Victory's strike duo of Kewell and Thompson, leaving the third defender spare, as cover.
Most people will surely be sick to death of the "Brisbane is Barcelona on a budget" stereotype, but in this case, the comparison is all but unavoidable. Brett Taylor once dubbed Ivan Franjic the Aussie Dani Alves, and against Victory, Postecoglou took a leaf out of Guardiola's book, in regard to his own marauding right back.
With three central defenders, and a designation as a wingback rather than a fullback, Franjic was given more licence than usual to attack. But even so, Franjic's positioning was ludicrously aggressive, and he spent the majority of the match running at Fabio from a right wing position, in advance of the central midfielders. Indeed, the fact that Brisbane did not station a winger on the right flank, with Nichols asked to shuttle right from midfield in support of Franjic's surges, indicated it was a deliberate move on Postecoglou's part. Giving free reign of the entire right flank to Franjic, allowed Brisbane to field an extra player in central midfield. It was only successful because of Victory's narrow 4-3-1-2 formation, which doesn't have any space for wingers.
Guardiola has utilised this tactic several times, of giving Alves responsibility for the entirety of the right flank, notably against Real Madrid, Sevilla, Espanyol, Valencia and Milan, with the caveat that Alves was used in a back-four with Busquets dropping deep to cover his surges.
Something similar happened on the left. Visconte was used nominally as the left winger, and this is his preferred position. But against Victory, Visconte spent the majority of the match defending behind nominal fullback Stefanutto, who took up ridiculously advanced positions. Unfamiliar viewers could have easily mistaken Stefanutto as the winger, and Visconte as the 'fullback'.
More than a poacher:
Besart Berisha had a wonderful game against Victory, providing two direct assists. His movement and positioning was excellent; instead of simply sitting on the shoulder of the last defender and waiting for through balls, as he has done previously, Berisha varied his play, drifting to the flanks to create space. Franjic's goal was a direct result of this movement; Berisha played a 1-2 with the wingback, then dragged a centre back wide, allowing Franjic to run towards goal.
Did Durakovic bump his head on the way to Suncorp? The Victory manager seemed to experience a severely specific bout of retrograde amnesia. After asking Cernak to shuttle from central midfield to left wing and Kewell to drift right from a centre forward position severely frustrated Heart's three-man defence, Durakovic reverted to typert. He replaced winger Cernak with defensive midfielder Celeski, and even instructed Kewell to remain in central positions. This played right into Postecoglou's hands, and the Navy Blues were simply cut to shreds - Brisbane were just in another class.
A-League 2011-12 Match Report Socceroos General Preview Brisbane Heart Internal Season Preview Cream of the Crop Victory Adelaide Sydney Blog Rule Gold Coast Central Coast Commentary Wellington 4-3-1-2 Newcastle fullbacks pressing Perth possession 4-1-2-3 Olyroos substitutions 3-4-3 4-3-3/3-4-3 Player Focus Tips counter-attacking 3-4-3 diamond 4-2-1-3 4-2-3-1 4-4-1-1 Club Focus central winger high line referees