You know, I watch every Socceroos game and just about every A-League game, and the thing that most frustrates me about Australian football is the lack of strategic thinking.
This may surprise some of you, but I’ll now reveal my huge secret regarding Australian football…
We are not Barcelona.
Never saw that one coming, did you? I’ll say it again. We are not Barcelona.
Nor are we Bayern Munich, Chelsea, or Inter Milan (except Trent Sainsbury).
That doesn’t mean we’re crap.
Australians have always been notorious for their mental toughness and physical superiority, and in the past we knew how to make those advantages work for us.
Not any more. I simply cannot believe how often Australian teams (at all levels) do not leverage their natural advantages. Especially speed.
When you have a really fast player, Plan A has to be: get that player into wide open spaces. Get them in behind the defence, and if they can’t take on the keeper themselves have them get to the line and take the keeper out of play by hitting a low hard cross away from the goal and into the path of the oncoming strikers.
It’s not rocket surgery.
Jeez! It frustrates the crap out of me when I watch the Mariners with the likes of Ferriera, Pain, and Buhagiar – and how often do they get the ball to these players in space?
How often do they seem to be trying to get the ball to these players in space?
Likewise Brisbane with the likes of Tommy Oar, Brandon Borello and Jamie MacLaren.
Likewise Sydney FC with Bernie Ibini, Alex Brosque et al.
They’re really fast, so why on earth aren’t their teams trying to get the ball in behind?
If that’s not enough to make me prematurely bald, why the hell do we pick players for the Socceroos like Leckie, Kruse, Brad Smith et al and never structure our strategy around trying to get the ball into the wide open spaces where these guys do their best work?
Those sorts of tactics may seem naïve to the more sophisticated analysts of the semi-beautiful Australian game, but you have to play the hand you’re dealt. It drives me mad watching A-League and Australian teams trying to play only a possession based game when we don’t have the cattle for it.
Sure, play a possession based game when it suits…but FFS Plan A for Australian teams has to be about getting in behind. If everyone agrees on that, then let’s see tactics and strategies designed to get the fast players into the wide open spaces.
Football is a really simple game but too many coaches over-complicate and – I’m sorry – we’re just not good enough yet to get away with it. In failing to play to our strengths we’re playing into the hands of our technically superior Asian rivals, and short-changing the fans of A-League teams who just want to see the natural talents of their teams unleashed.
One candle in the dark might be the precocious selection of Riley McGree. He’s young, fast , skilful and absolutely direct. That’s what Australian fans want to see and hopefully he is allowed to grow into his own style before the pragmatists curb his natural flair.
Give him a go, Ange.
Adrian’s latest book Political Football: Lawrie McKinna’s Dangerous Truth is in the shops right now or available through Booktopia. Adrian also wrote Mr Cleansheets.