Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New Socceroos Coach Announced

Well I must say I was a little surprised when Ben Buckley called last night to offer me the job of Socceroos' Head Coach, starting immediately.

Of course I know when the time for my national duty has come, and I accepted. But not before I had a long talk with Buckley in which I said I would be making a number of changes, some of them which will shock some people and many fans, and he guaranteed that I would have complete freedom and control over the roster. His only stipulation was that I should develop a team to play what is often variously referred to as 'total football', 'attacking, flowing football' or 'entertaining football'. My own term for it is 'ensemble football', but I may henceforth also just use the term, 'The Brisbane System'.

Now of course the media and the fans, not to mention the FFA, are all clamouring to know which players I intend to use for the rest of the World Cup Qualifiers and beyond, and I'll get to that presently, but first things first. If we pit our 11 best players against the 11 best players of the top international sides, and all the rest is equal, we will lose. A soccer game is a contest of systems, and the first thing to be clear on, for the media, the fans and the players, is what system we will be using. The players will depend upon the system, not the other way around.

One of Australia's great apostles of ensemble football is Craig Foster. He understands well that a good team needs a system, and because he also understands that criticism is not helpful without positive alternatives, he has pushed a Dutch system as the model which Australia will follow. More recently he talks more about Barcelona.

But Australia no longer needs to look abroad for a great system. Ange Postecoglou and Ken Stead at the Brisbane Roar (these two should always be spoken of as a partnership) have developed a system right here in Australia, no doubt heavily influenced by the great sides of Europe but very much an Australian born system at the same time. It is still developing and is currently going through new tactical tests in the A-League. Aside from its effectiveness a major advantage of this system is that many Australians play it or play against it and all are exposed to it every week.

Just as the champion Spanish team is made up of most of the Barcelona squad, and hence the extraordinarily well developed culture of the Barcelona method of play can transfer directly to their national team, I intend to look first to the successful Australian Roar players for the team. They are all faced with competition from others of course, but when I look at players outside the Roar I will not merely be looking at their form, the league they play in, or their team's success, but how they are being coached and the style that their team plays. I don't need defenders who play in a team which uses a lot of long ball, regardless of whether they are in the EPL or not or how successful they are. I need players who can play how I need them to play.

At this point I should mention the conversation I had with one of my predecessors this morning. Pim Verbeek infamously suggested that if people wanted to play for Australia then they should seek to play overseas first. Well this morning he told me that if he was coaching now he would say they should seek to play either overseas or at the Brisbane Roar.

Needless to say Ange Postecoglou and Ken Stead will be my constant consultants. I have bought into their philosophy and hope that I can, as the national team redevelops, contribute to it and take it abroad. We think this system, if fully developed and supported, can take on the world.

In short (very short) the system is a 4-3-3 which can become a 3-4-3 as the holding midfielder drops back and the wing backs surge forward. At its most attacking extreme it becomes 3-2-5 in fact.

But fluidity is the key. Interchangeabilities must be developed one by one, and the more of them the better. I cannot just say to my players, 'swap places if that's helpful'. Two players can only swap places if they have trained to do this. These interchangeabilites are an example of how developing our team takes time. We can take shortcuts by choosing players who already have a relationship in a system and who are trained to understand how we use space.

At the same time we must, like the Roar, always train and play with the ball on the ground, making use of triangular shapes with short passing, maintaining possession and pressing like motherfuckers every time we lose the ball. All of this is hard. I can't take a player - it doesn't matter if they are the player of the year in the EPL - who has never played this way and include them in my team. The more my players already play this way, the more successful I can be in developing, from the bottom, the most successful Australian team to date.

That's what we want isn't it? Obviously I am being hired to make the new Socceroos, the first Socceroos of the new football era, the best team Australia has ever fielded.

At this time the biggest problem for the Socceroos is the midfield. I haven't decided on my whole squad, and of course I must keep up to date with rising talent, but I do know of a midfield of three which works very well. Matthew McKay, Eric Paartalu and Mitch Nichols are the 'first' three across the middle.

Here is the first 11 I am currently looking to train with for the game against Saudi Arabia in Sydney, which will be the first competition test of the new team.

Michael Theoklitos
Shane Stefanatto-Matthew Jurman-Matthew Špiranović-Ivan Franjic
Matt McKay-Eric Paartalu-Mitch Nichols
Tommy Oar-Brett Holman-Dario Vidošić

Now, just taking one position as an example, there may be better goal keepers than Theo. I would say not by much, but that may be so. But have they been trained to act as a sweeper when the team is up field? Have they been to begin attacks with short, tactical distribution to the back line? Have they had the boot up the center of the field thoroughly beaten out of them with whips and stout sticks? I don't have time to train a player in these tactical techniques, these game habits. I need to find a keeper who already knows what I need them to do in the system, as much as possible.

With that in mind I am very open to suggestions from fans about how I might better staff the field. Obviously I need a complete back-up team to complete the squad, and there are many contenders. But here I have very frankly given you, the media and fans, a skeleton picture of what we as a football nation are about to embark upon. Humbly I ask for your patience and your support.

Our goal is to reach the top 4 at Brazil 2014.


Blogger Pass and Move said...

Haha love the initiative.

It does seem to be a trend in international football for the great nations to be able to call on players who have familiar relationships at club level. There was Italy in 2006, and then Spain last year.

10, or 20 years from now, I don't doubt the formative periods for the Socceroos on-pitch relationships will have occurred in the A-League.

And I'd add Michael Zullo to emphasise the youthful Brisbane connection. Also dump Vidosic and Oar.

November 16, 2011 10:54 pm  
Blogger Hamish Alcorn said...

Thanks for playing Pass and Move!

I'm open minded about Oar as apart from his brief time at the Roar, in which he certainly showed promise, I don't know much about where he's at. Within the system outlined, more-or-less with the criteria outlined, who would you choose?

Vidosic, however, I seriously rate. We can argue about that some time. Going to Germany was a mistake I think (shit, look at the ride he missed out on!), but I think we'll see much more of him. His goal against Brisbane was stylish and his humble celebration was dearly appreciated by the Roar fans. He's also Rado's son. :)

Zullo is Stefanutto's main competition, the way I see it. As you pointed out on your own blog, its his actual defense skills which are a weakness.

November 17, 2011 12:07 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Hamish, quite enjoyed this post. Thank you.

Umm, I might push holman to the right of midfield and find space for either Brosque/Archie Thompson at the top.

Jurman? De Vere over him methinks.

And I might put Emerton in over Nichols. But the general ideas and shape - I like.


November 17, 2011 9:12 pm  
Blogger Hamish Alcorn said...

Thanks for the thoughts Clayton.

Brosque should be on the squad I reckon. I seriously considered Archie too because I rate him highly but I wonder if he is up to the tracking back necessary in the modern game, and I am thinking toward 2014.

Emerton is still showing solid form, but once again I'm looking ahead. There is definitely a 'clean out' theme as well as a 'Brisbane Roar' theme going on here.

Neil, Schwarzer too are also both legends and I'm not doubting that they could still contribute to games. Time to look ahead in my view.

Brosque I am very open minded about. In general I'm interested in forwards who will play an ensemble game, pressing and defending from the front, tracking back to support the midfield and supporting attacks as well as looking for goals. That rules Josh Kennedy way out, but it means Scott McDonald should get another look.

There are no 'strikers' on the team, only forwards. Any player may score of course, but there are seven separate positions which have an intrinsic goal scoring dimension.

I had forgotten about De Vere! He is good competition for the back line.

November 18, 2011 4:33 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would there be situations (opponent wise or pitch wise) where you wouldn't be looking to out possess the opponent? Say you had a group match against Spain. Or had to play away on a rather agricultural pitch?


November 19, 2011 7:36 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, thought I would point you to this. Against a poor opponent, granted, but the prettiest goal I have seen on an ugly pitch in a long time - 3:10 mark or so


November 19, 2011 7:43 am  

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