Monday, February 25, 2008

Van Egmond's Victory

A-League v3 grand final review, NJ 1 v CCM 0

IF any further evidence was needed of the importance of the manager to the success of a football team, then it was there in bucket-loads at yesterday's v3 F3 derby grand final.

While Gary van Egmond had a load of luck 93 minutes and 20 seconds in, just 10 seconds before Mark Shield's final whistle was due (three minutes of stoppages plus the 30 seconds for Denni's stoppage time introduction), the fact is that van Egmond, more than anyone, delivered Newcastle's first ever domestic football title.

While Con Constantine provided the backing and Joel Griffiths worked the space and provide the goals, it was van Egmond's eye for detail, his decision-making, that invariably was on the mark, that did the trick.

Yes, he stuffed up, badly, in the major semi second leg a fortnight ago, but the mark of a good manager is to get it right more times than not, and that's exactly what 'Dutchy' has been doing from day one at the helm at Newcastle.

Just over 13 months ago, 14 weeks into his tenure, I put together this detailed dissection of his work up until that point. Then, a month or so ago, I noted at the bottom of this piece that van Egmond is arguably at the head of the local pecking order for a national team gig.

Not now, perhaps, but surely if he's fortunate enough to serve some time overseas, as he hinted he is keen to do in this interview with ESPN's Jason Dasey earlier this month. More recently, of course, Craig Johnston has suggested he is good enough, and others have been jumping on the van Egmond bandwagon.

If it continues to roll-on, no doubt we will soon have a local manager capable of dealing with the cat and mouse, cut-and-thrust of international football.

Last night, the stakes as high as they get at this level, he took his legend to another level.

Hitherto he has used a 4-2-3-1 almost exclusively, but last night, recognising that there was little these two sides didn't know about each other after playing five times already this season, he threw a spanner into the works, switching to a three-man backline.

Travelling between the church service and reception of my sister-in-law's wedding, I tuned in to SBS Radio's coverage of the game, where the on the spot Scott McIntrye was interviewing Mariners squad member Brad Porter at half time.

Porter admitted that van Egmond had caught the Mariners out by switching to a 3-4-3.

Having watched a full replay a little while ago, in my view it effectively did two things;

1. nulified the threat of Sasho Petrovski and John Aloisi by deploying twin markers Adam Griffiths and Jade North as stoppers, covered by the courageous Andrew Durante, and
2. with youngsters Tarek Elrich and Adam D'Apuzzo pushed up into midfield on the right and left respectively, the Mariners width, such a key ingredient of their success a fortnight ago, became non-existent. Suddenly Adam Kwasnik and Greg Owens had to contend with the more advanced position of the Jets fullbacks.

It was a master-stroke from van Egmond, and I sense the Mariners didn't see it coming. They might have if they'd read David Lowe's insightful tactical preview on the eve of the game, where the former NSL front-man hinted at the possibility of a re-shape.

Having read it myself, I thought van Egmond would be nuts to change things around at this late stage, but he is clearly a man of his own mind, and the Newcastle-based Lowe might have had a bit of insight into it.

Another master-stroke was the deployment of Joel Griffiths in the playmaker role in front of Stuart Musialik and behind Mark Bridge. Griffiths’s ability to play the ball into the space between midfield and attack kept Mile Jedinak chasing his tail and the Jets’s link between the midfield and attack flourishing.

While the Mariners tried to unsettle Musialik by surrounding him with the physical John Hutchinson and either Petrovski or Aloisi working back, van Egmond had other ideas. By stretching the two Mariners front men by pushing Adam Griffiths out to the right and Jade North out to the left, suddenly Musialik had a bit of space and was able to keep the ball moving.

Out on the right, Elrich tucked in and Song provided the width, combining beautifully, while D’Apuzzo and Thompson did well on the other side.

The Jets were in control in the middle, at the back and out wide, while their movement in the front third was frustrating the Mariners rearguard.

The only thing missing was a goal, which eventually came on the back of a Tony Vidmar error, such a sad way for the Aussie football stalwart to bow-out.

After that the Mariners pressed, the Jets shut-up shop and the stoppage-time drama unfolded, James Holland getting away with one.

Danny Vukovic lost his bundle and, for now, has paid a hefty price, while John Aloisi and his Mariners crew left frustrated.

Ultimately though, on the day, they were outplayed by the better, more thoughtful team, who had their manager to thank for it all.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tony, such praise for van Egmond. I didnt see the game so will take your word for it. Where did he learn his craft? Surely there were not that many decent coaches when he was at Marconi? (Not sure where else he played in the NSL).

Frank L

Mon. Feb. 25, 10:26:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger PC said...

Hi, I hope you don't consider this spam but I just did an article on youth players in the A-League, a must read as they are the future of Australian football:

A link to my blog would be highly appreciated.

Tue. Feb. 26, 12:44:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spot on Tony,

You forgot to mention that any coach that loses players like Carle, Okon, Rodrigues and still manages to form a winning team surely knows what he is doing.

What i really like is the style of football too, good possession and thinking type of football with good movement and tempo-slow careful build up but can change to quick when required.

Peter K

Tue. Feb. 26, 11:24:00 am AEDT  
Blogger pippinu said...

Agree with the sentiment that it is 100% GVE. Having lost a few key players during the off season (and bringing in duds like Drovandi), his squad was not overly strong, with the quality dropping off a fair bit after the 9th or 10th player. On top of that, for at least half the year, he was forced to persevere with Jardel (by orders from the boss), when it was obvious from the first second he stepped out onto the pitch that he was never going to get fully match fit.

With all these obstacles, the Jets snuck into 2nd spot (at one stage being at risk of missing out altogether), and were probably the form team of the last two months of the season.

You have to say that under the cicurmstances - it really does come down to GVE himself - it's hard to imagine anyone else achieving what he has achieved.

These things can be difficult to pick up on a small screen, but I'm wondering whether the Jets formation may have resembled more a 3-6-1 (which is a variation of a 3-4-3 I guess).

Tue. Feb. 26, 01:47:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger Mike Salter said...

GVE has shown an impressive flexibility by comparison to many of the A-League managers this season.

I thought that Frank Farina was a bit too content to rest on his laurels after he finally hit on a formation that worked pretty well (Reinaldo as target-man with Kruse and Zullo providing the width); although he tinkered with it slightly at times (particularly vis-a-vis the role of Matt McKay), the changes were fairly superficial at the end of the day.

McKinna's modus operandi depended so much on Jedinak controlling the midfield, and it was interesting to note that when the opposition stuffed more bodies into that area, the Mariners often looked creaky with just the two in there.

Sydney ultimately suffered from exactly the same problem they encountered last season: Brosque's basic unsuitability for a target-man role.

GVE was the only one to really make effective changes to the whole team shape when required, IMO. Although Newcastle were lucky in all sorts of ways this season, the one person who deserves above all to be lifting the A-League toilet seat is Dutchy.

Tue. Feb. 26, 02:54:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are spot on. GVE knows his stuff well. I was listing to football fever on 2ky on Sunday night and they interviewed GVE after the Grand Final win. He said that during his 10 years of coaching he never missed making a semi final. He should be ushered into the national team set up quick smart.

If he keeps on performing he will be a NT coach sooner rather than later.

Gopod analysis of the game.

Tue. Feb. 26, 05:03:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I was at the game and sure the Jets had their share of luck late in the game, ( I was right in line and Aloisi's shirt was pulled so much that you could see his shoulder and part of his chest, why the linesman didn't flag is beyond me), but based on the whole game, and I hate to admit it the Jets were the better side.

I must agree with pippinu, it was more 3-6-1.

The Mariners problem was again up front with 2 target men and no one running from midfield, until Matt Simon was brought on, but way too late. You talk about Dutchy being brave enough to make changes, well McKinna, should have started with Simon and either Aloisi or Petrovski, this is not hind sight,as every time Simon has come into a game things happen. Simon brings youth, plenty of running and is not scared to throw his body around.

Great article again Tony.


Wed. Feb. 27, 10:19:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous Pinuts Pethia said...

I think Shields was suffering the effects of a long trip back from the FIFA refereeing junket!

I sense an increasing amount of arrogance from him these days as opposed to when he started out.

I also noticed 3 fans walking around the terraces on Sunday decked out as the 3 match officials. First time I have ever seen support for the officials displayed in this way.

Wed. Feb. 27, 11:58:00 am AEDT  
Blogger d3xlabs said...

hi Tony, awesome site. Keep it up!

Sat. Mar. 08, 02:23:00 am AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

hey dex, great to meet you in hk and will be sure to check out your blog (especially as i lost my mobile on thurs) and keep in touch...hope you found the family safe and well and all the best with the 3rd.

chat soon

Sat. Mar. 08, 11:11:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Dean k said...

The A-League final is starting to become an ugly spectacle. The last two finals included the losing team losing the plot and getting suspensions. Last year Aloisi and Co. his year it was slapper Vukovic. Hopefully it stops there as it a bad look.

Wed. Mar. 12, 07:20:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger pippinu said...

Tony, where's your wrap up of last night's games?!

Anyone else hanging out for Tony's latest offerings can check out my left-field take on the Adelaide game - it lacked the polish of the Vics' win, there were some very interesting elements worth exploring:
but I make no promises that it will whet your appetite.

Thu. Mar. 13, 04:38:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous George said...

Crazy to read this now. So long ago!

Tue. Jan. 05, 11:04:00 pm AEDT  

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