Friday, November 09, 2007
Striking up the Band
David Mitchell has joined John Kosmina, Gary van Egmond and Ricki Herbert on the list of managers who have stepped into a vacant A-League chair (of the plastic touchline variety), and seen their new charges sparked into life.
How is one to explain it? Of course, there are the well-known factors of players losing their complacency, realizing that they may be playing for their positions, perhaps now feeling unencumbered by dressing-room angst, and the like. But in all four of the cases above, there's been another ingredient which I think is important.
It is simply this: the addition of an effective striker.
Contrary to some stereotyped opinions, Perth have been playing some quite good football recently. As were Sydney under Branko Culina, and Newcastle under Nick Theodorakopoulos. But there was no-one there to exploit the approach play, either as finisher or focal point...until the arrival of the new man on the sideline.
The lively Nikita Rukavystya was finally handed a long overdue start up front tonight, and he was magnificent, scoring two goals and playing important roles in two more. Quite a contrast to Mate Dragicevic, James Robinson (he of the perpetually pained countenance), and even Jamie Harnwell, who, for all his virtues, could never run at the defence as Rukavystya did in Newcastle.
John Kosmina was fortunate that his arrival at Sydney FC coincided with the availability of Michael Bridges, who has offered intelligent movement, a sure touch and (it appears) a positive attitude in his role at the point of the attack.
A much underestimated factor in the Newcastle revival last season (along with Paul Kohler's move into midfield, and Paul Okon's eventual return to form) was the return of the injured Vaughan Coveny to the first eleven...in Gary van Egmond's first game in charge. Needless to say, Coveny was crucial to Newcastle's success in the subsequent weeks, operating in his usual front-man capacity.
Ricki Herbert, bringing the New Zealand Knights to belated life last season, benefited greatly from unexpectedly transforming the robust Neil Emblen into a target man, a deployment which allowed the quick Alen Marcina to play off him with great incisiveness.
In all these cases, too, the presence of the proverbial "cutting edge" in the final third has galvanized the other players.
i disagree about perth. nikita has started games in the past and been ineffectual.
i think this was on the cards for a while that they would finally just go on and finish a team rather than buckle and give up their lead as they have twice in the past few weeks.
perhaps the impetus of the new coach there spurred them on? who knows