Rebuild required as night falls on Glory season

April 2019. Perth Glory had just clinched the Premiership for the first time in its history in the A-League.

April 2022. Perth Glory have achieved the Wooden Spoon for the first time in its history in the A-League.

Just three years separates perhaps Perth Glory’s greatest and worst moments in their existence.

I’m not sure anyone could’ve predicted the Glory falling has much as they have done this season.

Of course, Covid-19, injuries, a ridiculous injury list, poor fixturing and the incessant quarantine periods the players had to do on a number of occasions are solid factors as to why things went the way they did.

But, you still have to perform on the pitch.

Those elements the players could not control, yet it seemed the club looked to make those things an issue rather than just knuckling down and focusing on what the players could control; the outcome of games of football.

But we didn’t.

This is perhaps the worst assembled Perth Glory team that I can recall over the last 10 or so years.

In our 25th anniversary and following on from a poor 2020/21 season, I would’ve expected the club to ensure everything was in as good condition as possible for then Head Coach Richard Garcia to achieve a finals position.

Unfortunately, the club failed Garcia.

Now, for those that haven’t been following my views across this season, I had relentlessly criticised Richard Garcia. It was nothing personal, however there were clear errors structurally when looking at how the team was performing on the pitch.

Yet, despite his flaws, the club’s management made life almost impossible for Garcia to thrive. Again, I have nothing personal against Garcia and I will admit that there were many things against him.

Coming out of the post-Popovic era, I wanted the club to employ an experienced coach given the club was heading into uncharted waters thanks to Covid-19 and a mass exodus of players.

Throwing a rookie coach into the deep end with minimal financial support was perhaps one of the most ridiculous moves I’ve ever seen this club put forward.

Now, if the objective was to ride the storm for the next few years, I could sympathise. However, there were clear weak areas in our team heading into Garcia’s second season, notably the lack of a creative player following Diego Castro’s departure.

Everyone, not just Perth Glory fans, but A-League fans knew that the club needed to replace the Spanish Maestro.

Instead, the club went for Daniel Sturridge.

A move that has been labeled as a complete failure and rightly so. We did not need Sturridge in the team. It should never have happened. Period.

The club essentially wasted millions and you have to feel for Garcia when looking at how difficult the off-season was.

“People go on about Sturridge but when you ask for money, you’re told there is none, and that (Sturridge signing) happens … that’s another issue.”

So moving on from Sturridge and Garcia, it’s clear the Glory will perhaps need another rebuild.

It’s completely fair to state that fans have been fed up with the club’s performance over the last few years.

Recruitment was a disaster over the last few years, with only a few players proving to be key during that time.

Moving forward heading into the 2022/23 season, there are many things I would like to see the club implement from a footballing perspective.

Implementing a Consistent System

I had been critical over the last few years that the Perth Glory, as a team, struggled to win games of football.

Of course, games were won but over the years that was due to mostly players like Bruno Fornaroli, Diego Castro, Chris Ikonomidis and Joel Chianese stepping up in crucial moments.

We never really saw Perth Glory cohesively dominate games and win them as a result of the team working together.

Part of that was due to the lack of a set system. The formation had changed frequently, so it was most likely difficult for the players to understand their roles.

Heading in to the 2022/23 season, I would implement the 3–4–3 system.

I would do so not just because of the success this system bought the Glory under Tony Popovic, but for a multitude of reasons.

For one, it’s a balanced system.

For instance, the system can allow teams to attack with five, whilst not losing balance, given five can be in defensive positions (due to a natural 3–2 rest-defence structure).

Another reason is, it will naturally improve the Glory’s wide play.

In my view, Perth have had the worst wide play in the competition this season, as we haven’t stretched the pitch horizontally well enough in my view.

With the wing-backs, what would be achieved would be those players holding the width on each touchline.

This will cause the opposition’s block to stretch, allowing the Glory to create play in both central and wide areas.

Finally, it will give a stronger defensive structure.

Ever since Popovic left the Glory, Perth have been gifting goals to the opposition. Structurally, it’s been a shambles. Basically, it’s “Big Daz and inshallah”.

The reliance on Curaçao international Darryl Lachman has been present over the last two years, but fortunately for the Glory, he can hold is head high.

His leadership, experience and presence at the back has seen him become a fan favourite and looking forward, as he is rumoured to sign a 2 year contract extension, he will be an integral member of the team.

New Signings

Accepting consecutive placings outside the top 6 should not be the norm at the Perth Glory Football Club.

By any means, historically, the bare minimum should be to compete in the finals.

But, if you want to go back even further, back to the NSL days, it was to compete for major honours, as the club won the premiership on three occasions and the championship twice.

What’s needed for the club to get back to those days of being successful is ensuring that first of all, the recruitment is up to scratch.

Now, the club is wanting to go down a path of developing the youth and implementing them in the first team. That’s an understandable vision, however it’s abundantly clear that those players need experience around them in order to flourish.

The famous quote in 1995 by former Liverpool striker, Alan Hansen, “you can’t win anything with kids”, does bare significance.

That Class of 92 that Manchester United had success from was the product of those young players being able to express themselves as a result of experienced players being around them.

So for me, there needs to be a host of signings brought in and this is achievable given all of the options I will detail are in the last years of their contracts with their respective clubs.

Another reason why I’d bring in a large number of players, is that the current standard and quality of this squad is below par.

So to facilitate the development of the young players, as well as improve the squad, I would look to bring in 7 players.

Trent Sainsbury

A blockbuster signing but one that has to be made by the club.

As I mentioned prior, I would implore the club to change to the 3–4–3 system. This would allow Sainsbury to partner Darryl Lachman as well as another signing.

Trent Sainsbury is a current Socceroo, which is no surprise given he is a fantastic defender.

This season for Belgian side Koninklijke Voetbalclub Kortrijk, Sainsbury has been a standout, generating an average SofaScore rating of 7.04.

The Perth born centre-back is a composed defender, who excels with his positioning and ability in ground duels.

In the Belgian Pro League, he’s won 61% of his total duels and 65% of his ground duels.

He doesn’t get dribbled past often either, as this season he’s only been dribbled past 0.3 times per game.

I would want the Glory to sign Sainsbury as defensively, we’ve been the worst in the competition.

Even though Perth have not conceded the most goals in the A-League, the expected goals conceded stat suggests that the Glory are very fortunate, as based on the chances conceded, they could’ve conceded 44.9 goals, which is the worst in the competition.

The Glory backline requires composure, discipline and experience. Pairing Lachman along with Trent Sainsbury would be a fantastic move in my opinion.

Further, given the Socceroo will be out of contract at the end of June, the deal is realistic.

Aleksandar Šušnjar

I’ve been signing this player’s praises for a few years now and with his contract expiring in the next few months, the Glory have got to be first in the door to bring him to the club.

Ironically, Šušnjar had played for the Glory before at youth level and it’s a surprise he didn’t feature for the first team.

However since then, he has gained a very solid reputation in the A-League with Macarthur for being one of the most impressive defenders in the competition.

Similarly to Trent Sainsbury, Šušnjar’s positioning is at a very solid level.

Unlike the current Socceroo, Aleksandar Šušnjar’s strengths in duels are in the air.

This season, the Perth born defender has won 74% of his aerial duels, with his imposing stature and approach in those situations giving him a strong advantage.

From a distribution point of view, he’s been decent this season, boasting a passing accuracy of 83% in the A-League.

Given the big defender is 26 and from Perth, it’s a no brainer for the Glory to sign this player.

We need some quality in the backline, and Šušnjar along with Darryl Lachman and Trent Sainsbury would provide a very difficult wall to break through.

Marko Pajač

So the first foreign signing of many, Brescia left-back Marko Pajač would be a super addition to the Glory’s backline in my view.

Kosuke Ota was a decent lieutenniant at left-back for the Glory last season, however age has caught up with him and his output has decreased quite dramatically. Personally, I would look to move him in on in order to facilitate this move.

Pajač may be a rather unknown player to many Australian football fans, however upon analysing him in the Serie B this season, he’s been fantastic.

Since I’d be deploying him at left wing-back, his lack of defensive ability can be covered by the three centrebacks in Šušnjar, Lachman and Sainsbury.

What’s key for wing-backs is for those players to have endurance, and Pajač this season has been a gun, covering tremendous distances each game for his club.

He’s an offensively oriented fullback, which is what you’d want from a wing-back given how crucial they are in advanced areas.

This season, he’s scored 2 goals and registered 7 assists which is a mighty effort.

When looking at chance creation, this guy has been immense. In the Serie B this season, he’s created 74 chances, 11 of which were deemed as big chances.

Now that is an insane stat, given not many fullbacks in the A-League offer that sort of offensive prowess when going forward.

I’d look to bring the 28-year-old in to the club, because I’ve felt this season the Glory have lacked a solid fullback, irrelevant on whether they play on the left or right.

We did not adequately replace Jason Davidson, who was one of our best during the 2018/19 season.

This move will be difficult, given the player is doing well in his respective league however with the Croatian’s contract expiring in a few months time, I’d advise the club to strongly consider bringing this player in.

He’s a super fullback, who would offer a lot of quality on the park, but also experience for those younger players coming through.

Francesco Zampano

It seems as though my transfer policy for fullbacks is to only sign them from Serie B, however Francesco Zampano is a terrific fullback who would provide a wealth of experience for the Glory going forward.

The 28-year-old has been decent this season for Frosinone Calcio, chipping in with 2 goals and 4 assists.

Capable of operating as either a right-back or as a right wing-back, Zampano is a player who loves to receive in wide areas, burst past defenders and deliver wicked crosses into the box.

The Italian’s technique when it comes to deliveries into the box is pretty good, and it’s no surprise given he’s registered 36 assists in his career.

Defensively, he’s not too bad, as this season he’s won 51% of his total duels and he’s had a 61% tackle success rate.

But again like with Pajač, his defensively ability won’t have to be elite given he would be defending in a back 5 and the three centrebacks are very good defenders in their own right.

Now, bringing in Zampano would be a super move in my eyes, given we currently have Antonee Burke-Gilroy in the ranks, who’s young and still learning his craft.

We’ve tried operating him this season as a right wing-back, but he’s struggled recently. Having an experienced player like Francesco Zampano in the team could help the young right-back’s development.

It’s a good signing in both the short-term and the long-term.

Looking at his contract situation with Frosionone, it expires in a few months, so it’s a deal that is definitely possible for the Glory.

Steven Ugarković

Now if the Perth Glory got this guy to the club next season, then it would be a massive statement of intent, as I believe he’s one of the best midfielders in the A-League.

While the Western Sydney Wanderers this season have been below par, Ugarković has been a shining light.

3 goals and 1 assist for a central midfielder isn’t a bad return, but it’s his general play where he stands out.

Key passes, he ranks second at the club behind James Troisi, with 1.7 key passes made per game.

With big chances created, he’s the best at the club, with 6 big chances created this season.

His passing is perhaps one of his biggest strengths, as this season he averages 47.3 accurate passes per game.

Defensively, he’s also pretty strong.

When looking at possession won in the final third, he’s ranked third at the Wanderers, as he’s won possession in that area 10 times this season.

In terms of successful tackles per game, he’s only 0.1 successful tackles behind Keanu Baccus, as he makes 1.6 per game.

Now for me, the 27-year-old would be the perfect partner for Brandon O’Neill in the midfield.

His experience in the A-League, as well as his quality on the pitch make him a top midfielder.

He would also provide much needed experience for young midfielders Callum Timmins, Luke Bodnar and Gio Colli.

With his contract expiring on June 30, 2022 this move would make sense for the Glory to explore ahead of the upcoming 2022/23 season.

Murilo

Murilo Henrique Pereira Rocha, otherwise known as Murilo, would be a fantastic addition to the Perth Glory.

A very skillful, intelligent and flamboyant attacking midfielder, the 27-year-old would be a possible solution to the Glory’s creative woes.

In the K-League last season, he was prolific for Suwon FC, as he scored 5 goals and notched up 10 assists, which gave him an average SofaScore rating of 7.18.

During that season, he created 16 big chances and averaged 1.9 key passes per game which is a very impressive return.

The question has been raised by many Perth Glory fans over who could replace El Maestro in Diego Castro.

In comparison between the two’s last full seasons, Murilo created 11 more big chances than the Spaniard whereas Castro averaged 0.6 more key passes per game.

Either way, bringing in the Brazilian midfielder would mean chance creation galore.

He would be an ideal signing, not just due to his age, but how important he could be to someone like Daniel Stynes.

Stynes has been impressive for the Glory this season, and having someone like Murilo in the team would provide an excellent role model for him to learn off of.

With his contract expiring this year, bringing in the attacking midfielder should be a priority for the Glory.

He’s a wicked dribbler, excellent with his link-up play and his ability to create chances is of a very good level.

Reis

Isnairo Reis Silva Morais, or Reis, is a tremendous right-winger who’s playmaking and athleticism make him a threat to any opposition side.

I spoke with former Glory defender and current Gwangju defender, Aaron Calver about him.

“He’s a very good player. He runs like a dog, no problem! Very good with the ball, scores goals, physical, he’s got everything.”

Reis this season for Gwangju has had a solid start, scoring 5 goals in 11 games as well as grabbing 1 assist.

His playmaking ability is of a pretty good level, as he’s created four big chances this season and averages 2.4 key passes per game.

The Brazillian has a surprisingly excellent accuracy with long balls (58%) and chipped balls (65%).

Securing the services of the 29-year-old would be huge for the Glory.

It’s clear that Perth lack speed, particularly in transition. Reis has this in abundance and would be a very useful player in those situations.

His crossing is very good as well, as he often gets into really good positions due to his link up and speed.

The delivery on those crosses is pretty good as well.

Similar to Murilo, his contract expires sometime in 2022, so I would highly encourage the Glory to sign this player.

He would provide a wealth of experience for our young forwards like Carlo Armiento, Pacifique Niyongabire and Adam Zimarino.

Removing Players from the Squad

With a host of players coming into the team, foreign and domestic, there will need to be a clearout.

For me, there are quite a few players I would release, with those players being;

  • Daniel Sturridge (visa)
  • Adrián Sardinero (visa)
  • Kosuke Ota (visa)
  • Nick Fitzgerald
  • Mitchell Oxborrow
  • Osama Malik
  • Andy Keogh (retiring)

Those players have underperformed over the last few years and for the club to move on in a positive direction, I believe those guys need to go.

It never worked out for either Sturridge or Sardinero, both were frustrated through injury and never performed on the pitch.

Kosuke Ota was solid during the 2020/21 season, however since then, he’s declined massively and with the former Japanese international turning 35 ahead of the 2022/23 season, it would be within the best interests of the club to let him go.

As for Fitzgerald and Oxborrow, both of those players were brought in this season and never really stood out.

With Osama Malik, he was brought in to the club in 2019 but since then, he hasn’t really had consistent gametime.

Finally, with Andy Keogh, he will be retiring come season’s end. A champion during his first two stints with the club, it unfortunately didn’t work out the way he would’ve wanted it to in his third stint.

Looking forward to Next Season

So with those players moved on and the new players brought in, I could see a much brighter future for the Perth Glory Football Club.

In terms of how the team would line up, come Matchday 1 and all of those players are signed, this would be the starting eleven.

Starting Lineup (3–4–3)

Brad Jones (GK)

Darryl Lachman, Trent Sainsbury, Aleksandar Šušnjar

Frencesco Zampano, Steven Ugarković, Brandon O’Neill ©, Marko Pajač

Reis, Bruno Fornaroli, Murilo

This team, in my opinion, would not only compete for a finals position and possibly finals, but it would also bring back the fans and members, back to HBF Park.

It’s a monumental challenge for the club as it stands to improve the Glory heading into next season.

Ensuring recruitment is up to scratch will definitely bring the fans back.

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