Examples of the growing focus on technique and possession are there for all to see in the A-League, and Perth Glory under Alistair Edwards and Gareth Naven are no exception.
The success of Ange Postecoglou’s Brisbane Roar, who secured back-to-back A-League championships between 2010 and 2012, heralded a discernable shift toward valuing ball control over physicality.
With apologies to Ernie Merrick’s Melbourne Victory, gone are the days when an organised team with a handful of lightning quick players and one perceptive playmaker could run away with the title.
Navigating a path to A-League glory now requires an entire squad of technically adept players, all following a coherent strategy, a change reflected by the appointment of former Barcelona youth coach Josep Gombau at Adelaide, and the departure of Ian Ferguson from nib Stadium.
Installed as Glory’s head coach with a brief to get the ball down on the deck and keep it there, Edwards, according to his assistant Naven, is making that philosophy a core component of his pre-season preparations.
“We’ve had the balls out fairly early and quickly, which has been probably a surprise for all the playing group,” Naven told reporters on Friday.
“We’re fairly keen Alistair and I in our football and our conditioning [being] based around the ball, based around playing games.
“That’s what we do. We don’t set a 12-minute track [run] and say ‘go, go’, because there’s not a 12-minute track out on the soccer field.
“So we tend to [make] everything football specific and I think the players enjoy that and want that. And they’ll get better at it the more they do it.
“Obviously you’ve just got to table the intensity and make sure that’s measured and try and put everything in place where you prevent injury.”
One piece in the puzzle of transforming Glory into a team a little more easy on the eye was securing the services of Ryo Nagai on loan from Cerezo Osaka for another season.
The 22-year-old, who came into his own in the latter part of the 2012-13 campaign following the appointment of Edwards, re-joined Glory this week and big things are expected from him during the months ahead.
“His first session today, he flew in two days ago,” Naven said.
“So it was fairly easy today, fairly light for Ryo. It’s nice to have him back on board.
“I think he showed his true potential, what he’s capable of in those last six, seven, eight weeks and during previous times he’d showed glimpses of some very good play and world class ability. So we’re looking forward to working with him once again.”
Naven was also quizzed on Daniel De Silva following the 16-year-old’s breakout performance for the Young Socceroos at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Turkey last month.
“He’s still a young bloke, still got a bit to learn,” Naven said.
“He’s a pretty humble bloke as well, pretty down to earth. I think he would realise he doesn’t want to get ahead of himself.
“I think the really good environment that he’s in at the moment, people won’t allow that to happen.”
When asked if De Silva would find himself starting for Glory next season, Naven said: “It’s a bit early to tell, but he’ll definitely be in our plans. He’s in our squad of 23 players, so he’ll definitely be in a position to work hard and try and get a spot.”
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