What does Ange Postecoglou have in common with Arsene Wenger? Not much. But it’s very possible he could follow the legendary Arsenal manager from Japan to the Premier League.
And Aussie fans shouldn’t be feeling sorry for sacked Arsenal coach Unai Emery.
David Davutovic’s takes a look at the biggest talking points in football at home and abroad.
1. ANGE READY FOR EUROPE
Ange Postecoglou is ready to conquer Europe.
The former Socceroos boss is on the verge of a historic J1 League title win, after Yokohama F Marinos’ 4-1 mauling of Kawasaki Frontale, while second-place FC Tokyo slipped up against Urawa Red Diamonds.
Marinos must merely avoid a 4-0 or heavier home loss to FC Tokyo next week to claim their first domestic title since 2004, and just 12 months after narrowly avoiding relegation.
This will surely equate to the greatest achievement in Postecoglou’s illustrious coaching career, which includes successive domestic titles with South Melbourne and Brisbane Roar.
Just like he transformed the A-League installing a swashbuckling style at Brisbane, his risky, uber attacking ways has sent conservative Japan into a tizz.
While Postecoglou is rated highly by the Japan Football Association (JFA), who’ve sent dozens of coaches to observe Marinos training sessions in the past 18 months, he has bigger fish to fry.
He is ready to become Australia’s European coaching trailblazer. Postecoglou has been on the radar of Championship clubs, but his stocks are such that he is ready to coach in the Premier League or one of Europe’s Big 5 leagues – England, Italy, Germany, Spain and France.
Postecoglou would not look out of place Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium dugout, following in the footsteps of Arsene Wenger, famously dubbed “Arsene Who?” when the Gunners signed him from Nagoya Grampus in 1996.
Stereotypes surrounding non-European – particularly Aussie – coaches mean a smaller Premier League club is more realistic, such as Everton and Watford, who could soon be searching for new managers.
2. FIT KRUSE KEY TO VICTORY
Robbie Kruse silenced his critics and justified his marquee Melbourne Victory deal, starring in his first start.
Going “at 70 per cent” fitness, Kruse’s quality was on show, whether off the left or in the number 10 (attacking midfield) role, with his impeccably timed run key to Victory’s solitary goal in the 1-0 win over Perth Glory.
While Kruse arrived for pre-season underdone after his stint with German second tier side Bochum, Victory must take some responsibility for his recurring hamstring woes.
Victory coach Marco Kurz must be very careful managing him entering a busy period, which will include possibly two Asian Champions League qualifiers in January and more should they qualify, for Kruse makes them a 30 per cent better side.
Kurz is now in a predicament, with the club’s board stating Asia is a priority during negotiations but a thin squad makes twin assaults improbable.
Victory is hoping to make mid-season signings, and while there is some room in the salary cap, they will look to release players if possible. Addressing an unbalanced midfield is the No.1 priority.
3. FRINGE SOCCEROOS SHINE
James Holland, Ryan Edwards and Nikita Rukavytsya headline the fringe Socceroos pushing to break into Graham Arnold’s side for the March qualifiers.
Ex Young Socceroos captain James Holland played a key role in helping Austrians LASK advance to the knockout phase of the Europa League with a win over Rosenborg on Friday, as they challenge FC Salzburg for the domestic title.
Edwards continues to star for League One side Burton Albion, racking up another 90 minutes in the FA Cup win over Oldham Athletic, playing his 25th game of the season.
Rukavytsya has scored six goals in 10 games for Maccabi Haifa, where he is a teammate of Socceroos defender Trent Sainsbury.
4. ARSENAL’S AUSSIE BLUE
Australian fans should not cry for Unai Emery, after he was sacked by Arsenal.
Emery failed to follow on the legacy of Arsene Wenger, who left the Gunners in better nick than Spaniard Emery’s record suggests.
It included their Aussie high performance director Darren Burgess, who drastically improved Arsenal’s injury and conditioning records after he was headhunted by Wenger in 2017.
Burgess oversaw 45 staff and was key in the transition, overseeing analysis, stats, conditioning and sports science for the first-team and academy, while having an input in team selection and recruiting.
Emery wanted to head into a new direction, which has proved fatal. Burgess has since joined AFL side Melbourne.
5. MUSCAT TO WANDERERS?
Former Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat will be one of the names considered by Western Sydney Wanderers should the coaching position become vacant.
German Markus Babbel is under growing pressure after a third straight loss and no wins since the famous – and fortuitous – Round 3 Sydney derby win.
The Wanderers remain fourth, and while they had chances to beat Newcastle Jets, they’ve been wildly inconsistent under ex Liverpool defender Babbel.
Matildas boss and former Wanderers assistant Ante Milicic is out of the running, as he will lead Macurthur Rams in their inaugural season of 2020-21.
Muscat’s appointment would be too controversial for a host of A-League clubs, including Sydney FC and Adelaide United. But not the Wanderers.
Muscat is currently in Europe watching games and searching for work. He has been flagged as an option for several Championship clubs, most recently interviewing for the job at his ex club Millwall.
6. MATILDAS WATCH
Matildas great Kyah Simon has launched a late run for an Olympic qualifying return, scoring in Melbourne City’s 1-0 win over Adelaide United in Shepparton.
Simon’s predatory instincts were on show in her second game back from a hamstring injury, releasing Matildas teammate Ellie Carpenter before a sharp run and neat finish, headlining her 62-minute display.
Simon, 28, heartbreakingly missed the 2019 World Cup, but her attacking smarts and versatility (24 goals in 87 games), could be an asset for coach Ante Milicic in the February qualifiers in China, as they search for more avenues to goal alongside Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord.
The Matildas face Chinese Taipei, Thailand and China, with the top two advancing to the March playoff deciders for Tokyo 2020.
Australian football got another reality check about the need to invest in the women’s game, with Melbourne Victory ending their Asian Club World Championship campaign with a 5-0 loss to champions, Japanese side Nippon TV Beleza.
Victory, who won last season’s W-League minor premiership, lost 4-0 to South Koreans Incheon and drew with Chinese Jiangsu Suning.
7. GALLOP GOODBYE
David Gallop’s polarising seven-year tenure as FFA chief executive ended quietly on Friday, as the search for his replacement continues.
The start and end of the Gallop regime could not have been more contrasting.
Fans have savaged the former NRL boss in recent years, as he tread warily while the game lurched from crisis to crisis.
Gallop, who will join the Tabcorp board, was caught in the crossfire at times, presiding over a turbulent transition period (mass changes to voting structures and A-League independence).
His highlights came early, firing Holger Osieck and installing Postecoglou, before kickstarting the FFA Cup.
The FFA board continues to debate whether to appoint world players union chief Brendan Schwab or City Football Group vice-president James Johnson, which is going down to the wire.
8. YOUTH CHAOS
An Olyroos and Young Socceroos plan will be a high priority for the incoming CEO, as A-League clubs fume amid continued fallout from international camps.
Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City have both lost players off the back of international friendlies, with Victory’s Tommy Deng set to miss several weeks after breaking down at training last week, while City lost midfielder Connor Metcalfe.
At least one A-League club has told FFA they want to have input in players’ training schedules, concerned at the generic loading, as communication continues to be an issue.
9. TRANSFER FEE SHORTFALL
The mass of A-League players coming off contract (over 150 of the league’s 273 players) the end of the season will coincide with a transfer fee shortfall for a number of clubs, including Melbourne Victory.
Victory’s potentially biggest transfer assets, Tommy Deng and Lawrence Thomas, are among the astonishing 20 players coming out of contract in May, meaning they will be free to leave for free, with the club merely entitled to the lesser fee that is training compensation.
Victory has sold players in 10 of their 14 seasons, the most recent being Terry Antonis to South Koreans Suwon Bluewings, with total transfer fees equating to almost $7 million.
10. EURO MEGA MATCHES
France, Portugal and Germany, the last three major tournament winners, have been drawn in the Euro 2020 Group of Death.
A 2018 World Cup semi-final rematch between England and Croatia at Wembley Stadium is another headliner, with travelling fans finally getting clarity on venues amid the unique format, with 12 countries hosting.
Harry Kane’s England is $5 favourite according to TAB, ahead of Kevin De Bruyne’s Belgium ($6), Kylian Mbappe’s France ($7), Virgil van Dijk’s Netherlands ($8), Sergio Ramos’ Spain ($9), Toni Kross’ Germany ($10), Roberto Mancini’s Italy ($11) and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal ($17).
11. WESTERN UNITED WOE
Western United produced one of their flattest performances of the season, with a third straight loss leaving next week’s home derby with Melbourne Victory as high stakes for both clubs.
Despite fielding all of their big guns Alessandro Diamanti, Panagiotis Kone, Scott McDonald and Besart Berisha, who came on at halftime, United’s 2-0 home loss to Sydney FC was the third game United failed to score, with the goalless streak stretching to five hours.
After a promising start to the season, Mark Rudan’s side slipped to fifth, just two points ahead of eighth-place Victory.