A-League mid-season report card: Perth Glory

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It’s the time of year when clubs look towards the home stretch of the season and The Football Sack critiques each club’s progress so far.

Do you agree with our assessments made in the return of our January report cards?

Grade: A+

Semester Summary: While improvement was expected at Perth Glory under new manager Tony Popovic, no one would have quite foreseen the rise to power that has taken place in Perth during the first half of the 2017/18 A-League season. At the halfway point of the campaign Glory sit atop the A-League table, losing just once and playing a bold, gutsy and physically demanding style which has set them apart from the rest of the league.

A season so far defined by dramatic escapades and last-gasp goals, Glory have displayed all the grit, determination and talent which usually characterises champions. But the job is only half done, and taking it all the way to lift the A-League championship is something neither Glory or Popovic have ever done before.

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Areas of excellence: Attack, attack, attack. Glory’s attacking pedigree has developed with the addition of top quality talent in the off-season and the improvement of players already at the club prior to Popovic’s arrival. Through Andy Keogh, Chris Ikonomidis and Joel Chianese Glory have wielded a damaging attacking trio for the majority of the season. Since Ikonomidis’ departure to the Asian Cup with the Socceroos, however, Glory have been able to spread the goals to other areas of the field and reduce the impact of losing their star player.

As the games roll on so do the goals, and Glory’s ability to score big and score late has often turned losses into draws and draws into wins. Their never-say-die attitude will serve them well in the back half of the season, as their opponents will never feel as though they have a game won, no matter how far ahead they may be. A finals campaign can often be won by the team with the strongest mentality, and Glory have proved to be more than capable in this department through the first half of the season.

Areas in need of improvement: Defensive consistency. Popovic’s system relies on three centre-backs and two wing-backs, meaning five of the ten outfield positions are taken up by defenders. In this system Popovic has eight players who he routinely rotates through the starting line-up. Popovic has named a different defensive line-up in Glory’s last five matches, displaying trust in his players over the hectic Christmas and new year fixture schedule. But, with the constant change comes the danger of unsettled the starting 11.

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In all other areas Glory have consistency in team selection, but it seems even to the halfway point of the season Popovic isn’t sure of his best defensive combination, particularly with the five players jostling for the three available positions at centre back. So far Glory’s defensive record is fourth best in the league (16 goals conceded) which is a more than acceptable figure, but if they want to push deep into the finals campaign Popovic and his defensive unit would greatly benefit from a better idea of their best combination of personnel.

Top student: Chris Ikonomidis. With Diego Castro’s early injury woes Glory needed a talisman, and it’s safe to say they found one in the mercurial Ikonomidis. So impressive has the start of the season been for Ikonomidis that in nine A-League games he earned a place in the Socceroos squad, and is now starting and scoring for the national side at the Asian Cup. His goals for Glory deep into stoppage time against Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne Victory are standout moments in the season so far, typifying the relentless the entire squad has displayed this season. But it was Ikonomidis who well and truly set the tone early in the campaign, becoming the face of the new-look, rejuvenated Perth Glory of 2018/19.

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Class clown: Liam Reddy. Not for his goalkeeping efforts, which have been outstanding, but for the entertainment value born from his dangerous persistence on playing the ball out from the back. Glory’s system relies on drawing opponents out of position and to do so they often recycle the ball through Reddy and out on the deck. Like a climax of a scary movie I often find myself watching through my hands as the ball is whipped at pace into Reddy’s feet under pressure from an oncoming striker. Glory are yet to be punished by this high-risk tactic (popular now amongst many of the top European leagues) but there have been many “oohs”, “aahs”, and gasps from the crowd as Reddy performs death-defying escapades with the ball at his feet.

Outlook: Glory’s outlook for the remainder of the season is simple: keep the same intensity, determination and form and they’ll win the lot. As the results continue to roll on and Glory keep their distance ahead of the pack it’s becoming increasingly clear they’ll have to drop their standards if they are to be caught. Popovic has relied on squad rotation in recent weeks to keep his players fresh, fit and ready to launch into the second half of the season, which could prove pivotal in ensuring his squad maintains their exceptional levels. Top of the table, in stellar form and striding confidently towards the finals, there’s never been more optimism around a Glory squad. Now all they have to do is take their chance.

Feature image credit: Vision Inspired Photography

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Matthew Comito
Matthew Comito
Football nut, student journalist and firm believer that Berisha dived in the 2012 A-League Grand Final. Covering Perth Glory for the 2018/19 season.

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