Rotation gamble pays off for high-flying Glory

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As the A-League fixtures piled up over Christmas and the new year, Perth Glory unleashed their secret weapon: squad depth.

Tony Popovic was the man with the finger on the button, and what followed was a four game period in which he made 15 changes to his starting lineup, winning all four games in the process.

It was a high-risk move which resulted in maximum reward for Glory, and Popovic’s side is now in a commanding position six points clear atop of the table because of it.

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“In terms of the squad, part of it is to rotate players, and part of it is players need a rest because they’re not fit enough,” Popovic said after Glory’s remarkable 4-3 win over Western Sydney Wanderers.

“In hindsight when you look at it we had a great result at Central Coast which was tough.

“Then we went to Brisbane, and had two games in short succession here at home.”

The four games, which all took place over 14 days, were pivotal to Glory mounting their charge to become A-League premiers.

Popovic made four changes between the Mariners and Roar games, then six changes for the home clash against Sydney FC, and a further five to the side that snatched victory from the Wanderers on Sunday night.

It was a gamble he believes will pay off in the long run.

“We’ve come through unscathed fortunately,” he said.

“Hopefully that will set us up for the next week because we’ve got another three games again.

“It’s important to try and get results in this tough time, and hopefully when it goes back to a game a week you are sitting in a good position in terms of where you are on the table, but also in the health of your squad and they’re all available.

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Meanwhile Glory’s biggest rival for the premiership has faltered, with Melbourne Victory claiming two wins, a draw and a loss over the same four fixtures.

The differing fortunes of the two sides has resulted in Glory gaining a six point a gap which, if they can hang on to until the fixture load eases, could be pivotal in the race to finish top by the end of the season.

Making wholesale changes to his starting line-up between each game was a gamble by Popovic, which was made so much riskier as the run of fixtures coincided with the loss of shining star Chris Ikonomidis, who is with the Socceroos at the AFC Asian Cup.

But Glory have not only coped in his absence, they have flourished, with eight separate goal scorers contributing a total of 14 goals over the four game period.

For Popovic the squad’s positive response to losing Ikonomidis was expected due to his trust in the quality of his playing group.

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“We’re finding a way to do it because we have good players,” Popovic said.

“Chris going, when he left we said we wouldn’t dwell on him not being there and we haven’t.

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“We’re actually proud and delighted of what he’s doing over there.

“We have talented players that want to play and want to win, and Chris will be welcomed back with open arms hopefully after a successful campaign with the Socceroos.

“In the mean time we’ll keep trying to get stronger and better, and hopefully he can come in and fit into that.

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Featured image credit: Ngau Kai Yan

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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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