How many of you saw Ange’s Yokohama tear Sydney FC a new one the other night?
That was incredible.
Awesome, unrelenting, unstoppable.
The fact that an Australian coach masterminded that surgical dismantling of the runaway leaders of the A-League, is a source of pride – even if the obvious gap between the top teams of the two leagues is depressingly wider than most of us thought.
My god, they were good.
The fitness levels Ange must have instilled to keep pressing Sydney all over the park, for the best part of 90 minutes, have to be off the charts.
Then there’s the strategy.
I’ve occasionally philosophised about the ultimate aim of any coach being to have all brains plug into the group mind. If everyone in the team sees football exactly the same way then team strategy becomes a sort of hive mind, into which each individual plugs.
Can you imagine just one guiding consciousness – driving the actions of all players? How hard would it be to play against such a team?
Sydney FC found out the other night. They never had a chance to relax, re-assess and re-assemble. Yokohama hounded them into error and constantly won the ball back in the Sydney half.
But if Ange’s lot were devastating in defence, they were even more impressive in attack.
The movement off the ball was incredible. Every time a player looked up he was spoilt for choice with runs off the ball. Second man runs, third man runs (where a player makes a run anticipating two passes ahead) – it never stopped.
Sydney could see how they were being stretched one way then another, gradually losing their shape, until Yokohama flooded into the gaps they’d created in the final third.
And there was nothing Sydney could do about it. Like little Dutch boys with their fingers in dykes, they were powerless to plug the other leaks that erupted either side and the floodgates eventually opened.
Ange must have been massively proud of that performance. It was the same blueprint (more or less) that he used at Brisbane, Victory and the Socceroos but he has access to very high levels of technique at Yokohama – no better than the Socceroos, of course – but he has them all the time and is able to instil his ideas very deeply.
He'll never (in the foreseeable future) have access to that level of quality in Australian clubland, but he would with the Socceroos.
Did we hound him out too early with our doubt?
Is this just a glimpse of Ange’s revenge?
What if he’s offered the Japan National Team?
I’m reaching for a paper bag into which I can hyperventilate, but at the same time I’m just so happy for Ange.
“No team can play like us,” he said, in a defiant challenge to Europe and South America, and the way he’s going, it won’t be long before he’s headhunted by one of the top teams overseas.
The City Group must be awfully impressed.
Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. He will have a new novel out shortly.