The writing is on the wall.
With a failing formation and just four wins in 11 matches against some tricky yet ultimately beatable opposition, Australia must overcome a dangerous Honduras outfit over two legs to qualify for the World Cup.
While it is often short-sighted to blame a manager for a team’s struggle, Ange Postecoglou has got us into this situation and stepping down or not, he needs to get us out of it.
Among any national team coach’s list of objectives is a simple one: get the best results with the players and resources at your disposal.
From 2014-15, it could be argued Ange was doing just that, leading Australia to its first Asian Cup and putting in two respectable showings against world class opposition at the World Cup in Brazil.
Past successes like these have extreme optimists and Ange apologists alike preaching the ‘blame the squad, not the manager’ mantra, citing the players’ ability – or lack thereof for the qualification struggle we find ourselves in.
Granted, this is not the golden generation of 2006 that boasted the likes of Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and Mark Bresciano – but we are a few goals better than Syria and Thailand. Let’s be honest.
Consider the current crop of Aussies plying their trade in Europe.
Mathew Leckie has been labelled a candidate for Bundesliga signing of the season by Germany legend Lothar Matthaus, netting four goals in nine appearances for Hertha Berlin, yet his pace and direct attacking style are nullified in a wing-back role for Australia where uncharacteristic defensive duties are required of him.
Robbie Kruse has scored three and set up two in his last six appearances for VfL Bochum but has drawn the wrath of Roos fans for sub-par national team performances.
Aaron Mooy recently inspired Huddersfield Town to a win over Manchester United, yet he is not even guaranteed a start for Australia, while Massimo Luongo has been hailed as the best midfielder in the English Championship by QPR manager Ian Holloway. Still, he hardly featured in 210 minutes of football against Syria.
It could not be any clearer – Ange’s bizarre team selections and radical switch to a 3-2-4-1 formation have seen player performances drop and results dwindle.
Draws against Thailand, Iraq, Syria and a loss to Japan have seen our high pressing wing-backs exposed and cheap goals conceded, while Ange’s ‘take the game to the opposition’ philosophy more accurately resembles a game of never-ending possession where scoring is out of the equation altogether.
— Australian Story (@AustralianStory) October 22, 2017
With a final qualifier looming against Honduras, whose main threat comes from the flanks in Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto, there is no better time than now to move to a more conventional 4-3-2-1 system, or a 4-3-3.
Sadly, no evidence suggests anything will change.
Ange’s ongoing reluctance to switch back to a 4-3-2-1 seemingly stems from a place of personal pride, as should he do so and Australia qualify, it will undermine the credibility of his 3-2-4-1 project to begin with.
But so what? What is at stake is far bigger than one man’s ego. The growth of football in this nation depends on World Cup qualification, with participation from grassroots level set to surge and millions of dollars guaranteed to pour into FFA following a World Cup.
While many have criticised Ange for walking out on the job, or so we think, regardless of whether the Socceroos qualify for the World Cup, what should be said is good riddance.
The sooner he is replaced and a more pragmatic game plan is introduced, the better for Australian football.