It’s a good thing they don’t hand out points during the pre-season. Or more to the point, it’s a positive that Melbourne Heart’s new season under John Aloisi didn’t start on Saturday with a 5-0 loss to Perth Glory.
Rather than draw breath with relief, there’s little doubt the brains trust at the club will be concerned by the lacklustre showing, especially considering the performance was produced by a line-up closely resembling the expected first XI that will take on Melbourne Victory in the season opener on October 5th.
That’s not intended to take anything away from Glory — they were superb. Well-organised, sharp and ruthless in front of goal. A performance, albeit worthless in terms of points, rich in value as far as genuine title contenders go.
Where the palpitations get a little unsettling for Heart is the manner in which the match unfolded.
From the outset, Aloisi’s men appeared to lack intensity and desire. They were beaten to loose balls on many occasions — an indication of their reactive nature — and struggled to find any real rhythm and consistently construct meaningful passages of play.
To be fair, Heart did enjoy a brief positive spell after the break. They pressed high — and aggressively — and the likes of Aziz Behich — their best performer on the day — ventured forward to provide width and an attacking threat down the left flank.
When Heart played the ball on the deck and moved it around, chances were created as gaps in Glory’s defence began to appear. The only problem was, that mode of play was absent for large parts of the game as Heart found it tough playing out from the back.
Patrick Gerhardt was one of the main culprits. Deployed in the centre of defence alongside Simon Colosimo, Gerhardt appeared uncomfortable in possession and often chose the ‘Route 1’ option towards Josip Tadic as opposed to a short pass into the feet of Richard Garcia, Matt Thompson or Fred.
On occasion, Gerhardt’s decision to go with the long ball was made easy given a lack of available options in midfield, yet when the short pass was on to break the first line of Glory’s high press, there lacked a certain courage and confidence in his decision-making ability. So the long, hopeful ball up field it was.
A philosophy of playing out from the back has been a hallmark of Melbourne Heart since its inception, with quick movement, insightful running and clever interplay paving the way for a seamless transition from defence to attack.
The manner in which the ball was so devalued when in possession against Glory was therefore surprising, and one can only hope that the match was nothing more than a minor blemish in an otherwise encouraging pre-season campaign for the club, which posted five wins, a draw and two losses along with 18 goals scored.
Aloisi said pre-game that the performance would provide a “big gauge” to see where his team was at. Hopefully 11 days is enough time to get the team ticking to the right beat.
The views expressed in this article are purely those of the author and do not reflect those of FFA or the Hyundai A-League.
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