The five things Van Marwijk must do for the Socceroos

by Sebastian Hassett on Jan 28, 2018

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The waiting is officially over - the Socceroos have a new national coach.

Much has already been said about Bert van Marwijk's appointment, with opinion firmly divided on the Dutchman.

But the one thing everyone can agree on is that his primary objective is simple: make the second round of the 2018 World Cup.

However, given the strength of the Socceroos group (France, Denmark and Peru), that's easier said than done. So what are the five key things the former Saudi Arabia coach must do in order to build Australia into a force to be reckoned with in Russia?

 1. Establish a style that works and is easily understood

Above anything else, this is what will define Van Marwijk's legacy. We know his default strategy is a defensive mindset with occasional bursts of counter-attack, so the question is whether he will use that approach again.

If he does, he needs to teach the players how to play each of their roles within the team. This is absolutely critical when defence is your priority. Even if one player gets caught out, Australia will get chewed out by superior opponents in Russia.

2. Find a formation that works

It's fair to say that Australia never quite got there with the three-at-the-back approach preferred by Ange Postecoglou, but they clearly improved over time and he was doing it with a group that had never seen it before. However, expect that experiment to be over and for van Marwijk to embrace a more rigid structure, more likely to be a 4-2-3-1 - which, depending on the role of Aaron Mooy, could cost either Mark Milligan or Tom Rogic a starting spot.

3. Get the media and the public on his side

Van Marwijk's natural disposition to the media isn't warm nor hostile - just ambivalent. He couldn't care less what they think or what the fans think. But that kind of indifference will cause more problems as he deals with a media pack (especially at the World Cup) that isn't always football-savvy.

Friction has generated between the press and every national coach since Guus Hiddink towards the end of their tenues. It's been an unnecessary distraction and the negativity invariably seeps into the playing group.

4. Get Matthew Spiranovic back into the fold

Excluded by Ange Postecoglou for reasons known only to the former boss - although we suspect Spiranovic's decision to play in the Chinese second division was the primary reason - there is no doubt that Spiranovic is still the nation's best technical defender. He and Trent Sainsbury have an excellent combination, which they perfected in the 2015 Asian Cup, and the quicker Spiranovic is reintegrated, the better.

5. Solve the right and left-back problem

We know most of the attacking spots already. Tomi Juric will be the striker, Mathew Leckie will be on the right and Robbie Kruse on the left (lest they be inverted). Mile Jedinak and Aaron Mooy will take two midfield positions, added to either Milligan or Rogic. But there's a lot more questions at the back.

Thankfully Aziz Behich put that catastrophic game against Germany behind him, but is he truly at World Cup level? Will Alex Gersbach (my choice) play enough at RC Lens to be ready? Brad Smith and Jason Davidson haven't been sighted and Matt Jurman is better centrally.

Likewise, will Ivan Franjic recover sufficient fitness to challenge Milos Degenek and Ryan McGowan for right-back? Personally, I'd shift Milligan in there, and use him as a "Guardiola wing-back" - one that advances into midfield when attacking, allowing greater licence for Mooy to roam forward.