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Berisha kills off Victory's failed formation

It's going to be a new-look Big V in 2014-15 after their deficiencies were highlighted by the man they have recruited to address them

Melbourne Victory will set up differently next season with Besart Berisha among their ranks, and it was fitting that the Albanian striker was the man to hammer the final nails in the coffin of their previous tactical incarnation.

For two seasons Victory have attempted to win the A-League by playing an unusual 4-2-4 formation introduced by Ange Postecoglou ahead of the 2012-13 campaign.

Kevin Muscat chose to stick with the plans put in place by his predecessor and mentor and pressed on without a traditional centre-forward. The mid-season announcement of Berisha's impending arrival was effectively an acknowledgement that the experiment had failed.

A 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 have been the formations of choice in recent years, and we're set to see one or both put into practice at the navy blue and whites next season.

The failings and limitations of 4-2-4 were plain for all to see as an admittedly exhausted team struggled to take the game to Brisbane Roar in a 1-0 semi-final defeat at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday evening.

During the visitors' best spell of the match in the first 25 minutes, the system functioned as they pinned the Roar back in their defensive third and attempted to play their way through the home team's backline.

But when fatigue inevitably set in, Muscat's team proved unable to wrest back control of the game.

Playing with only two dedicated central midfielders usually leaves Victory outnumbered by their opponents in the middle.

Mark Milligan has been exceptional in 2013-14, but with such emphasis placed on the performance of the two holders, Leigh Broxham - a hard-working and much-improved player - hasn't quite covered the loss of the underrated Billy Celeski, who possessed an impressive passing range.

Up against the energetic Liam Miller and Matt McKay, with Luke Brattan screening the back four and Thomas Broich also providing a menace from wide left, Milligan and Broxham found themselves cut off from their four attacking colleagues.

That prompted James Troisi and Guilherme Finkler to come deep in search of the ball, on occasion simultaneously, leaving Victory without an outlet at centre-forward.

After that early spell of healthy possession, it wasn't until the away team summoned hidden reserves of energy in the final minutes of the game that they were able to consistently trouble the Roar, and that may have had more to do with the hosts' understandable nerves than any strategic or tactical factors.

As the highly paid international marquee striker, you can be certain the team will be structured to maximise Berisha's goal-scoring prowess next term. It remains to be seen who will supply him. Troisi and Tom Rogic's loan deals are set to expire, while Finkler and Archie Thompson are yet to sign new contracts.

Regardless of which personnel the new system consists of, reinforcing midfield is crucial for Victory to exercise more consistent control of matches. Unfortunately, Jimmy Jeggo, having announced himself as a force to be reckoned with during the AFC Champions League, is reportedly set to leave the club. And will Victory be able to ward off renewed interest in Milligan if the captain shines for the Socceroos in Brazil?

Would Billy Celeski be open to returning from the club after swapping Al-Shaab for Liaoning Whowin in February? Can Rashid Mahazi blossom into a top-quality midfielders? Those issues and others like them must be addressed by Victory's coaching staff as they prepare for a busy off-season of recruitment, while also getting ready to implement a tactical transformation on the training field.

Whether or not the changes are enough to capture the silverware the club and their supporters crave is a question only the 2014-15 season can answer.

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