The Kevin Muscat evolution: Melbourne Victory coach proving his adaptability

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The Victory boss looks to be taking his managerial career to the next level

It was only in February that Melbourne Victory looked to be in complete disarray under Kevin Muscat.

The club were in the midst of five games without a win with four of those being losses, and had slipped to fifth on the A-League table.

This was on the back of a seven-game winless streak to start the campaign.

Fans were starting to voice their discontent at the team during home games and social media chatter about change being needed at the club reached fever pitch.

Many supporters claimed that the team's style of play, which had been similar since Muscat took over from Ange Postecoglou in 2013, had become predictable and tiring to watch.

Victory chairman Anthony Di Pietro was scathing of the team's performance at February's Victory in Business luncheon: "I stand here with no excuses, it's not good enough."

What has transpired for Melbourne Victory since this tough period has proven how exceptional a manager Muscat is - a fact the club has never doubted.

The first key factor was the decision by Di Pietro and the board to back Muscat to the hilt despite the rocky times - awarding him a new two-year contract.

With the squad relatively thin due to the departures of Mark Milligan and Jason Geria, Muscat recognised the only way to unlikely success was a stodgy, defensive brand of football mixed with the strong mentality of the squad.

In their three matches prior to their A-League grand final triumph against Newcastle, Victory won all three having been a goal behind before winning the game in the 87th minute or later.

One of those wins, in the semi-final against Sydney FC. was achieved in extra time despite being deflated by a last minute equaliser and with arguably the team's best three attacking players - Leroy George, Besart Berisha and James Troisi - already substituted.

Victory's championship was driven by Muscat's adaptability to the situation - something he has taken to a new level in 2018-19.

Having signed four new foreign players in Keisuke Honda, Ola Toivonen, Georg Niedermeier and Raul Baena, Muscat has found a system that appears to get the best out of his attacking players, produces highly attractive football but is also defensively solid.

The midfield diamond allows hard working midfielders Honda and Terry Antonis to push up and down the field on the right and left respectively while Carl Valeri or Baena sit deep screening the defence.

With the full backs Storm Roux and Corey Brown providing the majority of the width, the number 10, usually Troisi, is given a free reign to roam while the two strikers in Toivonen and Kosta Barbarouses can sit high to occupy the centre halves and make runs in behind.

It's a system that has limited Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers to few attacking opportunities in the past two matches, but has also been highly potent going forward.

Whether Victory can maintain the lofty standard of performance in the 4-0 win over the Wanderers remains to be seen, but the signs are certainly positive for Muscat and co.

The Victory coach only has one further season left on his contract and has expressed his desire to further his career either overseas or with the national team.

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And the club's fans should enjoy Muscat while they can because it's extremely doubtful he will be manager at the end of next campaign.

 

 

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