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Gareth Morgan on the attack with Herbert

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 14/12/2012
Gareth Morgan
CLAWS OUT: Gareth Morgan wants action.

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So Wellington Phoenix owner Gareth Morgan wants his team to start playing more attractive football.

Nothing controversial in that - so do the fans at Westpac Stadium who have sat through two dreary performances over the last fortnight.

But the confusing comments of Morgan and coach Ricki Herbert yesterday failed to paint a picture of how exactly that was going to be achieved.

Herbert said he was happy for high-profile economist/philanthropist Morgan to wade into football matters yesterday, saying it was "bright and positive news".

"It's great that Gareth has an opinion and [chairman] Rob [Morrison] does and we speak very openly about it," Herbert said.

Morgan believes an unattractive style of football is keeping the fans away from Westpac Stadium.

He and the rest of the club's owners should be commended for saving the Phoenix after Terry Serepisos ran out of cash but, despite his good intentions, Morgan was off the pace during yesterday's interview with Radio Sport.

Morgan claimed Herbert's switch from a 4-4-2 formation to 4-3-3 during this season was part of a move towards "total football".

No offence to Manny Muscat, Vince Lia and Alex Smith, who are all good players, but that midfield trio wasn't what Johan Cruyff and co envisaged when they developed the revolutionary football philosophy.

Morgan said the Phoenix's "very defensive" style was good enough to consistently qualify for the finals but "it's not the most fantastic style of football to watch, so we do want to change that."

He said the owners "wouldn't accept" a continuation of Herbert's conservative tactics and claimed "you're not going to win the A-League by being the best defensive team".

Most fans would argue conceding fewer goals than any other team is a good start and the dynamic between the coach and the owners is baffling.

Last year Herbert was handed a two-year contract extension as head coach, with a two-year option beyond that on "football-related matters".

Morrison, who said at the time that Herbert had "done a terrific job for the Phoenix", despite a losing record, has since confirmed that option will be taken up in either a head coach or director of football role.

Presumably that meant the Phoenix were happy with their man and the style of football he employed, but now?

"I think all the owners are a bit grumpy at the moment," Morgan said.

"The important thing is we want a style of football that the club is known for and we will essentially hire coaches that give us that style. So in other words the style of football will be determined by the club, not by the coach."

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So the Phoenix are committed to Herbert but now want him changing the largely predictable tactics he has utilised since 2007.

The idea is to have a solid defensive base, hit teams on the counter-attack and get plenty of balls into the box from wide areas.

It works when the likes of Paul Ifill are at their best, but opposition are becoming effective at shutting it down.

"We've played 4-3-3 for a long time now, that's taken us right through to those three finals series," Herbert said.

"We put 32,000 people in the stadium [for a finals game in 2010] so I kind of think there's been a reasonably good brand of football."

The sixth-placed Phoenix fly out today for Sunday's game against second-placed Adelaide United.

Spanish midfielder Dani Sanchez, not sighted this season, is part of a 16-man squad, while striker Jeremy Brockie will also fly despite tweaking his hamstring at training yesterday.

- The Dominion Post

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