Season Preview: Glory begin new era post-Popovic
With the new A-League season right around the corner, Front Page Football will be breaking down each club's chances and what we can expect from them in 2020-21.
Today we look at Perth Glory.
How did they fare last season?
Despite winning the minor premiership and hosting the Grand Final in 2018-19, the Glory only scraped into a finals spot last season.
They finished just a point ahead of Adelaide United in seventh.
Although they were still one of the highest-scoring sides in the league, netting 43 goals, they were also uncharacteristically shaky defensively.
Tony Popovic's Glory side was well-known for making defensive solidity a strong foundation for success.
However, last season it unravelled, as shown by some heavy defeats.
Losses post-lockdown such as a 5-3 defeat against Adelaide, and a 4-0 loss to an awful Melbourne Victory side underlined this defensive fragility.
Popovic left for Greek side Xanthi in August.
However, given their dramatic decline last season, Perth's hierarchy may have questioned whether he was still the right man for the job anyway.
Ex-Socceroo Richard Garcia has been appointed as his replacement, in his first season as an A-League manager.
What is expected of them this season?
Perth has missed out on finals football just three times since the 2010-11 A-League season.
Chairman Tony Sage will want the club to continue to make finals football each season, and Garcia should target a top-two or top-four finish.
Ex-player Richard Garcia will be in charge of Perth this season. (Getty Images)
They can also aim high because they have kept most of their more important players.
There was lots of controversy surrounding Diego Castro's future last season, particularly after the Spaniard decided to not feature post-lockdown due to coronavirus fears.
However, the playmaker still seems to be committed to the club and should return to regular action this season.
Bruno Fornaroli has also stayed at the club, despite reports the Victory were keen on his services.
The Glory even brought back Irishman Andy Keogh for a third stint at the club.
Having a core group of experienced players will only help the inexperienced Garcia, who will expect them to lead from the front as he implements his coaching philosophy.
Players to watch?
Castro has always been the player to watch for the Glory in recent years, and their fans will be hoping he can slot straight back into the side following his time away.
Keogh has a prolific record for Perth, scoring 60 times in 128 appearances across two spells.
Andy Keogh returns for a third spell with the club. (Getty Images)
Expect him to be amongst the goals again this time around, and re-establish the dangerous partnership that he had with Castro in the past.
Neil Kilkenny transformed his game under Popovic, and he is now far more than just a combative midfielder.
The 35-year-old can control the tempo of matches, whilst also picking the right moment to play an incisive final pass.
New signing Darryl Lachman has a wealth of experience playing in the Netherlands and England.
He should be a suitable replacement for Swiss defender Gregory Wüthrich.
Any youngsters coming through?
Nicholas D'Agostino began to develop under Popovic before lockdown struck, and played a pivotal role in the Olyroos qualifying for the Olympic Games.
D'Agostino scored the goal that qualified the Olyroos for the Olympics. (AAP)
The 22-year-old is lightning quick and has a hunger to win the ball back most youngsters rarely have.
21-year-old winger Carlo Armiento joined the Glory this season after being released by Adelaide.
The ex-Adelaide City youngster has already shown his exciting potential in the Asian Champions League, scoring an excellent free-kick against Shanghai Shenhua recently.
And how's the manager?
As previously mentioned, this is Garcia's first ever spell in the managerial hot seat of an A-League club.
He joins a host of other Australian coaches beginning their first jobs in the league.
Garcia's predicament is very similar to Patrick Kisnorbo at Melbourne City or Grant Brebner at the Melbourne Victory, where he must prioritise results despite lacking experience.
One advantage he shares with Kisnorbo and Brebner is his prior experience coaching at the club.
In recent years Garcia has worked as an assistant coach to the first team, and as the youth team's head coach.
This factor is crucial for success because the manager knows what is acceptable, meaning he will understand what objectives he should set for his squad.
In Perth's case, the bar could be set relatively high in terms of what is acceptable.
Garcia may need to use a ruthless approach with his man-management.
He cannot afford to keep giving chances to players who do not reward his trust and produce consistently.