The Richard Garcia story: What went wrong at Perth Glory and where to now
Perth Glory FC was expected to turn their season around once they returned home. But in four games back, they have failed to grab a single victory. Instead, they reached a new low in a 4-1 defeat to Brisbane on Saturday night that has seen Richard Garcia pay the ultimate price.
Following nine losses, two stints in COVID isolation, and half a season playing on the east coast, the Perth hierarchy have relieved Garcia of his duties.
Fans of other clubs may see this decision as harsh given what the side has had to endure this season. But the decision has proven popular with the Glory faithful. Nonetheless, COVID outbreaks, isolation, and eleven consecutive away games have hindered any possibility of Perth gaining momentum this season.
Richard Garcia fell short of expectations in his time as Head Coach of Perth Glory. (KeepUp)
These factors don't take into account how injuries have affected the side. Star duo Brad Jones and Daniel Sturridge have had their injury woes this season, only mustering up five appearances each. Club captain Brandon O’Neill now faces a stint on the sidelines after missing part of the early stage of the season for the birth of his child. One of Perth’s most promising young players, Luke Bodnar, has also been sorely missed.
But alas, the decision has been made to terminate Garcia's contract. Looking at the factors of Perth's performances he is responsible for, it is understandable that the Glory board has decided to act.
The most significant factor holding them back in 2021/22 has been the lack of creativity and imagination in the final third. Perth sits 12th for goals per game (0.8), shots on target per match (3.9), big chances created (13), and xG (18).
It’s grim reading for Glory fans, but it should not come as a surprise.
Anyone who has watched the Glory this season would notice a clear overreliance on Bruno Fornaroli as their primary playmaker and outlet in attack. The fact he’s managed seven goals this season in a team with such little statistical creativity is a testament to his ability. However, given that so much of the attacking responsibility has been heaped on his shoulders is cause for concern.
Bruno Fornaroli has been the key figure in attack for Perth Glory this season. (Perth Glory)
Garcia also came under fire for his team selection in the back end of his tenure. Fans made their opinions clear over the lack of minutes given to rising star Daniel Stynes.
Stynes only started in six of his fifteen appearances, despite being the only other member of the Glory squad who has scored on more than one occasion this season. He has proven to be a bright spark every time he has played. Garcia’s refusal to give him a starting chance was undoubtedly part of his undoing.
Along with selection, how Garcia used some players raised question marks over his tactical plan. He struggled to get Andy Keogh and Fornaroli to form a dangerous strike partnership, which resulted in Keogh becoming a mere support act in the Fornaroli show.
Keogh was often forced to play as a second striker and even dropped into midfield to allow Fornaroli the space he needed to operate. Former Glory manager Kenny Lowe recently stated that Keogh is an “out and out number 9". Perhaps Garcia should have shared this sentiment and played the duo in a traditional strike partnership. It might have allowed Keogh to take some of the attacking responsibility off Fornaroli, possibly allowing both to flourish.
The players that have got their chance have struggled to capitalise on the opportunity. In particular, the new signings; the only player brought in this season who has lived up to expectations is Antonee Burke-Gilroy.
Adrián Sardinero and Mitch Oxborrow have arguably been the most disappointing. The other players brought in have struggled for fitness, or their form is too inconsistent.
Star signing Daniel Sturridge has been hampered by recurring injuries and fitness issues. (ABC)
Moving forward, it looks as though Ruben Zadkovich will get the chance to prove he’s the person to turn things around in Perth.
Having already taken charge of their youth team, Zadkovich could help bring the best out of the younger squad members Giordano Colli and Adam Zimarino. They have already shown glimpses of their quality.
Despite this stint being his first chance as a head coach at an A-League Men level, Zadkovich has been involved in the coaching scene since he retired in 2016.
His first chance came as the head coach of Broadmeadow Magic in the NPL Northern NSW, where he oversaw a Grand Final win and FFA Cup run to the round of 16 in 2018.
As a footballer, Zadkovich was considered a leader on the pitch, and this factor could help him be successful in the hot seat.
Some quarters of Glory’s fan base have been calling for an experienced manager to come in, with Ernie Merrick and John Van’t Schip available. However, with both options looking out of reach for the club financially, Zadkovich may be their best option.
A season that started with so much promise for Perth Glory has turned sour. However, with the club back at home and a new man in charge that will hopefully bring fresh ideas, a spark could still help them turn their season around.
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