Melbourne Victory coach Ange Postecoglou says he won't be making any drastic changes to the team's approach in order to deal with Emile Heskey in Newcastle on Friday night.
Postecoglou says Victory's best chance to get a result on the road against the Jets will be to continue with the formula that brought it its first win of the season against previously unbeaten Adelaide United last Friday.
And that means working hard defensively, in all positions, to put everyone in the Newcastle side – not just star English striker Heskey – under as much pressure as possible.
Postecoglou said the big mistake Victory made in its losses to Melbourne Heart and Brisbane Roar in the first two rounds of the A-League was to concentrate too much on what it had to do when it had possession – at the expense of its defensive work.
It didn’t work hard enough without the ball, which meant that when it did gain possession it was too often in pressure situations.
“Our approach doesn’t really change this week,” Postecoglou said. “We know what we have to do collectively, and how well we are able to deal with Newcastle is going to come down to how well we play our own game.”
Postecoglou said Victory has to ensure that when the Jets are playing the ball towards the front third of the field it doesn't allow an easy path through to Heskey or any of the other Newcastle players up front.
“It’s not just about having a plan when you get the ball,” he said. “It’s about playing the game in equal measures – defensively and in attack.
“We’re actually closer to adjusting to the style we want to play than we’ve shown so far. We played some good football in the first two rounds, but we weren’t as resilient in defence as we needed to be.
“The competitiveness in defence was there last week, though. We were much more solid, and we won a lot more of the individual battles on the field. The intensity was what it needed to be, and we worked really hard.
“We’re still a work in progress, of course. It’s still very early in the season. But the players are coming to understand what we have to do before we can play the way we want to play when we have the ball.
“Against Adelaide, we simply had to be resilient against a team that had not conceded a goal in the first two rounds, and we responded really well all over the field. We’re focused on playing a certain way in possession, but when we don’t have the ball we have to play a certain way as well.
“The players bought into what we’re trying to do from the start, and the win over Adelaide has increased their belief in it. Players are like everyone else, they need to see some rewards for their hard work, and that win has encouraged them.
“They believe that, if they keep working hard, they can be successful.”
Postecoglou said he has a lot of respect for the Jets, who have won two in a row after losing in the first round.
“They have started the season very well and got a couple of good results,” he said. “Heskey came in pretty late, but he has scored a couple of goals already. Newcastle in Newcastle is always a difficult trip. The pitch isn’t always the greatest, which can make it a battle.”
Postecoglou says he has moved on from the strange lead-up to Victory's round-two game against his old club, Brisbane Roar, when some surprisingly negative comments came out of Roar about how big Postecoglou’s contribution was to its consecutive Championships.
“I was bemused by the whole thing,” he said.”But I don’t care to try to figure it out. I moved on once the game was over – we’ve got more important things to concentrate on.”
The A-League will make its LIVE free-to-air TV debut next season with the blockbuster clash between Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets on Friday 11 October on SBS 2.