Perth Glory head coach Richard Garcia's off-season plunge into the transfer market had one key goal at its core: seek out top-shelf defensive talents and secure their signatures.
And now, with his side's first game of the 2020/21 campaign finally appearing on the horizon, the new Glory boss prepares to make his bow as an A-League coach with three superb defensive acquisitions at his disposal.
A lot has changed out West since Perth fell to a 2-0 defeat to Sydney FC in the 2019/20 Finals Series; former boss Tony Popovic departed the club along with former Football Director Jacob Burns and a raft of quality players to boot.
Up front Glory's attacking riches remained intact: Chris Ikonomidis returns this season after an extended injury lay-off to link up with Diego Castro, Bruno Fornaroli and Andy Keogh in what appears a formidable strike force on paper.
But as Perth's attack strengthened in the off-season their defensive talent pool evaporated with Gregory Wüthrich, Alex Grant, James Meredith, Jacob Tratt, Ivan Franjic and Tomislav Mrcela departing the club, creating a void of defensive quality Garcia was desperate to fill before the 2020/21 campaign began.
Garcia told the A-League website finding players of suitable calibre to replace the departed was no easy task in the current world climate, but the club's relentless ambition was ultimately rewarded with the signatures of three immense defensive talents.
"I think our forward line is pretty strong," Garcia said.
"We have guys that are older and younger in that area that can produce at A-League level, which is fantastic.
"In midfield also we had guys that can do a fantastic job - (both) senior players and youth players.
"But in that backline we needed a bit more experience, and guys that had played at the top level - hence why I went out and tried to seek those players.
"We were on the search, we continued to try and seek out players who were playing at a good level to see their interest in coming to Australia."
One of those players on Garcia's radar was German defender Sebastian Langkamp.
With nearly 200 Bundesliga appearances under his belt across stints with Karlsruher SC, FC Augsburg, Hertha Berlin and Werder Bremen, the 32-year-old centre-back brings a level of defensive assurance and experience not often seen in an A-League signing.
ABOVE: Gallery - Langkamp of Werder Bremen battles Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski in a Bundesliga fixture on June 16, 2020
"Sebastian was very interested in coming," Garcia said.
"Things stalled a little bit because of the situation in Europe with COVID.
"Eventually we got a deal over the line, it was great to be able to sign the likes of him, the same as (Kosuke) Ota and (Darryl) Lachman.
We’ve now got three experienced pros to come into the side and not only provide experience for the group but also help the young guys on their way.
Darryl Lachman was the first of the three defenders to sign for Garcia's side: at a similarly-imposing height of 189cm to that of Langkamp (191cm) Lachman also brings a wealth of experience in European football.
With almost 200 appearances in the Dutch Eredivisie at Groningen, PEC Zwolle and FC Twente, the Curaçao international and former Ajax youth player also enjoyed a spell at English Championship club Sheffield Wednesday.
With Lachman's signature secured Garcia then pursued and ultimately obtained the services of Japanese international Kosuke Ota, with almost 300 appearances in Japanese football spent between Shimizu S-Pulse, FC Tokyo and Nagoya Grampus and a two-season stint with Dutch side Vitesse to his name.
"(Ota has) a tonne of experience, and a tonne of experience at a great level," Garcia said.
"He’s a fantastic guy, he’s highly motivated.
"The Japanese market is something that I think is probably under-utilised, and for me his résumé and the person that he is suits well with what we have in plan for him.
"When you look at someone who is naturally left-footed as well, it gives a huge boost to the group."
Altogether Lachman, Langkamp and Ota bring a combined total of nearly 700 games of experience to Garcia's defensive unit.
Ota and Langkamp are yet to arrive in Perth due to the difficulties surrounding international travel, but Garcia expects all three of his defensive recruits to be raring to go in one month's time.
Once part of the squad, however, Garcia believes all three players will help mitigate the impact of losing quality players in the off season whilst providing his younger players valuable learning tools to improve and grow by training and playing alongside the experienced professionals.
"We’re desperate to get these guys in," he said.
"They’re still going to have to serve quarantine and probably still get a block of training under their belts before they’re available.
"But the process is underway, we’re hoping that in a month's time they’ll be available to come and play and be a big part of the group.
"It was very important for us to bring in guys of that calibre to be able to replace what we had, and also to improve our defensive side of our game.
"It’s been great to get them on board, we’re just excited at the opportunity to get the whole group together in the coming months."
Glory get their A-League campaign underway on Wednesday, January 20 against Adelaide United at HBF Park.
The Matchweek 4 fixture will finally see Perth enter the 2020/21 A-League campaign, and Garcia says his side approach the game with an insatiable appetite to get off to a flying start and soar up the table.
"Everyone I think is slightly frustrated, slightly annoyed that we aren’t able to start the league at the same time," Garcia said.
"But at the same time, the boys are very hungry to start the season, and very eager to get the season underway.
We’re fully prepared and ready to go.
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