Life under Marco – how is Melbourne Victory changing under Kurz?
The maelstrom of change at Melbourne Victory in the off-season meant it was always going to take time for Marco Kurz’s imprint to take effect at the club.
While it has been a rollercoaster start to the German’s reign, his previous two-year stint at Adelaide United is proof Kurz is a manager who can handle the Victory hot-seat.
At a club that demands success, time is not always afforded to the man at the helm but Kurz’s call for patience seems justified.
It’s certainly a belief of the Victory playing group, who have been effusive in their praise of the experienced mentor.
Attacker Robbie Kruse rates Kurz’s tactical nous as ‘second-to-none’ in the Hyundai A-League, while defender Storm Roux says the squad are all buying in to his philosophy.
This is very much a new era for the Navy Blue, which for the first time in the club’s existence doesn’t have the influence of Kevin Muscat.
Muscat had given the four-time Hyundai A-League champions almost 15 years of service, first as a title-winning captain, then as assistant coach, and finally during a six-year reign as the club’s head coach which was brought to a poignant, mutual conclusion in May.
His departure signalled the end of an era in Victoria, a moment chairman Anthony Di Pietro hailed an ‘opportunity to reset’.
After a lengthy recruitment process, it was announced in late June that Kurz would replace Muscat following his exit from Adelaide United.
As goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas tells a-league.com.au, the fledgling weeks under the former Kaiserslautern, Hoffenheim, Ingolstadt and Fortuna Düsseldorf taskmaster resulted in ‘change in every way’.
Victory are transforming under the 50-year-old born in Stuttgart. Here’s how.
'Great human being, very good coach'
When asked about their new boss, the first thing Victory players are so keen to express about Kurz is that he is a very calm and warm guy - contrary to what images of the German red-faced and furious, bellowing instructions from the technical area at Coopers Stadium, may have otherwise suggested.
Kurz says that he is firstly a team player and is always receptive to working with players to find balanced decisions about what happens on the pitch, and the style he is trying to implement.
It is why it did not take him long to earn the immediate respect of his Victory players.
“First of all, there is a human being and there is a coach. I believe he is a great human being and a very good coach,” said Adama Traore, who re-signed for Victory in September and spoke of Kurz’s eagerness to play with attacking full-backs.
“That helps a lot. He has those two things, and this is good for the players as well, to feel like the coach is there for you guys. When he has to say something on the pitch, he's not afraid to say it.”
“He has very high standards and demands something from his players,” said Victory’s new Danish signing, Jakob Poulsen. “But outside of the pitch he is very friendly.”
'Tactically, second to none'
Kurz is honest, approachable and relaxed about receiving input and feedback from his players.
But when the time comes to implementing this on the training pitch, he is a ruthless, intense operator.
The new boss leaves no stone unturned when it comes to game-day preparation, with emphasis on video analysis high. He is also a coach who favours tinkering his approach based on the opposition.
“Going against every team, he's got a certain plan that you have stick by because if you stick by it, it will work,” said Storm Roux.
“He likes to make sure everything’s perfect and it has to be when going into the games. Playing against his Adelaide team they always seemed to know what they had to do, when they had to do it. I think he’s brought that here and all the boys are buying in.”
“Tactically, he’ll leave no stone unturned. He and his assistants are right on top of video analysis,” adds Robbie Kruse.
“I think he’s second to none here tactically. He’s also a really good guy, and you get found out if you’re not.”
Kruse, who spent eight years in Kurz’s homeland, believes the Victory boss has had to adapt his coaching style since arriving in Australia with the Reds back 2017.
“Germans are quite methodical in their approach to things. It's usually their way, or no way," says Kruse.
“Marco had maybe adjusted to the way of life in Australia, particularly in how we're quite big on sports science, and strength and conditioning.
“He's adjusted his part in that. He's a coach who is really big on fundamentals and having the team together.”
'Big changes mean you need time'
Kurz has been in the Victory hot-seat for almost five months now, and the club currently sit eighth on the Hyundai A-League ladder with just a single win to their name after six rounds.
For a club whose pursuit of success has been so relentless, it has been an indifferent start to say the least from the German’s side.
But the coach is preaching patience. Victory’s volume of turnover in the off-season was among the highest of the 11 Hyundai A-League clubs, and as Kurz himself has said multiple times, many of his signings arrived a matter of weeks before the eve of the new season.
It meant the tactical preparations, and ‘automatisms’ he is so meticulous about implementing, had to be restarted to ensure all of his squad – from veterans like Leigh Broxham, to new signings like Andrew Nabbout and promoted youth team starlets like Anthony Lesiotis – were all rallying under the same banner.
“After the last season the club made the decision to change a lot,” Kurz said.
“Big changes mean you need time.”
Victory are a club trying to focus on the big picture, but the immediate reality is that this Saturday evening’s clash with Adelaide is one that fans will demand and expect nothing more than three points.
Win it and the Navy Blue move one point behind the FFA Cup 2019 winners who are starting to turn heads after winning three matches in a row.
Lose and Victory could potentially end Round 7 in 10th position on five points.
“It will be a special one, it's clear. Adelaide gave me the chance to be a coach in Australia.
“They gave me the chance to perform in Australia and I had a fantastic two years there," Kurz said.
“But Adelaide is the past. Victory is the future.”