Melbourne Victory right to fire Marco Kurz, but should never have hired him
Derived from German, the word "angst" was introduced to the English language in the 19th century. In existentialist framing and consequent introduction to the English language, angst denotes fear or -- inherently relevant to Melbourne Victory under Marco Kurz -- an inner turmoil.
Even when things can appear to be in good health on the surface, that uncertainty and worry can linger. Over the course of 199 days, that angst manifested with Kurz and Melbourne Victory, leading to his dismissal as coach on Wednesday.
As much as Kurz's implementation had to do with Victory's generally poor performance over 14 A-League games, the compatibility of the hire was always a sticking point, relative to Victory's expectations and perception of self.
Because one always has to consider both individual and club in circumstances like these. Kurz's appointment is just as important as his and Filip Tapalovic's removal.
The 50-year-old moved to Melbourne and was hired as a known quantity -- contrary to narratives of a worldwide search -- after predecessor Kevin Muscat made it known he would not stay on.
"Coupled with his international and domestic experience, Marco demonstrated outstanding qualities throughout [the search process]," Victory chairman Anthony di Pietro said in the club's announcement of Kurz's hire.
"Importantly, his passion for success and desire to win is aligned with our club's ambition."
There is a certain merit to the idea Kurz be given more time as previously unavailable players integrate, but his dismissal is like ripping off the band-aid. Because, ultimately, injuries have been a constant. Word around Victory hinted dissatisfaction with Kurz's training methods from the very opening of pre-season.
Injuries to Andrew Nabbout, Robbie Kruse, Tim Hoogland, Ola Toivonen and Thomas Deng make long-term absences for Baba Diawara, Johan Absalonsen, Mirko Boland and Ben Halloran -- while Kurz was in charge of Adelaide United -- seem more like a pattern than mere coincidence.
The German coach's achievements with Adelaide United were ultimately satisfactory, but conditional. Winning the FFA Cup in 2019, the Reds pushed Victory and Perth Glory before eventual exits in respective A-League finals series. As noted in March last year, a Lawrence Thomas save with Adelaide 1-0 up at AAMI Park in the 2018 elimination final changes everything.
As highlighted then, too, the effectiveness of Kurz's teams was almost entirely dependent on whether his players had the majority of possession or not. This season with Victory, the tandem of Robbie Kruse and Ola Toivonen has only slightly negated an overall inertia on the ball.
That said, over time, Kevin Muscat's tenure with Victory was not dissimilar.
Their 2017-18 triumph in the A-League became known as the Heist in the Hunter for a reason. That win over Kurz's Adelaide was followed by two exhibitions in pragmatism against Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets, on the way to claiming the Toilet Seat.
The following season, then-Wellington Phioenix boss Mark Rudan seemingly wanted to come up against Victory and coached rings around Muscat in the elimination final -- only for Ola Toivonen's individual quality to capitalise in a transition scenario.
Yet, despite the alignment in desire and passion for success that Kurz shared with Victory, there was no such alignment to how the success was actually achieved and what has been demanded of the manager by both club and an expectant fan base.
From chairman Di Pietro, to Paul Trimboli's role as Football Operations Manager, to Kevin Muscat and the players as an extension of him, a misinterpretation of that reality festered. Di Pietro's rationale for the decision to fire Kurz, in Wednesday's press conference, were an unintended admittance of it.
"I don't want to talk about how a coach is coaching," he said. "But at Melbourne Victory, our members expect an entertaining brand of football and that's what will bring us the results that we want as well if we're playing football that's taking on our opposition."
It is impossible to talk about the inner turmoil that accompanied Kurz's tenure without bringing Muscat's time at Victory as player and coach into context. The latter was truly symbolic. In a negative way, his skill as a man manager allowed internal loyalty to be confused for collective wisdom.
Irrespective of similarities in tactical plan, Victory's success was built upon behavioural foundations, that came with the embedding of individuals. Muscat's departure was always going to leave a vacuum in this sense, and Kurz's hire was as conservative as the positioning of his central midfielders.
The angst that lingered, was misguided.
The idea Kurz's personality and tactical plan would seamlessly transfer to Melbourne Victory was frankly naïve. His hiring to begin with is an indictment on the club's decision makers, because their positions require them to be cognizant of such circumstances, before acting accordingly.