Perth Glory has hit a fantastic run of form in recent weeks, going unbeaten in four matches and picking up three wins along the way.
Their most recent result, a 3-1 win over Melbourne Victory, saw the introduction of star signing Adam Taggart, who scored a brace to secure the three points late on.
The striker has made the move to Perth from Japanese first-division side Cerezo Osaka.
Taggart, who is 29, brings more than experience and pedigree in his 17 Socceroos caps, as well as his two goals on debut – he could be the key technical profile to improve Glory substantially from a tactical and possession-based point of view.
Taggart is vastly comfortably operating as a target man or false nine, where he uses good hold-up play to keep the ball centrally and release in between the lines.
He uses his body well to manipulate defenders into diving in before rolling them, while also offering good technical quality to keep possession – this all goes beyond his predatory instinct in the box.
To understand the possible importance of Taggart to Perth and the improvements his profile could have on the team, it’s important to move back to the game that helped begin this unbeaten run.
Their win over Brisbane demonstrated two different structures in that Taggart could operate.
They began in a 3-1-6, with the back 3 connecting with Bodnar, as a lone pivot, and Ryan Williams and Jack Clisby, as the two wingbacks.
Keegan Jelacic and Mustafa Amini rotated as floating tens in the left and right halfspace respectively, with Adam Zimarino and Luke Ivanovic making up the front two.
Bodnar did well to keep the ball speed high to find the wide central defender and play through Brisbane’s press.
However, neither Mark Beevers nor Jonathan Aspropotamitis was particularly adventurous in attacking the space gained by Bodnar’s quick play, and the narrow front four struggled to find space in between the lines.
As a result, they struggled to progress the ball up the field and move into the final third, which led to an inability to create chances.
This was something that continued when Brisbane was reduced to 10 players.
By this point, Perth had moved to a 3-2 structure, which was a change made midway through the first half.
Amini joined Bodnar to create a double pivot in the midfield line, which helped increase ball speed and furthered the ability of Perth to find the spare man in build-up.
But once again, the lack of progression and penetration once finding the space was worrying, as delayed time on the ball allowed Brisbane to regroup in their structure to block forward passes into central spaces.
However, in a way, Zadkovic has an indirect solution to the problem with their progression in the form of new signing Adam Taggart.
While more enterprise is necessary from Perth’s wider central defenders (something that could be improved by the signing of Jordan Elsey), Taggart’s movement and ability to receive in between the lines could aid Glory’s progression and lead to more fluid, and most importantly consistent movement into the final third.
While able to operate as a central striker or in a front two, Taggart could be more productive in the latter, if Glory chooses to move back to a 3-1-6 build-up shape.
Taggart could operate in one of the front two positions, and rotate to create different structures in possession.
For example, he could drop into the centre of the midfield line, with Luke Ivanovic using his pace and directness to occupy and stretch the last line.
Taggart could join Amini and Jelacic to create an overload in between the lines in midfield, in what would become a 3-1-5-1 shape, or a 3-1-3-3, depending on the verticality of the wingbacks in response to their ability to receive the ball based on the opponent’s defensive structure.
This could be one of the multiple progression structures that Perth could operate in, with rotations meaning he could take up a central position, but also move to the inside left or right with the other moving centrally.
Furthermore, to help progress the ball, one of Amini or Jelacic can drop in alongside Bodnar to create a 3-2-5 shape, which can rotate to pull midfielders out.
From here, Amini or Jelacic can either receive the ball in space if the defenders hold their position, or their movement can free up space in between the lines for Taggart and the remaining high midfielder to pick up the ball.
Taggart could play an important role in rolling between these two different structures to help progress the ball, and it could free up Jelacic to carry the ball from deeper areas and Amini to play long-range passes with time and space, or allow for more direct attacks through quick combination play.
This structure, however, would see Ryan Williams be dropped.
To keep him in the side, he could instead play an unfamiliar role stretching the line to replace Ivanovic, or rotate in with Taggart depending on the situation.
In addition, as part of improving the team’s ability to progress the ball, Taggart could have a direct impact on improving the performances of players like Jelacic, who has broken out as a young star in the Perth side following the World Cup break.
Jelacic frequently offers and looks for the ball in between the lines, but is rarely found to show his quality and close control in central, more effective positions.
Having Taggart’s technical quality and movement would see Perth able to progress through the centre in more effective areas, which will benefit the team but also Jelacic, as a young midfielder who needs experience receiving the ball under pressure in pockets of space to add to his clear technical quality.
Jelacic could flourish when playing with Taggart, and practising scanning, anticipation and learning to interpret different situations when being pressed will be traits that could allow him to succeed overseas in the future.
As well as improving their progression from build-up, Taggart could also have a major influence on the creation of chances for Glory in the final third.
Currently, too many of their chances stem from low percentage crosses, which in turn leads to a heavy reliance on wingbacks Jack Clisby and Ryan Williams to deliver.
This is due to Perth’s inability to play through the centre with quick interchanging passes, something which could open up due to Taggart’s arrival.
It’s not just on Taggart, but his technical quality could fill others with confidence, and result in a more diverse, flowing Perth in their ability to create chances, with interchanges around the box in central and halfspaces making them a more challenging side to defend.
This, as a result, will also give Williams (or the returning the ability to engage defenders in a 1v1 and for Clisby to measure crosses on a more frequent basis, as a stronger centre in attack can see the ball circulate quicker into wide areas, while also narrow the defensive line as they respond to the threat posed from the likes of Taggart, Jelacic and Amini.
However, there is a chance that the signing of Taggart has little impact on the progression and final third play of Perth.
There is only so much one player can do, and it also depends on whether Glory looks to make the most of his strengths, as well as how his teammates adapt around him.
He’s not the saviour or the answer for Perth’s problems in progressing the ball forwards and creating chances, but if utilised correctly in conjunction with an adaption and diversification of tactics, could lead a strong campaign for a finals position for the Glory.