Analysis: flexibility a hallmark of van Marwijk’s playing style

Now that Bert van Marwijk is confirmed as the man to lead the Caltex Socceroos to the FIFA World Cup, one of the burning questions has been just what kind of playing style he’ll implement.

Will he stick with the ultra-positive, all-action, 3-4-3 system his predecessor Ange Postecoglou favoured, especially towards the end of his rein, or will he change things up?

Looking at how past van Marwijk teams have played, the Dutchman has preferred a 4-2-3-1 (4-3-3) formation, with two holding midfielders.

It’s the same system the Caltex Socceroos used so successfully to win the 2015 AFC Asian Cup on home soil.

It remains to be seen if van Marwijk will go with his preferred system, especially considering he’ll have just a handful of games with the squad before the opening FIFA World Cup group game against France.

The upcoming friendlies against Norway and Colombia in March will be telling.

Van Marwijk will get more than a week in camp with the players, crucial time to impart his ideas, style and philosophy.

The 65-year-old has a wealth of experience and is regarded as an excellent man-manager.

And one thing we do know from van Marwijk’s time in charge of national teams is he can be quite flexible in his approach.

With the Netherlands – who he took all the way to the 2010 FIFA World Cup final – his side liked to press high and mostly took the game to the opposition.

Bert van Marwijk

They liked to control possession and build from the back, which often saw them controlling the tempo of a match.

With a squad full of technically gifted, creative players, the Dutch also showed a willingness to get the ball to their attackers quickly.

That was in contrast to the way his Saudi Arabia side played during the recent AFC qualifiers.

The Saudis often sat a bit deeper, especially in away matches, using the speed of their frontman to his opposition teams in transition.

It was no means a defensive style, with their creative players often trying to get in between the lines to cause defences problems, while the fullbacks got forward and provided the width in attack.

So there’s no sure way to know what the new boss will do with the Caltex Socceroos, making them an unpredictable proposition for France, Denmark and Peru to deal with in Russia.

But you can be sure he’ll have them well prepared, supremely fit and tactically astute for whatever challenge is thrown at them.