AFC Cup, A-League tactics and much more – Jacko makes guest appearance on Box2Box Podcast

Central Coast Mariners Football Manager Mark Jackson was a special guest on Box2Box Football Podcast this week, discussing our AFC Cup campaign, some of his A-League tactical observations and much more.

๐ŸŒ AFC Cup

With a goalless draw in the second leg Odisha last week, the Mariners advanced to an Inter-Zonal Final meeting with Abdysh Ata-Kant, of Kyrgyzstan, who they will meet over two legs for a place in the ultimate Final of the AFC Cup.

READ MORE: First leg win enough as goalless draw sees Mariners through

“It was a real difficult tie all in all, I know people might look at the tie and see we were 4-0 up [after the first leg] but at the time, [Odisha] were top of the Indian Super League.” Jackson said.

“To get the home result against a team doing so well in their domestic league, then go to India off the back of the Macarthur game on the Sunday, dealing with the travel and weather, for us to put in the performance that we did, limiting them to zero shots, was a tremendous effort from the players and also the staff. It was a massive, massive team effort and the players did fantastic.”

After a playing career of over 20 years, followed by the start of his coaching and managerial journey based solely in England, Jackson was asked how he was finding the travel and experiences that the AFC Cup has brought this season.

“It’s fantastic,” he said. “For me as a manager, I am loving the experience we are getting. Everyone talks about coping with the travel and schedule but it’s just positive for me as a coach. My staff are the same, they are loving it and the players are embracing it.”

“Players like to play football games. We have a group who have a fantastic attitude to training but players want to play so the more games the better.”

We have staff recovering players, staff navigating travel, to make it as smooth as possible so when you have all them working in unison, you have a recipe for success. We feel like we have that at the minute but we know we have a long way to go.

Upon arriving back from India, the Mariners have 12 days without a game to prepare for the next challenge against Sydney FC, before another relentless run of fixtures kicks in. The Mariners face Sydney, Wellington and Melbourne City in the space of eight days in the Isuzu UTE A-League, before a trip to Western and then to Kyrgyzstan the following week.

“We know it’s going to be a tough leg when we travel away again but we have dealt with it before so we will ensure we are fully prepared. We will go out with everything and hopefully we can progress again.” Jackson said.

๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Josh Nisbet

Just like any Mariners fan right now, Jacko can’t go anywhere without being asked about Josh Nisbet. Our midfield maestro has been a shining light so far this season, with his form being rewarded by a ‘dream’ Socceroos call-up from Graham Arnold. Here’s what our Football Manager had to say about our number four’s ‘dream come true’ moment.

“First and foremost, he is a hungry young man who wants to better himself, learn and play well. When you’ve got that willingness to take on information, you have a recipe for success. Given the talent and physical capabilities he’s got, plus tactical understanding, he can play any position.” Jackson said.

“He’s shining in the positions and system we’ve put him in but it’s all down to him, his attitude to learn and embrace things, embrace the change when Monty and Serge left, because there was a lot of doubt in peoples minds, but he’s embraced what we want to achieve.”

“For him to get the call-up is testament to his hard work and dedication not just this season but over his time as a footballer at the Central Coast Mariners, we are really delighted for him as a club. The staff and his teammates were made up for him when we announced it. It’s really pleasing.”

Jacko on Josh Nisbet’s Socceroos call-up.

๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ท Mikael Doka

Another player in the spotlight recently is Brazilian Mikael Doka. Jackson doesn’t like to single out individuals for praise, but when asked specifically about Doka’s recent form, he said:

“We always knew Mikael was a great player, when people come across [to Australia] it takes time to settle, I’ve experienced that myself as a manager, moving to a different country and type of football. Settling into a new environment, I think it just took him a little bit of time. We could see that potential in him.” Jacko said.

“We’re blessed to have two fantastic, high quality, right backs performing, so we thought about moving [Doka] forward. Storm [Roux] and Doka have been a great partnership on the right hand side.”

Without singling anyone out, individuals are benefitting from the environment and performance of the team as a whole. Everybody is thriving and the team’s performance is allowing individuals to shine, [Doka] is jut one of a number of players to be performing at a really high level of late.

๐Ÿง  A-League tactics

Jackson is understandably one of the most talked about coaches in the League right now. The Mariners are still in with a chance of winning a treble, whilst Jacko has personally claimed the January and February Isuzu UTE A-League Manager of the Month awards.

After a tough introduction to A-League life with a four-game losing streak at the start of the season, he has tasted defeat just once in the 23 games since, but what are some of the thoughts and principles behind that incredible run?

He gave Box2Box a rare and valuable insight into his workings, as well as his wider view on the A-League’s tactical trends.

“We’ve had some really intriguing challenges. In the modern game, managers and formations are evolving all the time.” Jackson said.

We look at different phases and have different structures in how we want to set up. That tactical adaptability is vital in the modern game.

“You see tactical battles between managers and teams, it’s not about physicality it’s about the shape of the team and how you deal with certain scenarios.”

“You look at the Wellington team [for example], how they adapt to certain situations, that’s needed in football.”

I think if you’re single minded and only play a certain way, you can get found out.

“Having the capability of changing and switching things up, not just game by game but within games, is vital. I’ve seen that a lot especially in the games against teams near the top, it keeps you on your toes you have to be prepared to adapt quickly.”

“I go back to this – we’re always aware of what the opposition do. We always try to predict what they are going to do but you also have to expect the unexpected and be able to think on your feet.”

“We talk not just about formations but about behaviours – winning individual battles and controlling space, creating time. That’s how we want to approach the game.”

“The league in general is getting more tactical in my view, We’re getting challenges every week and analysing teams is getting more and more difficult.”

You can listen to the full episode, with more from Jacko, here.