On Wednesday morning, news broke that Marco Kurz’s 199-day tenure as head coach of Melbourne Victory was at its end.
Just a week after the hammer blow to Ernie Merrick’s tenure in Newcastle, Victory’s stoppage-time collapse on Sunday evening served as the straw that broke the camel’s back on the German’s time at AAMI Park.
Meeting on Monday in the wake of that defeat, the Victory board made the call to part ways with the gaffer and delivered the coup de grace that evening.
Kurz, alongside assistant coach and long-time collaborator Filip Tapalovic, will depart the club immediately, with assistant Carlos Salvachua – a holdover from the Kevin Muscat days – set to take over for as interim boss.
Ending just before he was set to lead Victory against his former side Adelaide United on Friday night, Kurz’s tenure with the four-time A-League champions ends after just 14 competitive games in charge. He won four, drew three and lost six games in the A-League and exited the FFA Cup against Newcastle Jets in the Round of 32.
Kurz’s time with Victory has been uninspiring and left many Victory fans wanting more, but he has his defenders who point to circumstances at the club that may have meant he never had a chance to succeed.
His tenure, it seems, existed in a grey zone where performances weren’t enough to justify his remaining in charge of Australia’s biggest club, while simultaneously, factors outside his control could be spun into justifying giving him more time.
With the benefit of hindsight, this theme of duelling narratives began almost as soon as Kurz was announced as the seventh coach in Victory’s history during the 2019 offseason.
The German carried with him the magical label of ‘proven A-League performer’ after guiding a defensively sound Adelaide United to the 2019/20 semi-finals and success in the 2019 FFA Cup. It was declared that his tactical acumen would rise to match the increased resourcing in Melbourne.
But naysayers pointed to how his teams in South Australia were utterly predictable in attack, with a lack of penetrative play outside moments of transition, dictating a frustratingly predictable reliance on crosses into the area.
A leopard, they argued, couldn’t change his spots.
An early exit from the FFA Cup was disappointing, but the loss occurred largely before the squad’s major signings had been made. Opening A-League results and performances were well below standard, but he was still integrating his foreign signings and getting his feet under the table.
Foreign players brought in during the offseason – Kristijan Dobras, Jakob Paulson and Migjen Basha – were all failing to have the type of impact foreign players need to have for a club to succeed, but to just what extent Kurz had been involved in their recruitment remained in doubt.
A wave of injuries to key performers such as Robbie Kruse, Andrew Nabbout, Tim Hoogland and, most recently, Ola Toivonen wasn’t allowing him a full deck but, conversely, to what extent was the German’s (in)famous training practices to blame for these injuries?
And though there had been some bright spots in recent months – the 4-0 drubbing of Newcastle the most recent example – how much of that was on Kurz and how much of that could be attributed to the individual brilliance of players like Kruse?
The club currently sits inside the top-six – but only because of the mediocrity of the teams around them,
Ultimately, it appears that Melbourne Victory’s board came to the determination that club such as theirs – where premierships and championships are an expectation and not an aspiration – couldn’t afford to exist in the grey zone.
With cross-town foes Melbourne City and Western United both looking capable of playing finals football, the board decided that a move was needed to cut through the noise and try to reinvigorate the club’s season.
In such circumstances, it’s always the coach who is first in the firing line – a point that a Kurz himself observed many times as the pressure mounted – and as the third-quickest sacking in A-League history it can’t be argued that it’s not a decisive decision.
But now, with either the dead weight or the fall guy – depending on your point of view – exiting stage left, the focus will now shift squarely onto Football Operations Manager Paul Trimboli, CEO Trent Jacobs and Chairman Anthony Di Pietro.
They made the decisive decision to part ways with Kurz.
If the move fails to pay dividends, there is no one left to shield them from scrutiny.