What the Socceroos will look like under Bert van Marwijk

A stronger emphasis on defence, flexible tactics and a lack of regard for reputation will be at the forefront of Bert van Marwijk's approach to the Socceroos according to the only Australian to have played under the Dutch coach.

Socceroos legend Brett Emerton spent three seasons with van Marwijk at Feyenoord in The Netherlands where he was given his first opportunity to play European football. Signed directly from Sydney Olympic to the Eredivisie club by van Marwijk, a 21-year-old Emerton was immediately injected into the first team upon his arrival and says the direct and succinct man-management of van Marwijk enabled him to adjust to the leap.

"He's got a good knack of making his players know what their role and responsibility is within the team," Emerton said. "He made it very clear what my role was on the football pitch and what was expected of me."

That clarity in his instructions is one of the strengths of van Marwijk, according to Emerton who says the Dutch coach has a gift of getting the most from players and balancing a squad with egos and big name players.

Van Marwijk is renowned in his homeland for a direct and, at times, blunt approach. With the Socceroos, that could mean a lack of patience for reputation when it comes to squad selection.

"I think he'll go more on form than reputation," Emerton said.

In terms of tactics, van Marwijk had one system he used in the Eredivisie while at Feyenoord but would make significant adjustments and changes whenever they played in Europe. A 4-3-3 formation was most common in the league but he would adapt to each opponent in the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Cup, which he won in 2002 with Feyenoord.

"Throughout my time there we played quite a few games in the Champions League and Europa League and we came up against unfamiliar opposition. He was quite versatile and able to adapt to different styles of football," Emerton said.

A 4-2-3-1 formation has been his most preferred in recent years but Emerton said van Marwijk is not dogmatic about one style and tailors tactics to circumstances.

"Knowing him, he's a manager who will take into account what players he has at his disposal and who can fill what particular role. He won't come here with a particular style of play that he wants to play from day one. He'll take a look at the players and see where he can go from there," Emerton said.

One of the reasons van Marwijk was Football Federation Australia's number one target to guide the Socceroos at the 2018 World Cup in Russia was his proven track record of achieving results instantly. A strong defence is his priority and once the backline is structured, only then will his attention turn towards playing attractive football.

"First of all, he makes his teams hard to beat. He makes them solid at the back but at the same time he wants you to play an attractive style of football. We've seen in the past he's able to do both. He's done it with Saudi Arabia, he's done it with the Dutch national team, he did it with myself at Feyenoord. He's able to adapt to all circumstances and he's going to need to be able to do that to be a success with our national team," Emerton said.

The 95-time Australian international wasn't sought for a reference from FFA, but would have given a glowing endorsement for van Marwijk.

"I would have endorsed him if they spoke to me," he said.

This story What the Socceroos will look like under Bert van Marwijk first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.