It’s no secret that Wales manager Chris Coleman’s time in charge so far has been something of a struggle. Picking up the pieces after the tragic death of former manager Gary Speed was never going to be an easy task and it’s impossible to even try to gauge the impact this had on the players. Subsequently, a win against Scotland aside, results have been disappointing.
In recent games, Coleman has stressed the importance of building his own team, with his own ideas and methodology, and in Wednesday night’s friendly game against Austria at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium, Wales fans started to see it pay dividends.
The late loss of Aaron Ramsey through injury will have come as a blow, but Coleman adjusted accordingly, opting to play Cardiff City striker Craig Bellamy in a more central role, with West Ham midfielder Jack Collison on the left and the irrepressible Gareth Bale on the right.
The team started brightly, with Bellamy and Bale both impressive up front, but what was instantly noticeable was the change in approach. This was a Wales side who were comfortable in possession of the ball and confident enough to commit numbers forward on the attack; something which has been noticeably lacking since the Speed era.
They were also resolute in defence. Sam Ricketts, playing in a somewhat unaccustomed role alongside Ashley Williams in the heart of defence, had an excellent game, while Ben Davies and Adam Matthews excelled on the flanks.
Whatever work the manager has done, it was having the desired effect.
The inevitable substitutions in the second half disrupted Wales’ influence on the game, but overall, this was a solid display and a welcome victory ahead of two important qualifiers next month.
Manager rating: 9.5
A vast improvement. There seemed to be a real cohesiveness throughout the team, resulting in a confident, fluid performance. Great to see a concerted effort to break forward on the counter-attack.