Has there ever been a more successful Australian coach overseas? Joe Montemurro has a knack in creating and breaking records as a coach and his Arsenal team is flying in the FA Women’s Super League.
Table-topping Arsenal are six points ahead of Manchester City and made it a record-setting nine wins in a row when they downed Brighton & Hove Albion 4-1 at home on Sunday.
Streaks aren’t unprecedented in Pepe’s coaching career – he guided Melbourne City to a Championship in the club’s inaugural season in 2015/16 where they won all their regular season games.
Montemurro has already guided Arsenal to two cups and his squad is now eyeing a third WSL title, their last triumph coming in 2012.
The man from Clifton Hill played down his own achievements, but was hopeful it would spur the game on down under.
“If I am an example for a lot more coaches for doing what they do and being part of successful squads and living their dreams and opportunities in terms of coaching, then I’m more than happy to be part of that and to help develop the game,” Montemurro told The Women’s Game.
“It’s great for me to have this opportunity, I’ll cherish this opportunity and I’ll do my best in every moment and situation I’m put in here at Arsenal.
“If my work is a little bit of a contribution towards people looking at Australian coaches in a different way, well then fantastic.
“If it opens one more door or even opportunities in Australia for coaches, then so be it, because I’m not here for me, it’s not about me, it’s about the game growing.
“If the game can grow and I’ve made a small contribution to that then fantastic and I’ll keep trying to give back to the game.
“We sometimes don’t realise that we’ve got some very good coaches and people in Australia. It’s just a matter of opportunities and situations, so if I can contribute to that, I’m more than happy to.”
One of his protégés – Steph Catley has now become one of the most illustrious players in the Matildas and at City.
Catley began her W-League career as a teenager and she played under Montemurro in her early 20s at Melbourne Victory and City after their induction into the competition.
The 24-year-old still has a good relationship with Pepe and added that she was still following his journey.
“I couldn’t be happier for him and it doesn’t surprise me to see him enjoying so much success in England,” Catley told The Women’s Game.
“What he is achieving at Arsenal speaks volumes about the type of person he is and the style of football he wants his teams to play. I’ve always enjoyed being coached by him and he has had a huge influence on my career and the player I’ve become today.
“Not only does he have an incredible understanding of the game, but he’s also a fantastic people person too which translates to how well his teams perform on the pitch.
“I was lucky enough to experience that at City with Pep when we went through the whole season unbeaten in 2015/16 and I'm sure that he will continue to enjoy success wherever he goes.”
Pepe added he hadn’t forgotten his humble beginnings.
“With my background, I thank my upbringing and the opportunity to have worked in Australia to really understand and grow,” he said.
“I can’t thank the Australian system enough for me to be given this opportunity, but I’ll leave it to the experts to work out how successful or unsuccessful I am because that’s not for me to comment.”
Montemurro believes there’s still room for improvement in his Arsenal side and it’s a first v second clash when they meet City on Sunday.
The Gunners have lost England international Jordan Nobbs with an ACL injury a fortnight ago and Pepe said it was time for his squad to prove its depth.
Arsenal have conceded five goals this season and Montemurro added it was part of his plan.
“The pleasing thing with that is it’s synonymous to the proactive style that we want to play,” Montemurro said.
“We’re managing our defensive structure while we’ve got the ball and do that well, then even when the other team regains the ball, we’re always in control.
“It’s very important and it all ties in with the style, it’s not as if I’ve sat there and said ‘Oh, we’re going to defend and hit teams on the break’.
“We’re proactive we’ve got the ball, against Everton there was over 600 passes and they had two attempts on goal. That’s because we manage ourselves well when we’ve got the ball.”
The Melburnian added his team wasn’t getting ahead of themselves despite their super season.
“I’ll use the clichés, we just approach each game for its merit and what it is, we don’t and we can’t think too far ahead,” he said.
“We haven’t set any targets saying ‘If we win this and if we do that’, it’s not about that, it’s about respecting each opponent for who they are and making sure we’re prepared for that challenge.”