Wednesday, February 15, 2006

05/06 Season Wrap, Melbourne Victory

Position; Seventh.
Leading Scorers; Archie Thompson, 8, Kevin Muscat, 6, Richard Kitzbichler, 5.
Most games; Michael Ferrante, 21.
Player of the season; Archie Thompson
Emerging star; Adrian Leijer

Summary; Top of the table a third of the way through the season, second from bottom two-thirds of the way in, it was a dramatic slide from the penthouse to the basement for one of the A-League big clubs. The high point was undoubtedly the 5-0 home win over Sydney FC in round 8 that sent the Victory top after four consecutive wins. Crowds were flocking to Olympic Park, multinational Samsung jumped on board and the good times looked headed south. From there followed a terrible stretch in which they only picked up one point in five games, which effectively put them back in the mix outside the top four. It didn’t get much better, with three wins in the remaining eight games not enough to climb back into finals contention, placing significant pressure on the coach Ernie Merrick and giving the club little choice but to allow key man Archie Thompson to take up a career-shaping loan move to Dutch giants PSV.

Analysis; In as simple terms as possible, an over-reliance on one man, Archie Thompson, for the bulk of its goals. While Kevin Muscat bagged five from the penalty spot and Richard Kitzbichler weighed in with five from out wide, there were not enough from the likes of strikers Danny Allsopp (three goals) and Ricky Diaco (one) and the attacking midfielders Michael Ferrante (one), Kristian Sarkies, Andy Vlahos, Chris Tadrosse and Vince Lia (all none). In truth, Melbourne have a young squad and these kids will improve their goal getting ratios in the coming years, particularly Sarkies, who has a big opportunities to deliver goals from the dead ball. When Thompson was called up to national duty or off his game, the goals dried up, as did the results. The signs at the other end were more encouraging with Melbourne having the second best defencive record in the league.

Negatives/Concerns; Victory’s inability to capitalise on an excellent start to the season. Perhaps the lack of experience in the squad told and some of the players started to believe the hype. Also, a lack of depth in key areas such as attack, wide and in the creative midfield role. Structurally, Melbourne’s midfield was too static for a large part of the season, many of them preferring the ball to feet rather than making runs to try and get beyond their strikers and opposition defences. Too often the strikers were isolated, only Kitzbichler making regular runs into the opposition box. The fact that squad was put together so late meant many of the better players around were not available. Also, the very public debates about both the coaching position and the ownership structure may have been handled better.

Positives; There were doubts in the pre-season about whether Melbournians would take to their team, but they showed up in droves, packing Olympic Park to create the most intimate and intense atmosphere in the A-League, particularly when their team was winning. Some of the images filtering from Melbourne were a site to behold. On the field, there were a number of good things, including the emergence of young defender Adrian Leijer, the classy finishing of Archie Thompson early in the year, and the fact that many of the young kids in the squad now have a year’s experience at a higher level than they’ve been accustomed to.

Next season; Melbourne will need to be sharper in it’s recruitment, and already there are good signs with the signing of one of the most underrated A-League players of the season, Adrian Caceres, who had a terrific season as a late signing for Perth. While most of it was off the bench, Caceres proved a danger every time he came on the field, combining wonderful technique with good positional sense down the left, an area Melbourne clearly need to improve. They will also need to find more quality up front, particularly if Thompson stays overseas after the World Cup, while finding a replacement for Kitzbichler on the right is vital. If the likes of Sarkies, Ferrante, Leijer and Lia can continue to improve, the Victory can expect a more consistent campaign, particularly if they can find a quality playmaker that can provide regular chances.


Anonymous Pinuts Pethia said...

Creative midfielder? I hear Troy Halpin is playing for Sydney United.

Can always look to Asia for players with experience to fill in positions if need be.

What about Kitzbichler! Bring him back!

Thu. Feb. 16, 01:45:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Yes, true that Troy Halpin is playing in the NSW Premier League with Syd Utd. He is a brilliant, yet at times enigmatic player. If he turns up to play there are few better playmakers doing the rounds. However, opinion is divided among coaches about whether he is a benefit of hinderance to a team, mainly based on his mindset. Would be wonderful to see his talents again showcased at the highest level in Oz, but it takes a clever manager to know how to get the best of him, consistently. Agree that after the success this season of Hyuk-Su 'Harold' Seo and Shengqing Qu, it would be great to see more quality come out of Asia.

Thu. Feb. 16, 01:54:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Troy said...

there is nothing wrong with my mindset!!

Mon. Feb. 20, 10:15:00 pm AEDT  

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