Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Aussie round ball goes from strength to strength

APOLOGIES first for the lack of a recent post, life has been hectic since the A-League came to a dramatic climax almost three weeks ago, and even a week in Hong Kong for work (it was an Asia-Pacific regional workshop, my own version of an AFC think-tank) meant no escape from the round ball. Indeed, the subject was high on the agenda, with conversations invariably diverting to the many various opinions on the game (for what it’s worth, the Chinese representative gave his side little hope on March 26), and the hotel room plasma featuring a football only channel with endless replays of the previous weekend’s Serie A and Bundesliga action and plenty more on the other sports channels.

While it was hardly a surprise to learn the work of our former PM wasn’t well regarded around Asia, the Socceroos were more popular, despite the cockiness of our first Asian Cup campaign. The memory of Germany survives.

Gotta love the world game, and gotta love feeling a part of it.

Much, as it does these days, has happened on the local scene, a lot of it analysed by Mike, The Football Tragic, who has kept up his usual relentless high standards, but here are some of my own thoughts on the myriad of issues dominating the landscape…

The Vukovic drama; like many, hard not to feel sorry for the kid, who will miss the Olympics, but gee, what a silly boy. Tough lesson, but lets hope it makes him a better man and player.

To expand or not to expand; First we were going to 10 and now we're not, at least not for another season. The Galaxy appeared ready, the list of linked names growing by the day, but the stumbling block appeared further north, where the lack of noise from the Thunder was a real pointer to the fact it was behind the eight-ball. It's a shame, but the FFA’s want to stick to even numbers means we have to wait for something new to mull over, at least at the senior level.

All things youth; at the younger level, there’s plenty new. First, the announcement of a national youth league is welcome news and will ensure the kids get games, such a key part of their development. V3 proved the kids can compete even in the senior ranks, so a youth league should create many more opportunities for the kids to infiltrate the senior ranks. How to be a kid growing up in Oz football today? Couple that with the institutionalisation of small sided games (SSGs) and it's great to see that things are really picking up on the development side of the game. Nothing like plenty of games and plenty of touches, so congratulations FFA and congratulations Craig Foster.

Bring back the Bling; Sydney FC has been very busy in the transfer market, seemingly keen to buy a team the city will want to watch (unlike the v3 motley crew). Big names John Aloisi and Simon Colosimo join bright young things Mark Bridge and Stuart Musialik, both of whom I have made no secret of my admiration for on this blog over the past couple of seasons, especially the latter. I will say though that despite winning the championship, both had disappointing seasons, seemingly a combination of injury, their minds diverted by the need to sort out their futures and perhaps being a little over-worked by the Olyroos. Time for both to switch back on, which you sense they did at the back end of the finals, and for Musialik, it’s definitely time to pull the finger out. The signing of both Musialik and Colosimo is interesting. Yes they are both holding midfielders, but Colosimo also showed an interesting propensity to drive this season, so at this stage I see no reason why they can’t play together in the centre of midfield. Any who knows, perhaps Kosmina sees the latter as a central defender. Con Constantine seems to think people are dispensible, but he better look after Gary van Egmond.

Melbourne making many gains; While Sydney is keen to bring back the Bling, down South there has been some great work in the transfer market. The signing of Billy Celeski is very shrewd business from Melbourne, and as I’ve written before, Celeski’s technical work for both Perth and the Olyroos was for me a feature of 2007. Like Musialik, there appears to be a bit of a head-strong mentality for the manager to deal with, but there is no doubting the technical ability. The same can be said of Tom Pondeljak, although he is at the other end of his career, and seemingly keen to be closer to home.

Melbourne’s Matchday 1 Marvels; it was a very impressive start from the Victory to their ACL campaign at the Dome last night with some wonderful quick movement of the ball and some terrific mobility off it. Really enjoying the make-up of the Melbourne midfield at the moment as it has a far more technical feel than at the start of A-league v3. Nicky Ward has made a real impression driving and creating from central midfield throughout 2008 and the addition of Celeski, as I noted above, just adds real class to the team. When you think about Carlos Hernandez and Pondeljak coming in, and Kaz Patafta in reserve, it’s an impressive ball-playing squad Merrick has built, so let’s hope their football continues to catch the eye. In defence Vargas and Kemp were excellent, and while the latter’s heavy first touch created the opening goal, it was arguably his best game in navy blue. Up front, the movement of Archie Thompson and Adrian Caceres was too much for the Dragons, while Merrick's decision to bring on Sebastian Ryall 10 minutes into the second period effectively killed off any chance the visitors had of a comeback, good work all-round.

Adelaide’s Steel; At the Pohang Steelyard (great name), it was the visitors showing plenty of it. Loved the way that United burst out of the blocks, much as the Socceroos did in the opening world cup qualifier. There’s little doubt they caught Pohang by surprise, so thumbs up to Aurelio Vidmar for the shrewd tactical work. After that it was very much about the steel; the posts coming to their rescue on three occasions and the central defensive trio of Crosthwaite, Costanzo and Galekovic outstanding in repelling the Steelers, who dominated for the most part As Pippinu pointed out in his excellent summary of the game and Vidmar emphasised in his post match comments, it was great to see United demonstrating the smarts and killing off the game. Djite continues to be a physical threat and take his opportunities.

More interesting work from the Pim; keeping everyone (his players, the opposition and the media) on their toes appears to be the Pim way. Hard to know exactly what’s going on in that thoughtful mind of his, but right now he appears a man in control, and that’s the key. He picked a youthful squad for the Singapore friendly and today went for the Euroroos for the crucial game four days later. Everyone is on notice, and every action is being monitored. Musialik and Joel Griffiths have already paid for some silly stuff.

Messi Moments; Just when it looked like Barca were closing in on Real a fortnight ago, the past couple of weeks have been painful, with the loss of Messi to injury compounded by losses to Atletico Madrid (or should I say, Sergio Aguero) and Villarreal. The little ray of sunshine has been Xavi, proving he can not only get into the box (a rarely seen quality), but score goals (even rarer).

Terrific Torres; and finally, you won’t be surprised to know how disappointed I am about yet another premiership gone begging for the Reds of Liverpool (I’ve lost count), but it’s been just brilliant watching Torres burst onto English football this season, especially over the past month. While his control and turn at the San Siro yesterday was a gem, I loved his dummy on Newcastle keeper Steve Harper on the weekend, just magic. Sorta made me happy I’d chosen the number 9 strip over Stevie G when I chose one for my one and a half year old son in Hong Kong last week. Can’t readily get a junior Torres strip here just yet, but the way the game is going, hopefully that won’t be far away.

Any thoughts on any of the above? or something else tickle your fancy over the past few weeks? Let me know your thoughts.


Blogger pippinu said...

Terrific wrap Tony - you quickly made up for lost time (and thanks for the plug!).

Torres is a delight to watch. Everytime I watch 'pool play, I'm itching to see him get involved. Occasionally, he looks like he's in a slumber and having an off night with the defence on top, and then in the space of 5 minutes, he's slammed in two goals and turned the match on its head.

All of us who have him in our various fantasy teams are wondering whether to take the points and run or to hang out for more goals. I've opted for the latter, but it would be amazing if his current goal scoring form continued unabated.

Speaking of fantasy teams (and I apologise for changing the subject slightly), but this next round is truly a make or break round, with both Chelsea and Man Utd playing two games in the one round (against bottom half teams). Those who choose their captain carefully will be rolling in points (it will be difficult to go past Ronaldo).

Having said that, I am considering incurring a 4 point penalty to make an additional selection - and Lampard could be just the man to more than offset that sort of penalty! (which operates in the official EPL fantasy league)

Fri Mar 14, 05:18:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Scotty said...

Great to see you back Tony!

Sydney's signings are certainly ominous from a Victory supporters point of view. With that said though for all the money they've spent they still seem to have big problems out wide. Aloisi is a good pick up for them but I do find it funny that they knocked him back at a lesser price than they reportedly paid for him this year, and he had one year less on the clock and on those knees then. Musialik and Colosimo can both push forward, although

I think both play their best football sitting back and dictating the tempo of the game. I wouldn't be surprised if Colosimo is shifted to defence which I think would be a mistake. Sydney will certainly take some beating this year, although a good olympics for Bridge and Stu (Despite his very ordinary year he has been very good for the Olyroos) and both could go before they ever played.

As for us, at first I'll admit I was a little uncertain about those two pick ups. But Tommy P is a quality footballer, and he's so versatile I think he can provide back up for Carlos and Ward or play out wide. Celeski was one I really wasn't sure what to make off, he seemed to have some genuine ability but very rarely did we see it at Perth. Well he's won a lot of people over with his display on Wednesday. His dead ball delivery was constantly of the very highest order.

It was a fantastic night on Wednesday, it continued the sort of football we'd been playing at the end of the season but even took it to a new level. There was so much patience on the ball, I expect that from Musky but the its not always a quality we see from Broxham, Panta and others. There is a long way to go but if Ernie can keep playing that sort of football I will be over the moon. I think moving Musky to Centre Half has reinvigorated the skipper, and also helped us play a lot more football. I just hope the boys can continue this sort of football, its a welcome change from some of the crap we served up mid year.

Next two games are huge for the navy blue and white!

Fri Mar 14, 10:20:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous PC said...

With Sydney, what formation can they use with no wingers? They signed two strikers and two defensive midfielders. Doubt they have money to sign wingers since they gave Aloisi all their bling.

Fri Mar 14, 10:51:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Thanks for your comments Gents...

Pippinu, I do enjoy fantasy football, as you've probably noticed from time to time on this blog, but I generally struggle to see it out for a whole season and I havent updated my epl one for some weeks...

Think I've got Torres in there, but wasn't able to find room in the cap for ronaldo, massive mistake...anyway, think I'm a mid-table middy in the private league I'm in...

...Occasionally, he looks like he's in a slumber and having an off night with the defence on top, and then in the space of 5 minutes, he's slammed in two goals and turned the match on its head....

2 true, just love the way he explodes into a game and invariably makes the correct split-second decision. Instinct.

Scotty, thanks for the interest and glad you enjoyed the Dome game on Wed....

....There was so much patience on the ball, I expect that from Musky but the its not always a quality we see from Broxham, Panta and others....

That's one of the beauties of the ACL I've found so far, it's generally more technical and players have room to play out from the back, as appossed to the A-league where every pass is a contest (a bit like afl).

Watching it on Wed I couldnt but help think how much this style suits the Victory and I wouldnt be surprised to see them not only get out oif the group, but go a long way. Here's hoping.

Agree also with yourself and pc that Sydney are clearly lacking in the width stakes, esp if they lose zadkovich (middleby aint much chop).

I'll be watching to see how good a development manager John Kosmina is...reckon he has a gem in Tsattalios, but can he do anything with him, or will he bring back some 85 year old wingback??

Sat Mar 15, 11:44:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger pippinu said...

While we await Tony's next post, people might like to turn to my latest article - a rather fippant one that touches on last night's events (sob, sob...)

Thu Mar 20, 02:52:00 pm AEDT  

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