Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A-League Report Card - Part 2

Season 4 review after round 7 - 'Standards on the up'

WHILE the attention for now turns to tomorrow night's mouth-watering Adelaide/Kuruvchi ACL semi and next Wednesday's qualifier against the Bruno Metsu lead Qataris, it's time, already a third of the way in, to take stock and reflect on the A-League season so far.

While crowds, as I hinted in my season preview, are down, I'm glad to say the on-field standard is very much on the up. Across the board there have been some wonderful games, starting with The Benchmark match, Perth v Jets, which I wrote about here. There have been other classics, including the Mariners/Melbourne rd 5 game and the weekend's Mariners comeback at Hindmarsh. Overall, the technical standard and standard of the signings, imports and Aussies alike, is far improved on previous campaigns.

Managers and clubs, it seems, are learning the lessons, and about time I hear you say.

Sydney, at long last, have been producing some very watchable stuff, while Melbourne, despite some ill-discipline, have been back to the dynamic and fluent style of v2. The Mariners are looking good and Adelaide continue to manage the two fronts well. Others, like the Jets, Queensland and 'Nix are yet to fully find their mojo, but are building things slowly. The Glory, on the other hand, are a mess, and that's where I start;

Perth Glory 3/10

A little unlucky, I argued, in the first three games, but their past couple have been rather tragic. Amaral has been missed, but the problems at the back persist, with neither Tarka, Coyne, Harnwell or Topor-Stanley able to organise the unit. Behind them Juric and Petkovic have been poor, so it's time for the kid Velaphi. At least Dadi has been worth watching, and Pellegrino has tried.

Wellington Phoenix 5/10

After the wonderful pre-season, the problems in central midfield were exposed, and the 'Nix have spent chunks of games on the back foot as a result. It's heaped the pressure on the defence, which hasn't been able to handle it. Tim Brown has at least stiffened things up in the past fortnight, while Sigmund and Karl Dodd did well in defence against Sydney and Smeltz continues to be a rare shining light up top. More needed from the likes of McKain, Durante, Daniel and Kwasnik.

Newcastle Jets 6/10

Ever the tinkerman, van Egmond has tried and tried, as he always does, to find a solution to his shape. He's still searching, and not for the first year the Jets imports haven't quite hit the ground running. There's little time in this league, and with Zura and Hakansson hitherto struggling, and Song still trying to deal with the physicality of the league, the pressure has been on Joel Griffiths. He's been a marked man and his injury won't help. But the Jets have been scratching around for results, keeping themselves in the mix, and shouldn't be written off just yet. Improvement is needed, in all the thirds, but van Egmond will continue to prod.

Queensland Roar 6.5/10

Been strong defensively, where Moore and Luke Devere have caught the eye (not to mention Matt Mundy on the debut last weekend), and typically competitive in midfield, where the pocket rockets, McKay and Murodcca, buzz about. But they are struggling for goals from their twin strikers, Reinaldo and van Dijk. Fortunately, so far, Charlie Miller has been sniffing out the goals. Farina appears to be building a very solid and physical unit, which is hard to beat, but right now, with the kids waiting in the wings, the Roar don't appear to have enough 'fantasy' in the front third to run away from teams. Reddy, meanwhile, has been shaky.

Central Coast Mariners 7/10

McKinna tinkered unsuccessfully with a front three in the opening few rounds, but since Jedinak has come back from injury into the holding role and Simon has joined Petrovski up front, the Mariners have looked a far more organised 4-4-2, and have even started knocking the ball about a bit, in scenes reminiscent of season one. Surprisingly, the fulcrum of that recent flow has been Caceres. In the pre-season, it looked like the Mariners would target the flanks through Caceres and Elrich, but the season-ending Elrich injury has caused a major re-think, and Caceres has so far been a find at the head of the diamond. Meanwhile, Simon's finishing and poise in the box reminds me of Bruce Djite's work in the early part of season three. Bojic has been wonderful at left back, while Bozza was good while he lasted.

Adelaide United 7/10

While their wonderful work in the ACL quarters has rightly grabbed most of the attention, Vidmar's men have also been gathering points on the home-front, and are perfectly poised for a post-ACL push. Only once, away to Sydney in rd 5, were their minds clearly elsewhere. Defensively they have been magnificent, carrying on their excellent work from the first ACL phase, with Jamieson, Galekovic and Cornthwaite doing well alongside the physical central pair. The midfield shape is flowing, with Salley in career-best form and Reid a revelation, while Dodd and Cassio provide plenty of quality out wide. With Cristiano banging in the goals, Diego recently back in the fold and Pantelis not far away, there is plenty of front-third quality.

Sydney FC 8/10

Plenty to like about Sydney so far, with much room for improvement. When you think that Aloisi and Bridge haven't yet hit their straps, you know there's more to come. Fortunately others have been filling the void, with Brosque and Corica providing the front third quality, McFlynn and Musialik the midfield stability, while Bolton, Fyfe, Popovic, Cole and Middleby have laid the defensive foundation. The gifted ball-user Cole has been top shelf, a joy to watch over the dead ball or out on either flank.

Melbourne Victory 8.5/10

There have been a few moments of poor discipline, but watching the Victory in season 4 has at times been like rewinding the clock a couple of years to when Fred and Thompson were terrorising sides. Now the terror is being shared among the likes of Celeski, Berger, Kemp, Hernandez, Fabiano, Allsopp, Pondeljak and Thompson, which just highlights the depth at Merrick's disposal. The fact Ward, Broxham and Pondeljak have had to wait their turn, and the eye catching work from Langerak, shows the depth. Meanwhile, Muscat and Vargas continue to offer steel at the back, while Lopez and Brebner provide stability in midfield. Things are ticking along just nicely.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

always look forward to seeing your new writing tony,

a few comments and questions

this season`s roar - strong, older/more mature, more physical, yet lacking in the speed, fantasy stakes ... i don`t like it very much. and i`m a roar fan. whilst i can understand their limitations, i want to see minniecon, kruse, zullo and oar running at people and making stuff happen. hell, i even want to see nichols get a chance in midfield. the melbourne win was a good example. the older heads knocked melbourne about, then the young legs came on and got 2 goals at the death.

what do you make of mckay`s season? i am impressed with murdocca so far, but think mckay has played better in prior seasons.

also, what do you think of sydney post aloisi`s return from injury? i think it will be hard for bridge to hit his straps when he is out on the right. one of the best sydney attacks in the queensland game was with bridge and aloisi working together in the penalty box ... could the marquee be stifling sydney`s attack?


Wed. Oct. 08, 11:20:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous the view from the till said...

Quite a mystery how your football brain is not employed full time in Aust Football, but I guess that says more about the decision makers than anything else!!

Wed. Oct. 08, 01:23:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

...this season`s roar - strong, older/more mature, more physical, yet lacking in the speed, fantasy stakes ... i don`t like it very much...

thanks clayton, good to hear from you, hope japan is treating you well. yeh, it's much more functional for the roar, so far...maybe the flow and fantasy will follow the solidity...it's been about rebuilding so far, but Farina doesnt like to change much, so we'll see...

...what do you make of mckay`s season?...

Not as good as previous campaiagns, fair enough, but still busy..doesnt need to get fwd as much because miller is there...

...what do you think of sydney post aloisi`s return from injury?...could the marquee be stifling sydney`s attack?...

think you're on the money, syd have looked less mobile since aloisi has been back, he does like to stay central and generally prefers company (a two man front line)...i wouldnt mind seeing him and bridge up top. think they're still working it out, but it's key to get men around aloisi

...Quite a mystery how your football brain is not employed full time in Aust Football, but I guess that says more about the decision makers than anything else!!...

Thanks for the compliment (i think) Till.

Thu. Oct. 09, 09:44:00 pm AEDT  

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