A-League season IV so far
ONE-SEVENTH of the way into what is shaping as a much-improved season and, while it's too early to draw any major conclusions, here's a quick snapshot of the good and bad from every A-League team, and an area or two that could do with some tinkering given there's a break in the calendar next week.
Wellington Phoenix, 1 pt
The good; not much, to be completely honest. The skipper called them 'garbage' against Melbourne, and they were. Smeltz is the obvious positive and was missed on Friday, while Lochhead has looked good in patches. Gao has done a couple of neat things.
As I hinted in my preview
, central midfield continues to be a massive concern, with Wellington unable to control games. An inability to keep the ball has heaped pressure on the defence, and surprisingly the centre of that defence is really struggling. So far Herbert has used three right-backs.
The fix; work on the defensive structure, particularly the screeners in front of the defence. Get that right and the attack has a chance.
Perth Glory, 1 pt
The good; The front third, especially in the past fortnight. Trinidad was electric against Newcastle, while Dadi has looked a massive presence in the past two weeks. The real winner though has been Amaral, who has provided a surprising threat driving out of midfield. Pellegrino is doing ok as well, while Bulloch's dribbling has been a pleasant surprise.
The bad; have been terribly unlucky. The referees have done them no favours, and Pellegrino won the ball and was still adjudged to have fouled Corica yesterday. The real issue though has been in defence, where too many errors from the likes of Djulbic and Topor-Stanley have been punished. Out wide they look a little light-weight.
The fix; Working on the defensive structure is an obvious one. Wayne Shroj, if he is anywhere near the player he was in the NSL, could provide a nice buffer in front of the defence, while Mitchell would do well to go to three up front, with Rukavytsya left and Trindad right is support of Dadi, with a central midfield trio of Shroj, Amaral and Pellegrino behind.
Newcastle Jets, 2 pts
The good; Kantarovski has impressed in his two starts, while Song, with his wonderful technical work, is arguably the best player in the A-League. Holland has been very neat in central midfielder, but these days looks more a holding midfielder.
The bad; skipper North looks like his mind is elsewhere, while the jury is very much still out on the marquee man Zura and the Dane. There is still a big question mark on whether Wheelhouse is the right option in Musialik's holding role. He has certainly tried and is physical, but just doesn't see things like his predecessor (in truth, few do). The left looks all over the place, with neither D'Apuzzo nor Thompson flourishing.
The fix; perhaps it's a too early, but maybe van Egmond might think of switching Kantarovski (he sure looks a footballer) into the holding role alongside Holland, with Griffiths driving from behind Zura. Back to basics for the Jets.
Queensland Roar, 2 pts
The good; goal-a-game-Miller has been excellent and looks fit enough. McKay and Murdocca continue to buzz around and help the Roar dominate and control games, while Seo has looked ok at times.
The bad; Farina looks a little confused about how to use his multitude of options up front. Smits has been a miss, while van Djik has looked good but is yet to strike. Reinaldo took Jamieson to town in round two, but was comfortably beaten by Bojic in round three, while Zullo struggled yesterday. McCloughan's injury yesterday exposed a lack of defensive depth, and Tiatto continues to go down the dirty route whenever his feathers are ruffled.
The fix; not convinced Reinaldo is a permanent fix out wide, so maybe Farina needs to look at playing two up front, with a diamond midfield, but with who as the holding midfielder?
Central Coast Mariners, 4 pts
The good; Gotta say, it wasn't looking too positive until yesterday, when Jedinak made a major difference to the team's shape. Petrovski was good in the opening two games, especially against Sydney, and Simon has done what Simon does best; batter the opposition. Macallister proved McKinna has depth up front.
The bad; the inability of the defence to play out from the back has meant far too many long balls looking to hit to likes of Simon and Petrovski. Clark was the biggest culprit against Sydney, dishing up some of the worst distribution you'll ever see. McKinna got it wrong in the opening two rounds, playing Porter in the holding role instead of Hutchinson, while his decision to play Boogaard at left back against Sydney was a mistake that cost them points. Their direct, physical style hasn't suited the wide men Caceres and Elrich, both now injured.
The fix; Jedinak is back, while Bojic has looked comfortable coming forward from left back. Porter looked more comfortable attacking than holding, and playing Osman instead of Clark would at least improve the distribution out of the back.
Adelaide United, 7 pts
The good; the excellent work Vidmar did in defence ahead of the ACL has carried through to the season proper, and Adelaide look very hard to beat through the middle, with Costanzo and Ognenovski very solid. Vidmar has also made some sound tactical adjustments, managing to stem the flow of the round two game in Brisbane through his introduction of Salley and Barbiero. Cristiano sure looks a player up front, while Adelaide still look a threat on the counter through Dodd and Pantelis. Reid has had two good games.
The bad; Against the Roar the midfield was over-run, but at least Vidmar adjusted and got a point. Jamieson was caught out a few times by Reinaldo in the second half of that match, while Younis needs to feel his way in.
The fix; Salley's start on Saturday allowed Reid to push-on and influence in the front third, while Cristiano does prefer Agostino alongside him. Pantelis looks more comfortable out wide, unless Vidmar uses him as part of a three man central midfield.
Sydney FC, 7 pts
The good; Cole, with his two feet, ability to keep the ball, and wonderful ability over the dead ball, has been one of the stories of the season so far. Sydney's front third has looked brilliant, very fluid indeed, with Corica combining beautifully with Brosque, Bridge and Cole. Fyfe has done well at right back, McFlynn continues to be one of the most under-rated A-League players, while Bolton is in brilliant form.
The bad; have been caught out a few times in the heart of the defence, and Timpano is taking time to settle back in. Musialik looked in great from against the Mariners, but dropped his bundle.
The fix; will be interesting to see how Popovic goes alongside Colosimo.
Melbourne Victory, 7 pts
where do I start? Central midfield has been excellent, with Lopez, simple, combining beautifully with Celeski and Hernandez. Great to see Celeski (pictured above, courtesy of http://www.melbournevictory.com.au/
) in his rightful place in the centre of midfield, something I've been championing here for some time. Thwaite has stiffened things up at the back, Kemp has been bombing on, Berger did very well as a left back against Newcastle (this looks like his position), while Fabiano is a beautiful link between midfield and attack. Often maligned for his negative changes, Merrick made a brilliant positive sub by introducing Thompson for Thwaite. Allsopp is enjoying himself, and Brebner scores with his first touch. Happy days indeed.
The bad and the fix; not much the worry about at this stage, they have completely dominated their three games and, if it wasn't for Bolton, they'd have maximum points.