Is there truly a crisis at Victory?

George K Roar Rookie

By , George K is a Roar Rookie

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    The Victory have played 25.9 per cent of their season, with only one win, leading to Kevin Muscat hosing down suggestions of a crisis at the Melbourne-based club.

    Victory have not had the easiest start to the campaign, facing high-flying Sydney FC, crosstown rivals City, Adelaide, Western Sydney and Brisbane – consistently high-performing teams in recent memory.

    However, in such a small and well-balanced league (a side effect of the love-hate salary cap), Victory should be in a position that is representative of one of the most supported clubs in the A-League.

    Regardless, there appears to be a problem with consistency; one-week Victory can dismantle teams like Perth but in others must share the goods in the last few minutes, as shown against Brisbane.

    Perhaps their problems stem from the players? Their most recent premiership win, in the 2014-15 season, had a devastating strike force with leading goal scorer Besart Berisha (18 goals), Archie Thompson, Kosta Barbarouses and Fahid Ben Khalfallah.

    Even last season, despite losing Barbarouses and an ageing Thompson, the Victory still found goals in a reliable Berisha, James Troisi and Marco Rojas, and the club finished an admirable second place.

    Fast forward to today and we see the club continuing to invest well, with Leroy George proving to be a valued player, and Barbarouses being snatched back from Wellington. Berisha, too, is consistently on the score sheet.

    Yet the club has recorded the fewest goals (eight) in the league. Does this have anything to do with the calibre of opposition? Perhaps the past seven games have not been kind to the Victory but I raise the point that even consistently bottom-placed Newcastle are finding momentum to defeat Brisbane and Adelaide – teams Victory only drew to.

    While Melbourne still have quality players, so does the rest of the league, and many have been claiming that Muscat’s men are simply unable to cope with the increasing talent from City and Sydney.

    I would argue that Victory are simply not performing as well as they used to, due to a simple decline in player quality.

    Berisha is in decline in his 30s and Barbarouses is at his peak at 27 years of age. In addition, quality players from last season like Marco Rojas and Daniel Georgievski departing left Victory trying to break in new talent – a time-consuming and sometimes ineffective process.

    In addition, the team has a discipline problem, with Carl Valeri and Rhys Williams holding the most yellow cards for the season, while Berisha’s suspension and Mitch Austin’s red card are still fresh.

    Muscat may dismiss this as “referee consistency”, but so far Victory earn approximately three yellow cards per round, which is above average.

    Naturally, yellow cards alone do not contribute to poor performances – and credit to the Victory for holding out for a 1-1 draw with ten men – but too many fouls cause a drop in competitiveness as players receive their marching orders and are forced to play for the point rather than the win.

    Despite all this, it is still too early to want Muscat’s head.

    In the 2015-16 season, we saw Adelaide United go eight rounds without a win and then claim the double. United had drawn three games and lost four – in contrast to Victory’s four losses, two draws and sole win. This was also accomplished with a new coach and an entirely new playstyle implemented by Guillermo Amor.

    However, back-to-back titles could not be repeated, with United finishing ninth with only five recorded wins last season. This was due to a mass exodus of the 2015-16 squad, with Bruce Kamau, Bruce Dijite and Ruon Tongyik just a few who departed.

    Comparing the Reds to Victory’s current position, with quality players like Marco Rojas and Daniel Georgievski leaving, we can infer that should Victory not be able to establish form following their performance against Perth, we may see history repeat itself.

    So is there a crisis at Melbourne Victory? Not yet.

    By Round 9 – 33 per cent of the season having been played – the most appropriate course of action will be clearer in order to ensure the remaining 66 per cent is still salvageable.

    Without a solid start in anything – be it sport or life – then you will be playing catch up for as long as you can cope. While showing faith is fine and definitely encouraged, not thinking critically about the team’s faults, in the hopes that they will sort themselves out, is bluntly ineffective.