Adelaide United are proving hard to dislodge from the A-League top six after taking seven points from their first three matches since the competition resumed.
Ok, it is round 16, but there was a flurry of games from rounds rounds 12-14 in a short period, so after 15 games we’ll call this halfway for report-card purposes.
Technically there’s the three final rounds to be played, so I guess I’m somewhat not completely incorrect.
Every club has had some form of struggle, the least being Brisbane. However have all them teams fared so far?
Adelaide United – 7/10
Fifth, 20 points. Coach sacked/resigned? No
A pretty high score for a club stuck between a rock and mid-table. However points weren’t the key indicator in Gombau’s first season in charge.
He has been a stand over enforcer for a philosophy we usually associate with Barcelona. The opening rounds weren’t too kind, and many were calling for him to be sacked.
There was the media bust-up when he flaunted his fluency of the english language by call a random state league 18-year-old goalkeeper – who happened to be the son of Adelaide Advertiser journalist Val Migliaccio – ‘shit’.
Many people said he was out of line, but the kid is a legal adult, and if a professional coach has an opinion of him, fair enough.
Moreover, Adelaide have been keen to pass it out of the back, and then continue to pass short balls until they find someone fluent in Spanish or Portuguese free, and then it’s a quick ball in followed by Jeronimooooooooo!
They seemed to be at least adept at playing their philosophy comfortably, however as they charge into the finals it will be interesting to see if they circumvent philosophy for three points.
Luckily for Adelaide, if they keep to their footballing philosophy they should pick up points. Unlike most clubs, they have a clear direction and have every idea on what they should be doing.
I’ll predict a top-two finish, and they will be away grand finalists to Brisbane.
Brisbane Roar 9/10
First, 31 points. Coach sacked/resigned? No
It’s almost a repeat of the season when they went undefeated for the most part.
The results are pretty clear too, 15 played, for 10 wins, a draw and four losses. They’ve scored more goals than other team and conceded the least.
They have a very similar style to Adelaide, which is a refreshing change to the defend-defend-defend-shoot!-defend tactics of both last seasons grand finalists.
Mike Mulvey has added an attacking arrogance to their familiar style. Many were questioning how they would cope with no Besart Berisha, and having to play Dimi Petratos and Kwame Yeboah.
They have six goals between, before Yeboah was bought by German outfit Borussia Mönchengladbach. I’m going to say not too badly.
The Roar now need to focus on consistency after dropping points at back-to-back home games. They’re five points in front however, and they don’t need to change too much.
One-time favourite Jean Carlos Solorzano has been on trial at Brisbane this week and may be signed to accommodate the loss of Yeboah.
Unfortunately for Brisbane they’ve become too successful, failing to accommodate Broich and Berisha in the same salary cap.
He will be leaving to Melbourne Victory (Kruse, Jean Carlos Solorzano, Kosta Barbarouses, Ange Postecoglou, Mitch Nichols – do Melbourne just want to merge with them?)
On the bright side, Brisbane fans will be able to feel the blind hatred that every other A-League fan feels towards Berisha.
For now, Brisbane have to do everything in their power to not be the Central Coast Mariners, and just maintain their form.
No other team team deserves to the win title/season/cup/toilet seat as much as Brisbane, whatever we’re all cheering for.
Central Coast Mariners 6/10
Third, 24 points. Coach sacked/resigned? Yes
The team from definitely not Northern Sydney have some how managed to creep into the third place.
At the start of the season the two key men were Graham Arnold and Marcos Flores, now it is Phil Moss and Mitch Duke (who?).
They started the season well, but since they were trounced in Adelaide, their title defence is looking less than strong.
They are third, but have scored the second least goals in the league, two in front of Melbourne Heart. Heart, the team that for the first 13 rounds crossed the ball for a midget.
To sum up the Mariners, they score one dodgy goal out of seemingly nothing and manage to hold on for a draw or a 1-nil win.
However, with financial restrictions that come with setting up a professional franchise in Gosford, it is hard to blame them.
They’re picking up results and blooding the likes of Nick Fitzgerald and Anthony Caceres, so they’re attempting to copy and paste their last three seasons.
The rest of the league is content to watching this bland, predictable formula and do nothing about it, and thus they will make the finals. Their current position belies their ability, and should finish fourth or fifth.
Melbourne Heart 2/10
Tenth, eight points. Coach sacked/resigned? Yes
The sole reason they are not one out of 10 is because of the ‘Oh ah Engelaar’ chant that was belted around AAMI park last Friday, it was frightening how loud five thousand people can be. To be fair he is 6 foot six and played for The Netherlands.
They started the season and this is how it went – they weren’t playing many kids, they were playing ugly football and they weren’t winning. Those are the three key reasons why John Aloisi was sacked.
Unlike Wellington and Adelaide, who also had their struggles early on, they had no clear direction or achievable goals.
However they performed well against the Jets last round. Heart will not play finals, however they have to do a few things so next season they have at least moved forward.
One, win away from home, anywhere. They need to rid themselves of this inexplainable hoodoo.
Two, make AAMI Park a place for entertaining football and to bring the crowds, more 3-3 draws and 2-1 wins.
John Van ‘t Schip has the hardest task of all the A-League coaches, however he is also the only one to coach Ajax.
They’ll finish 10th (hopefully honourably), though with the recent news of Manchester City coming on board big things will be in store for Melbourne’s newly proclaimed Citizens in future.
Melbourne Victory 7/10
Fourth, 23 points. Coach sacked/resigned? Yes
Melbourne Victory have footballers with gametime in England in the 90s by not playing a striker.
They’ve employed two playmakers and Connor Pain and Archie Thompson on the wing.
Archie Thompson hasn’t been at his best, and misses simple chances far too often which has costed the Victory too many points.
On form, Melbourne Victory are the second-best team in the competition. Firstly, signing James Troisi and Barbarouses was very adept football management.
They’ve had four players picked in the Australian under 22s team, with Nick Ansell and Jason Geria being first-team regulars, which is why I’ve rated the teams season so highly.
Kevin Muscat isn’t a clone of Postecoglou however, and since his appointment the Victory have begun to stutter.
They were rightly thrashed 5-0 by Wellington and it will be interesting how they manage their run into the finals.
At their best, they deserve a home semi final, to achieve this, it will be decided by how well Tom Rogic replaces Nichols.
Recently, they along the Newcastle have had their squad decimated by the u22s Asian Cup. With these youngsters coming back they should steady and pick up more wins than losses.
Rogic will either be world class or so-so, they have an inexperienced coach and have recently been thrashed by Wellington and Brisbane.
However they have a good style of play and have scored the equal-second most goals (22). They will finish third.