Newcastle have struck a blow to Western United’s A-League finals hopes with a 1-0 win at McDonald Jones Stadium.
This is part two of my A-League half time report card on the 2013/2014 A-League season.
One more round has passed and the A-League is becoming increasingly competitive and famous, as it now boasts one of the richest teams in the world.
There is however nine other teams in the competition, and five I’m yet to discipline for not being Brisbane Roar.
Newcastle Jets 6/10
Eighth, 16 points. Coach sacked/resigned? Yes
Sometimes, the Jets are the best young team in the competition, and sometimes they’re the Newcastle Jets. Adam Taggart has been a stand out this year, reminiscent of Robbie Kruse and Marco Rojas before him.
His hat-trick against Melbourne Heart was outstanding, showing technique and attacking awareness that many strikers in this league can’t master.
Gary van Egmond at times looked to be creating a side capable of playing nice football and scoring goals, and then at times parking an airbus in front of their goals when faced with hostile opposition, not that playing Perth at home should be considered ‘hostile’.
With Egmond sacked and the fairy tale covered in shipwrecked oil, the Jets have looked to Clayton Zane to put them into the finals.
This must be considered a failure and disappointment for the Jets. Ever since their early success they’ve floated between mediocrity and substandard.
They haven’t played finals since 09-10 and this season they will only scrape in, if they do make it all.
They do however have a talented young core playing group, which cannot be said for most clubs.
Goodwin, Taggart, Brillante, Hoole, Kantarvksi and Co is a basis that the Jets can mount a serious finals title in the future, however it won’t be this May.
The club needs to build on it’s youthful squad and play football that suits their talents, a squad flush-out looks destined in pre-season.
Zane may be able to turn things around and get the club to the finals, the 3-0 derby loss isn’t the best to go about it though.
I can’t see them picking up enough points to take advantage of their position, and they will finish seventh of eighth (again).
Perth Glory 6/10
Seventh, 20 points. Coach sacked/resigned? Yes
Perth are the definition of middle of the road. Five wins, five draws, six losses. seventh for goals scored, fourth lowest for goals against.
They’ve had such an indecisive season that most aren’t sure if they should scrap everything and rebuild, or if they already are rebuilding.
However they have can smell finals football among the iron ore and have recruited aggressively with recent signings of Rostyn Griffiths. Darvydas Šernas and Nebojša Marinković.
The Glory have a ‘passionate’ new coach in Kennny Lowe, who with Tony Sage, will look to create a squad capable of challenging in the upcoming finals and in future seasons.
The Glory have played well in games and been almost unidentifiable in others, the Melbourne Heart game and Newcastle away were highlights and they will to become more consistent to maintain their finals challenge.
Another club looking one eye on the finals and another at next season, they’ve got a good history of youth with Chris Harold and Jamie Maclaren two of their best.
They also have Daniel De Silva waiting, I saw all of his games during 2013’s Joeys world cup campaign and he was a stand out player at just 16, if the Glory can nurture him well, they could be in for future Socceroos star.
The future is bright for the Glory, and they may be able to repeat their ’11-12 finals run and surprise the east coast. sixth or seventh.
Sydney FC – 6.5/10
Fifth, 22 points. Coach sacked/ resigned? Surprisingly, no
This is their last season as the A League glamour club, with Melbourne Heart/City to sheikh Sydneys’ grip on the title.
Alessandro Del Piero has been on of the A Leagues best marquees. He has contributed 30% of Sydney’s goals this season, similar to his contribution last season.
Calls that the club are are one-man team are widely inaccurate as Ranko Despotovic has scored five goals in 10 games, so if anything they’re at least a 2-man team.
In a similar vain to Perth, the club find themselves fifth after playing some pretty mediocre football at times.
However their 5-0 victory over Melbourne Victory should quell many dissidents, at least until they lose to Melbourne Heart.
Frank Farina is somehow not sacked, who would of predicted he would be one of the four coaches to still be in a job? Not me. They are wildly inconsistent and will need to steady if they are to be a contender for the finals.
Their goal is difference is exactly 0, which almost completely defines their season. Frank Farina has struggled to implement any noticeable style, which has angered commentators and fans alike, however every time some one rips in to Sydney, they win a game they weren’t expected to.
Good news for the future, their Y-League team is 10 points in front of second, but that could mean they’re playing players that other clubs have in their first team plans – Corey Gameiro is their top goal scorer, yet Mabil, Mauk, Ansell and Garuccio are regular first team inclusions for their respective clubs.
First place is first place though, so come end of the season, at least one team in sky blue will be celebrating.
They are incredibly difficult to judge, but I don’t expect them to maintain a consistency to challenge the top four, they will do well to finish where they are now, and should finish sixth or seventh.
Wellington Phoenix – 7/10
Ninth, 17 points. Coach sacked/resigned? No
I’ve rated the ‘Nix fairly highly, which some may argue as unjustifiable given their current position. The Phoenix board sent an earthquake through the club, uprooting everything done in the previous seasons, with the expectation to play like Barcelona, play entertaining football and to challenge their Australian cousins.
After an slow, inaccurate season, they’ve scored 21 goals, more than any other in the bottom half of the table, more than Western Sydney and Central Coast and only nine off the league leaders.
They’re second half the season started just before Christmas and they will more than likely continue this form. Stein Husygems has a beautiful touch at times and they’ve reinvented Boxall as an attacking full back.
They’re passing the ball around, going straight through teams as they did against Melbourne Vicotry and Brisbane. They faced a great assault on their goal by Brisbane last week and were unlucky to not pick up a draw after playing well for most of the match.
Tyler Boyd is an exciting prospect and Jeremy Brockie may have found some form, Ernie Merrick has created a fashionable team in New Zealand and more A League clubs need to start looking over their shoulder. They’re 12 points off second, but I predict them to finish stronger than any other team and should finish fourth.
Western Sydney Wanderers – 8/10
Second 29 points. Coach sacked or resigned? No
The Wanderers have attempted to fly under the radar after their brilliant debut season. They’ve kept their cautious style which has risen them second. Tony Popovic has attempted to rotate the squad during the busing festive period, in preparation for the busier ACL/A League combo.
It’s brought mixed results, winning two and losing three of their last five The Wanderers have given us an insight into the next few months, and it doesn’t look to well. If they continue to drop points they will face pressure from the chasing pack, which includes every team except the Melbourne Heart.
They’ve only scored 20 goals so far, 10 less than Brisbane, their lack of distinct goal scorer may mean they won’t be able to pick up points they don’t necessarily deserve, like Brisbane with Berisha and Sydney with Del Piero.
The club is also playing to a market, as many Wanderers fans became bitter than “those flogs with no identity” (Melbourne Heart) were bought by Sheikh Mansour when they weren’t even on the market, and the Wanderers are still looking for an owner.
Shinji Ono is off to Japan at the end of the year which seems to have already dented the confidence of the team and the club.
Aaron Mooy has also been rumoured to favour a move elsewhere – Europe or Asia dependent on how good his agent is, or Melbourne Heart will be looking for an Australian marquee.
Hersi has also be clear he either wants a new two year contract or to leave in January.
With three key players uncertain about their future, squad harmony is certain to drop. Tony Popovic will have a much tougher end to the season than he had last year, and it will test his abilities.
The Wanderers just aren’t playing the sort of football that deserves back to back premiers, and they don’t have the squad to successfully navigate the Champions League and a much more competitive A-League.
They will struggle to maintain their position and look certain to drop more points than they did at the start of the season.
I’ll get a lot of hate for this, but Western Sydney will finish fifth.