In July I spoke with Ben Sigmund about defending in the A-League.
With three rounds having already come and gone, let’s continue enjoying the A-League as we take a look at the Top five A-League talking points for Round 3.
1. The quality of football on display
Heading into the season, the focus was on Tim Cahill and in some respects, there were those who believed he would be the man to draw the attention back to the game and in turn hopefully lead to a increase in TV dollars for the next broadcast deal.
Now whether or not that turns out to be the case is left to be seen, but another major factor is the quality of football on display.
Season after season, fans and experts laud the quality of the competition and claim it continues to improve.
Socceroos coach, Ange Postecoglou, praises the quality continually and gives comparison to other footballing competitions around the world.
For those who can sit back and take a view of the competition as a whole, the quality being spoken about might be easier to see, but for those simply focused on their own teams performance, it might be harder to gage.
But I for one, having watched all games either live or on catchup can say without a doubt the quality of football this season is the best I’ve seen it, and saying that seems to be a seasonal thing.
One only had to watch Friday night’s contest between Melbourne City and Perth Glory.
Although the attendance might not have been what many hoped thanks to the weather, those who were present and the viewing audience at home were treated to something special. Perth came and took all three points in an edge of your seat contest coupled with the different styles in football that added to the quality of the match.
And if people thought that was a once off, they didn’t have long to wait to see another gripping contest.
Adelaide United versus Melbourne Victory might have been the match to outdo City versus Glory.
It’s hard to really encapsulate what one is referring to when simply stating the quality was something else, but given all criticisms received in the past, this tweet from AFL journalist Rohan Connolly might go some way in saying the sort of effect the quality of football is having.
And might I add, without the addition of Tim Cahill.
2. Overall, TV ratings are up 47 per cent
It should come as no surprise ratings are up on last season. Given last season’s lack of marquee appeal and advertising effort, coupled with off-field dramas and fan backlash, many would have thought with plenty of the issues addressed that it would most likely lead to an increase, most notably small though.
Heading into season 2016-17 and with the drama of last season predominantly behind us, FFA launched a rather good marketing campaign – and at the right time. With Melbourne City marquee man Tim Cahill also at the forefront, the interest just went boom! Masterstroke FFA? Or years of hard work to get to where we are now? Either or, FFA are once again jumping for joy at the huge increases in viewing audiences.
One might also like to point out that attendances are up 12 per cent, but plenty would provide a fairly reasonable explanation for this given the scheduling of two early derbies.
But with an overall 47 per cent increase in TV viewing, it’s the ideal start to what will hopefully lead towards a much improved financially appealing broadcast deal.
With that said, and despite FFA just jumping for joy, they should remain focused on ensuring the next deal will have Australian footballs best interests at heart.
3. Sydney FC rock solid
This is Sydney FC’s greatest start to any A-League season and oh do they look good.
Having yet to concede a goal in both the A-League and FFA Cup, they are shaping up as the team to beat – though it was only last week we were lauding the efforts of Melbourne City, so plenty can change in a week.
But I digress, some might suggest it’s been all luck, and against Wellington Phoenix, there might be some truth, but looking at their run of form in both the A-League and FFA Cup, there is a bit more too this team then luck.
Sydney FC coach, Graham Arnold, is a smart man and his harshest critic – rightly so given the nature of the job.
After a horrendous showing last season and by his own accounts, Graham Arnold took some much needed time to reflect on himself during the off-season.
A week prior to the season starting, he was quoted as saying “I take all responsibility on my shoulders for what happened last season,” Arnold said. “Whether it was because in year one, when I came to the club (in 2014), everything went well, maybe I tried to be a little bit clever in recruiting more players in the cap, to cope with the Asian Champions League. It was quantity over quality, to deal with the schedule.”
“When you have 27 players, it’s more to keep happy. You have to split the foreigners as you can only take three into the Champions League, and at the end of it, the biggest lesson I learned was that the smaller the group, the better the quality.”
Well the quality Arnold now possess at his arsenal is frightening. Although there will come a time the team finally concedes a goal and will probably draw or lose, he has his team lazer focused on claiming all three titles this season.
As Sydney FC prepare for their Round 4 clash against Newcastle Jets, they’ve already gone some way to achieving their goal, as last week they clinched their place in the 2016 FFA Cup final.
With no Asian Champions League commitments this season, the task will be made easier as Sydney FC fans will grow in hope they can claim their first piece of silverware in sometime.
4. I’m not even a Wanderers fan and I miss Parramatta Stadium
It just wasn’t the same watching Western Sydney Wanderers play out of Spotless Stadium on TV.
I can’t speak for those in attendance, but given some reactions on social media, the concensus is the view is majorly affected (as any game played on an oval would be), atmosphere is dampened and well it’s just not home.
With only 13,247 fans in attendance but a membership base of 18,000 plus, one has to ask if this is what the TV audience will be consigned to for the next few seasons? Let alone those attending.
Did the club make the right decision in choosing Spotless Stadium as their home venue? Or would another football appropriate stadium have been the better option, like Campbelltown or Penrith? Wanderers fans, over to you.
5. Adelaide United being crippled by injury
I strongly felt the better team lost on Saturday night, but that happens in football.
While they may have lost for the first time to Victory in some time at home, Adelaide were relentless in their pursuit to try and win and we were all treated to something special in the process.
They played beautiful, scintillating, attacking football and were simply a joy to watch. While Victory nutted it out and grinded their way to a win amazing win.
Despite a last minute stoppage time winner from Victory’s Marco ‘Kiwi Messi’ Rojas, Reds fans would have been excited to see that despite key losses in personal from their premiership and championship-winning side of last season, that they aren’t to be taken lightly and have the potential to once again go all the way this season.
Unfortunately at present though, the issue facing them isn’t the quality of football but rather the injuries to key players in Marcelo Carrusca, Sergio Cirio and now Henrique.
At least a positive to be taken from these injuries are the opportunities they create for up and coming players.
None more so would be excited to take that opportunity with both feet than new recruit and former National Premier League star, Danny Choi.
He could receive his first call up to the starting side in place of Henrique’s absence, and given his healthy cameo against Victory, he could at least be a saving grace in the interim.
For the time being, Reds will need luck to turn their way in the hope of securing their first win of the season against Melbourne City this weekend and avoid any further injuries in the process, for otherwise their season could be over as quickly as it started.
That’s a wrap for the top five A-League talking points for Round 3. Join me next week as we look at what will have taken place in Round 4.