With talk of expansion enough to keep us pre-occupied throughout the week, as well as ongoing TV negotiations, let’s not fumble around.
Let’s jump straight to it and look at the Top five A-League talking points for Round 6.
1. Sydney FC breaking records
In the early rounds of the season, we’re usually finding out who the contenders are and who are our pretenders. Though as each week passes and we find ourselves seeing one team stand above them all, we start to ask ourselves if this team we’re watching, really is the team to best. This team of course is none other than Sydney FC.
And after another win, I can’t help but ask (like many of us are) when and who will beat Sydney FC?
On the weekend, Sydney took on Perth in what many expected to be a close contest. With talk of both teams being title contenders this season, and some gritty performances from the undefeated Sydney FC, plenty were hoping so see Perth finally knock off Sydney and stop the debate of when will Sydney lose their first match.
In the early stages, Perth Glory had some good chances, but despite these chances, they were wasteful in front of goal.
Not only would Glory’s attack fail to fire on the day, but their defence would prove their biggest downfall, with it at times appearing rather calamitous.
The first goal Milos Ninkovic scored for Sydney was a perfect example of this, as centreback become makeshift Right back, Dino Djubilic, simply could not have made more of meal out his defending.
The goal would set the tone for the rest of the match as Sydney would end up running away with it in the second half and finish 4-1 winners in a convincing display.
The win for Sydney meant they became only the second team in the history of the A-League, to start a season with a perfect six from six.
Back in season 2006-07, Melbourne Victory led the way and were the first to achieve this feat.
Interestingly though, despite Sydney equaling this, Victory were able to do one better by winning in their Round 7 fixture to make it a perfect seven from seven.
During Victory’s record-setting start to a season, they also in process scored 17 goals and conceded only four.
This essentially set them in motion to become the first dual Premiership/Championship winners.
Comparatively, Sydney have started their record run much better. Having scored 17 goals and conceding only two in their first six games, it would appear Sydney – much like Victory – have set the tone for the rest of the season and are building a strong case as to why they should be considered heavy favourites.
I cannot imagine continuing this theme throughout the season, whereby I’m constantly asking myself just who can beat them? But when they’re playing as consistently well as what they are, it’s hard not to ask.
So with that said, can Brisbane Roar stop this record run or will Sydney FC knock off another contender and really put to bed the question ‘Who are our contenders?’ When we all know there’s only one – Sydney FC.
2. Matches played in Canberra, should be by Canberra
Prior to even the Mariners kicking a ball in Canberra on the weekend, the issue of why they were playing there was discussed ad neaseum.
Roar expert, Mike Tuckerman, labeled it simply: “The Mariners playing in Canberra is a waste of time.”
Although I understood why the Mariners were taking two of their matches to Canberra this season, I could only sit back and hope that Canberrans turned out in full force. For deep down, it’s not the Mariners I really want playing in Canberra, but instead an actual team from Canberra that the area can genuinely connect with.
Unfortunately this turning out in full force would not eventuate and what resulted was the lowest crowd of the season, as only 5,497 turned out to watch Wellington Phoenix defeat the Mariners 2-0.
To make matters worse, this match also resulted in the second worst viewing figures on Fox Sports this season, with only 48,000 tuning in.
This now means Wellington hold three of the five lowest ratings matches on Fox this season – thus adding more weight to the discussion they don’t offer much to our league.
On a positive though, this was the highest attendance in Canberra for a Mariners match.
Essentially though, what does all this mean? Well, Central Coast Mariners have expressed a commitment, and while many fear this weekends attendance gives more ammunition to FFA to knock back any interested parties willing to have a Canberra side take part in the competition, perhaps we have to just accept we may not get a team from the nation’s capital for some time.
It may be that we will just need to get used to the Mariners playing one or two matches a season as a filler for the Canberrans lack of live sporting events in the summer.
3. Thursday night football is a flop
With our first Thursday night fixture played for the season between Melbourne City and Newcastle Jets, it was always going to be interesting to see how attendances would be affected.
Like many other sports in the country, it is well documented how much teams suffer in terms of attendance as there are a multitude of reasons why supporters are unable to attend during the working week.
In NRL and AFL, Thursday night football has become a constant in recent years, so much so that despite teams complaints of suffering at the gate, the powers that be continue to persist with, as it usually is a television ratings success.
For Melbourne City, they were the first cab off the rank and they too suffered a drop in attendance.
A total of 7,745 turned out to watch Melbourne City and Newcastle Jets play out an entertaining first half of football, that would turn into one of the more bizarre matches as both teams approaches to the match changed in the second half. Essentially, the only way to describe the second half was that it was boring.
While Tim Cahill was yet again quiet, it was once again ‘The Fornaroli show’. Scoring two goals on the night, Bruno Fornaroli broke Shane Smeltz’s scoring record to become quickest player to score 30 goals in the A-League.
It was his second goal pm the night though that left us in awe of the man we’ve also come to know as El Tuna. With a perfect cross from Bruce Kamau into the box, Fornaroli was in perfect position to volley on the full and with such precision and timing, there was nothing the Jets keeper Jack Duncan could do.
Alas, back to the issue of Thursday night football. Despite a boring second half display, the first half was highly entertaining and, given the appeal of Bruno Fornaroli and FFA poster boy Tim Cahill, one would have thought City could continue their tremendous Fox Sports viewing average of 105,600 viewers per round (not including SBS2).
Think again. A total of 56,000 tuned in, thus making it the fifth lowest viewing audience for Fox Sports this season and well below Fox Sports average of 89,120 (pre-round 6).
Was it just a matter of people forgot or didn’t know the A-League schedules Thursday matches? I doubt it very much.
Fans don’t forgot when a football match is on.
With another six Thursday night fixtures set to take place this season, it’ll be interesting to see how both attendances and viewing audiences are affected. One can only hope in terms of viewing, that this was a once off, but if it continues, hopefully it will be something addressed by FFA and whomever holds the rights for next season.
For although from a broadcast perspective, ratings are important, fans attending the matches cannot be under valued.
4. Popovic more entertaining than the Wanderers
As it currently stands, last year’s runners-up in the Wanderers, are currently sitting in seventh and are still searching for that elusive and ever so needed, consistency.
After some promising signs against Perth Glory away from home last week, Wanderers coach Tony Popovic and his players would have surely headed into the clash with Melbourne Victory with some confidence in the belief they could win.
What transpired though was players appearing to be more committed than others in the fight for three points. While the likes of Jumpei Kusukami and Nicolas Martinez have been impressive and continue to improve, it’s been their back four and goalkeeper in Andrew Redmayne that have been less than inspiring.
Having conceded the most goals in the competition equal with Perth Glory (13), they appear clueless as to what it is their roles are.
With a one of the strongest midfields in the competition and forward line more than capable of scoring, it’s concerning that six games in, they’re yet to get their house in order.
During their match against Victory, it wasn’t the players who had the fire in the belly, it was they coach Tony Popovic.
It’s not often my attention is drawn more to what the coaches are doing than the players, but with the Wanderers finding no answers to Victory’s attacking arsenal, it was left to Popovic to get the most animated.
At times, Popovic was more than within his rights to be upset due to some more than contentious calls, but essentially it was over the top animation towards the referees and post match comments that’s now landed him in hot water.
With comments like these, it’s easy to see why the FFA have cited the coach under the FFA National Code of Conduct.
“I don’t think we’ll see a clearer one this season,” Popovic said on Fox Sports.
“Maybe it’s a coincidence – we’ve won one out of 11 with Jarred Gillett as a ref.
“Maybe it’s just a coincidence. I’m sure he’ll come and explain himself.”
In the post-match press conference, Popovic again offered his thoughts on the decision.
“If that’s not a penalty, he should book him for diving,” he said.
“It’s a goalkick, so what’s he done? He’s dived? It can’t be clearer than that.”
I can’t fault Popovic’s view on the matter, but essentially he can’t be making those comments.
A positive that I do see though is Popovic remains as driven and determined as ever to lead the Wanderers to the championship that’s alluded them for some time.
I’m not privy to the ongoings behind closed doors, and it could be that frustrations are starting to get the better of him as the pressure mounts, but pressure aside, the Wanderers need to start getting themselves organised as they’re leaking goals at a faster rate than what the Mariners were last season, and we all know the sorts of records they set.
With opponents in Melbourne City next up, the task doesn’t get any easier. Perhaps a change in tactic to the more defensive approach with counter attacking football might be the way to go. I recall not long ago that this approach win then the premiership and Asian Champions League.
5. Perth’s away form is killing them
Perth Glory are a good team and many people believe they have the potential to really challenge for silverware this season, but in order to be taken seriously as title contenders, both home-and-away form need to account for something.
As it currently stands, Perth Glory are one of three teams who remain undefeated at home, which is all good said and done, but they are one of only two teams not to have won a match on the road – the other being Adelaide United.
With performances like theirs against Sydney Fc, it’s no wonder they haven’t won away from home.
Travel has always been an issue for clubs like Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix. Travelling such long distances on a weekly to at times fortnightly basis can be draining.
In the past four rounds, Perth have travelled to Melbourne, Brisbane, played at home and now to Sydney. There is a real chance all this travel has had an effect.
Even last year, Perth only managed 16 out of 42 points away from home and this ultimately cost them a place in the top two, for if I recall correctly, they were well placed heading into the final rounds, but fell eventually fell away to finish fifth.
What doesn’t help is that when you’re facing the ladder leaders who have only left New South Wales once in six weeks, one can reasonably expect Sydney to be more well rested.
After Perth Glory’s three away matches, they have conceded eight goals, equal with Wellington Phoenix and only one behind the Mariners, who have played four away matches.
From a statistical reference, of the 11 seasons that have thus far been completed, the team who has achieved the most away points during regular season, has gone on to win the Premiership on seven occasions.
The other four times were by teams who had achieved the second most away points (3 times) and the third most away points (1).
With a return back home to play Adelaide Friday night, along with a new membership record for the club and recent attendances proving amazing, chances are they can keep their home record intact.
But if Adelaide are to nab their first win at nib Stadium, it’ll leave Perth as the only team not to have obtained an away win and chances are they could fall out of the six come the close of the round.
That’s a wrap for another week of our top five A-League talking points for Round 6. Join me once again next week as I look forward to bringing you the top five talking points for Round 7.