Round 1 of the A-League was so cliché

Stuart Thomas Columnist

By Stuart Thomas, Stuart Thomas is a Roar Expert


70 Have your say

    It is far too soon to jump to conclusions about the ten A-League clubs after only one week. Or is it?

    All sporting teams have patterns and cultures and after the first weekend of matches, some clubs appeared to be confirming theirs, with others bucking the trend and threatening to morph into a better version of themselves.

    A cliché might be the best way to define each club’s first foray into the season.

    Brisbane Roar – ‘With all due respect, don’t take this the wrong way’
    Friday night was a disappointing result for the Roar after Melbourne City proved far too clinical, with Bruce Kamau snaring a brace. Unfortunately for Brisbane, many pre-season forecasts appear to now have weight after a lacklustre performance, albeit with an undermanned squad.

    Many had the writing on the wall, claiming John Aloisi’s ‘Dad’s army’ would lack speed and skill, and find it difficult to replace the goal-scoring prowess of Jamie Maclaren.

    On the basis of what we saw, those predictions appear accurate. Massimo Maccarone will need far better service than that with which he was provided on Friday.

    The return of Brett Holman, a fitter Maccarone and the impending arrival of Eric Bautheac will be positives, however there was something a little ominous about the performance.

    Melbourne City – ‘Money can’t buy happiness’
    Or can it? With all their internationals on deck, City will look a powerhouse. The only problem is that we have said the same thing for the last three years.

    Even without Fernando Brandan, Tim Cahill and Bruno Fornaroli, City were far too good for a struggling Brisbane and ironically, it was Kamau, the local, who did the damage.

    Ross McCormack and Bart Schenkeveld were impressive in their debuts. At their best, this squad looks likely.

    If Brisbane’s unimpressive performance was as poor as some felt, City might still have a lot to prove. Alternatively, they may have finally assembled a squad capable of producing the returns expected of considerable expenditure.

    Central Coast Mariners – ‘Two steps forward, one step back’
    In what many will see as the match of the round, the Mariners were eventually belted by the Jets, yet not disgraced. It was a positive start and after taking an early lead, a penalty and a stunning Roy O’Donovan hat-trick made things look far worse than what they actually were.

    Asdrubal scored, they dominated the corners won and, with some more poise in front of goal, the match could have taken on a different aspect. Wout Brama will add some much-needed composure when he is fit and firing.

    Newcastle Jets – ‘I’ve changed, I promise’
    Wow, what else was there to say after the Jets thumped five unanswered goals past the Mariners after falling behind early. Many felt O’Donovan would be a good signing, however no one could have predicted such opening-day efforts.

    Ronny Vargas lived up to his billing as a potential A-League star and the Hunter will come alive if their team is able to continue to produce the attacking, Ernie Merrick football they seemed committed to play on Saturday.

    Sydney FC – ‘Form is temporary, class is permanent’
    Nothing much appeared to have changed from a Sydney FC perspective. If anything, they might be more dangerous this season. There were, however, some serious defensive lapses with Paulo Retre struggling on the left.

    While still sweating on the pending return of the first stringers, Michael Zullo and Rhyan Grant, the distinct lack of clear chances created by the Victory will be seen as a positive by the manager.

    The class through the middle of the park was evident again, and Milos Ninkovic looks again set to choreograph much of Sydney’s attack.

    Sydney FC A-League 2017 Grand Final

    Melbourne Victory – ‘We was robbed’
    The Victory will be a top-four side again this season, that much is clear, yet Kevin Muscat has them convinced that they always deserve more.

    The intensity and aggression of the manager will again entertain all and sundry, as he launches barrage after barrage on officials, opposition coaches and players.

    Their weapons are intact, young players like Jason Geria and Thomas Deng have another year under their belt and Leroy George looked particularly impressive.

    But for an overplayed ball to Besart Berisha, the grand final draw may have been emulated in this, the 44th edition of the Big Blue.

    Irrespective of the score, there will always be a case for the injustice of the result. Muscat is an expert at finding it and using it to motivate his talented squad.

    Wellington Phoenix – ‘Don’t shut me out’
    In their ongoing quest for success, respect and numbers that validate their continued participation in the A-League, the Phoenix began in impressive style against the Reds. An attendance well in excess of last season’s average was a good place to start.

    Despite the fact that both teams seemed content with a sharing of the points, there was enough positivity in Wellington’s play to suggest they will surprise many this season.

    With three players absent on international duty, their full starting XI looks solid. Relying heavily on Roy Krishna for goals is an issue, however a firing Andrija Kaludjerovic could be a buffer for Wellington and provide another attacking option.

    Adelaide United – ‘Just give me some time’
    There was so much to like about the Reds’ opening performance. After the horror season that ended last April, Marco Kurz has assembled a solid squad, with impressive imports, and worked hard on developing combinations.

    Unfortunately, those combinations were far from polished and Adelaide will be a different team after eight or so weeks of A-League action.

    Once Isaias, Baba Diawara, Karim Matmour and Johan Absalonsen start to link and find continuity in attack, the team will appear more like the top-six candidate they look likely to become.

    Western Sydney Wanderers – ‘A change is as good as a holiday’
    The ‘everybody out, everybody in’ recruitment style of Tony Popovic over the last few seasons looks to have finally returned the Wanderers to something near their former selves.

    Ironically, the man behind the moves is gone and Hayden Foxe is overseeing the still-developing squad.

    If the combinations between Oriol Riera, Alvaro Cejudo, Roly Bonevacia and Jumpei Kusukami continue to develop, the entire league will do well to stop them.

    They look to be the squad that, more than any other, will buck the trend of their recent performances and return to the lofty heights of the ladder.

    Perth Glory – ‘Defence wins championships’
    If this cliché is indeed the case. Perth Glory won’t be winning one this season.

    The dual strikes of Riera and Kusukami just before the break were wonderful goals, yet the defensive lapses were obvious and a continuation of the failings of the back line last season.

    While Kenny Lowe flapped his way up and down the sideline and his quality attacking imports such as Andy Keogh and Diego Castro created some chances, the harsh reality of the defensive issues at the Glory remain.

    Positive additions such as Xavi Torres and Andreu Guerao, as well as the ever-improving Adam Taggart, will mean little unless the Glory address their defensive insufficiencies.

    It’s great to have you back A-League, and nice to see you on commercial free-to-air television as well.

    Shame everything was so cliché.

    Stuart Thomas
    Stuart Thomas

    Stuart Thomas is a sports writer and educator who made the jump from Roar Guru to Expert in 2017. An ex-trainee professional golfer, his sporting passions are broad with particular interests in football, AFL and rugby league. His love of sport is only matched by his passion for gardening and self-sustainability. Follow him on Twitter @stuartthomas72.

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    The Crowd Says (70)

    • October 10th 2017 @ 7:01am
      Kangajets said | October 10th 2017 @ 7:01am | ! Report

      Good article Stuart

      On other roar blogs on Friday i predicted the jets to have a big chance this year although I concede they have some defensive frailties. I predicted Brisbane to miss the 6 and I’m sticking with those predictions.

      I absolutely enjoyed the fast counter attack display by Newcastle on Saturday which had the ball in the net 7 times with 5 counting .

      Let’s hope o Donovan petratos and co. Keep banging them in .
      As for the mariners . They have some talent and they will push for 6 th this season

      For the sake of the A league , let’s hope we don’t have many repeats of what Sydney Fc and Melbourne victory produced Saturday night . Efficient but boring 1-0 games are not going to engage the new viewers onto channel

    • October 10th 2017 @ 7:54am
      Fadida said | October 10th 2017 @ 7:54am | ! Report

      The highlight was the quality of the recruits. I can’t wait for round 2

      • Columnist

        October 10th 2017 @ 9:03am
        Stuart Thomas said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

        Best import of the weekend?………………………..Tom Hiariej, utterly outstanding.

        • October 10th 2017 @ 3:49pm
          Fadida said | October 10th 2017 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

          Too many to choose from Stuart. The WSW Spanish trio look excellent, ditto the CCM Dutch duo. Vargas, the Poles, George, AU’s recruits. The returning Australians, Herd, Da Silva

          • October 10th 2017 @ 4:12pm
            punter said | October 10th 2017 @ 4:12pm | ! Report

            Likewise Fad, I thought the new players made it a lot more interesting.

      • October 10th 2017 @ 9:24am
        chris said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

        Does anyone know when Eric Bautheac gets his clearance to play? He looks like a quality player.

        • October 10th 2017 @ 11:12am
          Waz said | October 10th 2017 @ 11:12am | ! Report

          No one knows for sure. It’s been 5 weeks and maybe as long as 4 more weeks. The problem apparently sits with the biometric visa system not quite working properly which has created delays. Worst case is he gets clearance in 4 weeks and arrives here late November at which point he’s ten weeks without playing or proper training. Best case is someone pulls some strings and gets it through sooner …

    • October 10th 2017 @ 7:59am
      Buddy said | October 10th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

      Far too soon to be making assumptions throughout the league – at least, I hope that’s the case. If not, time to pack up and say “see you next season”.

      Personally, I’m hoping that the first few weeks sees the rust shaken off and then we will get more variety and some unexpected results and next time we see MV against SFC they serve up something slightly more entertaining. Yes it was gritty and hard fought and tactically astute, but ultimately it was dull.
      Sunday night at Spotless wasn’t all glitz and glamour involving the trio of imports that arrived this season. For most of the first half there was a feeling that “we’ve seen it all before” except this time, the possession was far more controlled and the moves were slick, but the final third of the field, a well known Wanderers dumping ground of poor passes, lack of ideas and poor shooting techniques were all on display until something just suddenly clicked into place. There again, they should have scored 4 or 5 so hopefully, it is rust.
      The City Roar game was like watching someone doing a jigsaw puzzle or perhaps Suduko. The home side knew what needed to be done but weren’t quite sure how to go about it but they would find they key pieces somewhere in the 90 minutes. Brisbane will improve and maybe it will be visits to Suncorp and the summer playing conditions that will be the undoing of many visiting teams. Best thing of the weekend was the resurrgent Jets though. Long may it continue as we really want to see good football and a winning team outside of the traditional power bases.

      • Columnist

        October 10th 2017 @ 9:06am
        Stuart Thomas said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:06am | ! Report

        Well said Buddy, and the combination between Nabbout and O’Donovan was outstanding. They could be the most dynamic scoring duo in the league if Nabbout finds the form of early last season. A pleasure to watch.

      • October 10th 2017 @ 9:57am
        Lionheart said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

        resurgent Jets – I missed that game but had a few words just recently on a different forum about the quality of Dimi Petratos. I think he’s good value, much of the time – how’d he go?

        • October 10th 2017 @ 10:57am
          j,binnie said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:57am | ! Report

          Lionheart – Petratos played well in this game capping off a creditable display with a well taken goal. It appeared he was playing a different role from what he “enjoyed’ at Roar, playing further forward, more as a right winger than a defensive midfielder which IMO he was never comfortable in,depending on Borello to do his defensive duties. Cheers jb.

          • October 10th 2017 @ 11:14am
            Waz said | October 10th 2017 @ 11:14am | ! Report

            He never played DM at Roar jb

            • October 10th 2017 @ 1:29pm
              j,binnie said | October 10th 2017 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

              Waz -he played in a midfield position at Roar and you of all people should know that midfielders are expected to do a certain amount of defensive duties.,but as I said Dimi depended on the hard working Borello to double up and do that part of his midfield duties.
              What the title DM or AM or for that matter PM (playmaker) means to me is nothing, I judge a player on his overall performance.
              Last weekend Dimi was playing in a more advanced role for Jets and appeared to be enjoying himself immensely, especially when gong forward. scoring his great goal after a run at the goal-line and hitting the net with extreme power. Cheers jb

              • October 10th 2017 @ 1:59pm
                Lionheart said | October 10th 2017 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

                yes, it’s such a pity JB, that Roar put so much effort into Dimi and get little for it. I loved watching him and Borrello develop over the years, gradually improving one season to the next. Those early years and he just didn’t know what to do when he made a break toward goal. Brattan was in the team then too, and developing with them. Sad to see them running around in other A League teams but really do wish them well.

        • October 10th 2017 @ 1:09pm
          Melange said | October 10th 2017 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

          I’ve always thought of Petratos as extremely underrated Lionheart, he’s got the goods I wonder if it comes down to consistency in producing them. Were you unhappy when he left Roar?

          For me, the biggest contribution he made Saturday was the reward he gave his defenders. There were a number of times when the Newie defenders sucked up a lot of pressure and when they finally cleared the ball Petratos won a lot of 50/50 battles and either earned free kicks or transitiioned the ball quickly for a counter attack.

    • October 10th 2017 @ 8:04am
      Waz said | October 10th 2017 @ 8:04am | ! Report

      Sorry Stuart, I stoped reading when I got to the “On the basis of what we saw, those predictions appear accurate” bit …. after the first three games last year Roar were P3 W1 D1 L1 and Maclaren couldn’t score to save his life.

      On the “basis of what we saw” then many were calling for Maccers to be dropped yet he went on to score 20 goals in the next 24 games and Roar again finished third despite the ravages of an ACL season. I’m sure there’s other examples at other clubs where premature conclusions are being drawn, but there’s a pattern to all this that’s getting tiresome.

      You might be right, Roar might be in for a horrible season (let’s face it, you lot have been predicting it every year for ten years now and you’ve got to be right sooner or later surely) but you can’t know that after one round.

      You say you’re a teacher, if a child has a bad first day do you write them off for the whole school year? On the basis of this article, yes you do.

      • Columnist

        October 10th 2017 @ 8:57am
        Stuart Thomas said | October 10th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        Would the Roar take a win and a draw from the first three this year? I think they would right now. Four points from the first three isn’t a terrible start by any stretch.

        I would never write off the Roar, however, what we saw supported some of the fears expressed early in the season.

        Just hoping to get some healthy A-League debate going. I hope Aloisi does well, as does my wife.

        • October 10th 2017 @ 9:15am
          Waz said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

          If you want debate Stuart you need some sensible analysis. This wasn’t it. There’s so much that could have been discussed – for example do you honestly think Victory’s squad is deep enough to go through an ACL and an A League season – the last time they tried with a better squad they finished 6th? But you went with the same old nonsense – at the start of each season it’s the same, it’s no wonder the code is starting to struggle.

          • Columnist

            October 10th 2017 @ 9:49am
            Stuart Thomas said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:49am | ! Report

            Point taken Waz, however when people question from where the scoring punch will come and then it is clearly lacking in the first game, I think the debate is right there. It doesn’t mean it will play out that way over the course of a season mind you, but that is the debate.

            Any discussion on ACL might be a bit premature considering draws etc haven’t been done and really, we should celebrate the weekend, something that we probably don’t do enough of. Sorry if you felt I was writing of your boys, not the case, but as you know yourself, they will have to improve.

            • October 10th 2017 @ 11:16am
              Waz said | October 10th 2017 @ 11:16am | ! Report

              It’s the lack of analysis that’s the issue;

              and you say “Any discussion on ACL might be a bit premature considering draws etc haven’t been done” well, if that’s true you still feel comfortable forecasting final table positions which occurs after?

              • October 10th 2017 @ 12:44pm
                Lionheart said | October 10th 2017 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

                dates are known – you can be assured there will be mid-week travel involved

      • Roar Pro

        October 10th 2017 @ 9:17am
        Josh Barton said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:17am | ! Report

        The Roar will improve once they have their full team on the field. But the competition across the board seems to have improved a lot, can they keep pace? We will soon find out.

        • October 10th 2017 @ 9:57am
          Waz said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

          Not even that, play that exact same team on Friday and they’ll most likely play way better. Caletti should have scored around the ten minute point, D’Aggers should have scored instead of hitting the post, and he compounded that later on by not attacking the ball for what would have been a simple tap in. Despite the lack of ball Roar could-have/should-have/but-didn’t have three first half goals. Those chances will likely get converted a few weeks in to the season.

          Equally Roar gifted three chances to City only conceded a simple goal by a disorganised defence on half time, although the amount of possession City had you could argue it was due; the second deflected goal was against the run of play in a second half dominated by Roars possession but for only one chance on target. City had two shots on target all night, both goals.

          Yes putting in a few different players might help but there’s two things we’ve noticed under Aloisi – we start the season slow and we start second halfs slow.

      • October 10th 2017 @ 9:22am
        j,binnie said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:22am | ! Report

        Waz – There is one factor that cannot be denied about Roar and that is their inability to convert outfield superiority into goals.
        Forget league positions and goals scored by individuals as guides to performance simply watch the team perform for 90 minutes and break the stats down to “possession v goals scored”..
        When that is done the realisarion that Roar have a problem is not to be denied..
        Slightly off topic but nevertheless indicative is the fact that on the opening day of the season we noted that all across the competition we could have selected a team from squads with a common trait in their history.
        Redmayne, (sydney fc), Geria, (victory), Donnachie, (victory), Zullo (sydney fc),,Petratos (jets), Brattan (melb city), Brosque (sydney fc), Lustica, (wsw), Kaludjerovic (phoenix), Berisha (victory). Fitzgerald (melb city).
        Not a bad looking team is it?. All on Roars books at one time or another. Cheers jb.

        • October 10th 2017 @ 9:48am
          Waz said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:48am | ! Report

          jb. And that would have made a sensible discussion. Roar for the last two seasons were an odd side – you had Borrello and Maclaren playing a counter attacking style and Broich not; they scored plenty but as you say not enough for the possession.

          So Stuart might have analysed whether Maccarone (38), Skapetis (22), Gameiro (23), D’Aggers (19), FBK (35) and Bautheac (30) is a good enough front line to fix that problem?

          Instead of going down the “dads army” line pushed out by the Sydney media despite an old squad winning the title last year, he might have analysed Roars intent on regularly playing 9-10 players U23, way more than any other team (bar possibly CCM) will achieve and whether that’s a good strategy.

          He might also have analysed whether Roar have players good enough to play with Maccarone a player who outshines Cahills career by a country mile; on Friday they simply could not get the ball forward quick enough for the big fella to use and – in a game short on chances – two young kids butchered simple chances set up by Maccarone.

          As for the list of former players, yup, that’s what a salary capped league does for you.

          • Columnist

            October 10th 2017 @ 9:52am
            Stuart Thomas said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

            In my defence Waz, covering all ten clubs seems fair after week one. Your suggestions make an article on the Roar alone, which is fine, yet not my attention after a great weekend of football played by all clubs.

            • October 10th 2017 @ 10:04am
              Waz said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:04am | ! Report

              I would contest that statement as well. There was little great football on show.

              I would say Jets yes, Wanderers yes, Glory patchy but in parts yes, Mariners going forward yes but only one goal and what about the shambles of a defence? but the rest?

              City/Roar – both poor and Victiry/SFC was a snooze-fest although credit to Muscat for organising a team without his stars but a game with only two shots on target and where both sides misplaced one in every four passes is hardly “great football” and Nix/Adelaide was a grind after a promising start.

              • Columnist

                October 10th 2017 @ 10:22am
                Stuart Thomas said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:22am | ! Report

                Great weekend of football, not weekend of great football. Round 1 is always great, anticipation, fun and a few surprises. All clubs involved, but definitely not all great. Different to a week where every game is a cracker, no suggestion of that.

          • October 10th 2017 @ 10:27am
            Lionheart said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:27am | ! Report

            Waz I was impressed by the work rate of Daggers – he didn’t stop and was much more involved in defence than previous season, but he didn’t do much when he had the ball up front in his primary job. Maccarone was directing him and others a lot. Really pleased, and impressed with the short stint by Akbari, our youngest and I’m starting to think most promising player. He’s just 17, competing in midfield with Caletti just 19. I think both will feature this season, and for a few to come.

            • October 10th 2017 @ 3:04pm
              Waz said | October 10th 2017 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

              Agree on D’Aggers; the issue with Roar was a total lack of cohesion in the first half where the defence was the only unit that looked like it knew what it was going (apart from corners sadly). Second half was better but still not quite there. I’m optimistic for Friday but Adelaide will be after a win as well so it’ll be a ding-dong battle I recon

          • October 10th 2017 @ 10:50am
            j,binnie said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

            Waz – True ,but all the clubs are subject to salary cap restrictions. The point I was trying to make can be explained by asking some pointed questions.
            (1) Is Geria a better right back then Hingert?,
            (2) Is Zullo a better left back than Brown?.
            (3) Does Donnachie have more potential at this point in time than North?
            (4) Are Petratos and Brattan better than their counterparts in the present Roar line up.
            Do you get the gist of my point,? It can’t all be placed at the base of salary cap restrictions,dId none of the above mentioned want to come back to Roar, or I suppose worse stilL was their availablity missed,or ignored, by the Roar backroom staff.??? Cheers jb..

            • October 10th 2017 @ 3:14pm
              Waz said | October 10th 2017 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

              All clubs are subject to the salary cap jb but not all clubs develop such good players. How many players arrive at Roar and leave as better players? Quite a few I’d say … and as they get better they attract the attention of other clubs and their agents salary expectations go up. Petratos is the best example: a reject from Sydney he arrived on the low salary band, was resigned to the mid salary band, and signed for Hets on the high salary band.

              Now if there were no cap 1 or 2 more would have been retained but Roars reality is most would probably leave any way unless more money is found?

            • October 10th 2017 @ 3:14pm
              Waz said | October 10th 2017 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

              All clubs are subject to the salary cap jb but not all clubs develop such good players. How many players arrive at Roar and leave as better players? Quite a few I’d say … and as they get better they attract the attention of other clubs and their agents salary expectations go up. Petratos is the best example: a reject from Sydney he arrived on the low salary band, was resigned to the mid salary band, and signed for Hets on the high salary band.

              Now if there were no cap 1 or 2 more would have been retained but Roars reality is most would probably leave any way unless more money is found?

              • October 10th 2017 @ 3:19pm
                Nemesis said | October 10th 2017 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

                Pretty sure Petratos asked Sydney to release him since he wanted to move overseas. But, he ended up in the Malaysian 1st Division.

    • October 10th 2017 @ 8:25am
      Post_hoc said | October 10th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      Stuart, Sydney and class? Please stop my sides are splitting. They beat a very under strength Victory and required an own goal to get over the line. Sydney were good last year but also had a lot of luck, not sure they are better than last year on paper, Vuka is a HUGE loss. They were lucky again on Saturday, the luck will run out and then we will see how good they are.

      Next week you should score for fun, the Derby will be interesting.

      • Columnist

        October 10th 2017 @ 9:00am
        Stuart Thomas said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

        Sorry Post_Hoc, I didn’t mean to send you into a fit of laughter. Sydney were the class team in the A-League last year. Not too far in front of Victory yet they did play a wonderful brand and deserve that title. Doesn’t mean things will pan out the same way this season. I feel WSW could be the BIG danger. A full strength City also looks impressive.

        • October 10th 2017 @ 12:51pm
          Lionheart said | October 10th 2017 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

          Undoubted victors last season, and by a long way. But ‘a wonderful brand’ of football? I can’t agree with that. They played the strangulation game, many goals on the long counter and not much pretty that I saw. Surely, if they played attractive football, they would be packing them in?
          They were great, no doubt, and look much the same again but given they’ve got a fair number of fta games on Saturdays, I doubt their style will improve the following of the league somehow.

    • Roar Pro

      October 10th 2017 @ 9:15am
      Josh Barton said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      I was surprised by the Jets. I wrote them off in pre season but on the basis of that one performance they look like a comfortable top 6 side. I’m interested to see if they can keep consistent, they have Glory up next at home and I think they will brush them aside.

      Central Coast though, I had them pinned as a top 6 side. On paper they look a much better side. But maybe it is going to be harder to shake the performances of the last few years than I thought.

      Both Sydney clubs look really strong, as do both Melbourne clubs. The respective derbies could be the most competitive ever.