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The regular season is over, and the top six locked in, while the wooden spoon is decided as well. All of which brings us to the Round 27 A-League talking points.
What value a defender?
Bobo has the highest scoring individual season by an A-League striker to date, beating the previous mark set by Bruno Fornaroli – all without playing finals.
It’s an achievement that is unlikely to be bettered any time soon.
Bobo’s record-breaking goal on Friday night in the Big Blue was the difference in that match. However, the statistics tell me that the true difference maker for Sydney FC was in defence – specifically Alex Wilkinson.
Wilkinson made two, ultimately critical, goal-line clearances to thwart a desperate and out of-form Besart Berisha, and the in-form Leroy George.
No Wilkinson, Melbourne score two goals, and there are the two goals that might give Victory, well, victory.
The second clearance was inch-perfect.
Yes, Sydney can attack, but Melbourne City attack, but could not win the championship.
Sydney can not only attack, but they can keep out their opponents as well.
Wilkinson’s efforts on Friday, in a match with no real material impact, showed Graham Arnold has created a team that wins no matter what.
Wilkinson is the purer example than anything this team does in attack of why Arnold has created yet another team that has lifted the premier’s plate, and will likely lift the ‘toilet seat’ come full time, grand final day.
Wellington have work to do, but not as much as some
In the ruins of Wellington’s season is a team.
Now, whether it’s a good team, a competitive team, even a bad team, none of us can really know.
Nothing has gone right for the Nix of late, whether that be coaches leaving, players leaving, players out of form, or simply Nathan Burns’ cursed form in front of goal.
But individually, each player has a lot to offer.
Andrew Durante is a warrior, Roy Krishna is a star, Nathan Burns (if he stays) is quality, Sarpreet Singh is going to be big, there are players there to get that team right and build something around.
It will be incumbent upon the owners to get the off-field staff right over the winter. They have a lot of time to do that, though whether in the long-run it is worth it, as the A-League looks to expand, only time will tell.
But based on Saturday’s come-from-behind win over the third-placed Melbourne City, Wellington can have hope.
The bigger question is whether there is enough hope upon which the Phoenix will rise once again.
It is time for Kenny Lowe to move on.
Remember a few years ago when Perth Glory had 44 points, and were top of the league?
Me neither, because that was the season Perth were found to be rorting the salary cap on a scale that made NRL administrators eyes water, and Perth were kicked out of the finals.
The Glory really have not offered much by way of competition since.
Sure, they have been competitive, but title contenders? Not really.
In Kenny Lowe, Perth have had a loyal servant, a good coach, a great front man, and an ambassador for the club, but this season, that veneer of authority has instead made way for an angry man more known for training ground outbursts than the technical skill to lead.
And this season, with a good squad, Perth have failed to make the finals.
It says that Kenny’s time is up.
It would likely be better for both parties, the club and Kenny, if it was done sooner rather than later, and let the club move on from that fateful salary cap saga.
8 is enough
Didn’t Mike Mulvey have a great night on Saturday?
Does it get any better than sitting in the stands watching ten goals in a game? Count ‘em: ten! That’s entertainment, and I have no doubt had Mike Mulvey not just signed a lucrative contract to look after the side that had just conceded eight of the, he would have had a riot of a time.
Forget what Newcastle produced, what Central Coast produced was an embarrassment, and those players – sending Joshua Rose out on the sourest possible note – should hang their heads in shame.
Remember, the Jets, having scored in 24 consecutive games, had been kept scoreless in their last two. You can only imagine that Newcastle were saving them all up for the game against Central Coast, who duly obliged in the most generous of circumstances to allow their F3 rivals to score at will.
Mulvey would have been thinking to himself one of two things: what have I signed up for, and if only I had waited another week to sign, they would have had to offer me more money.
Central Coast Mariners, wooden spooners for season 2017-18.
Good luck Mike. You are going to need it.
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Every season for every team, player, coach, and club is simply an accumulation of moments over an extended period of time.
For the Wanderers? The moment that summed up their season?
Well, it’s easy to target Keanu Bacchus’ sending off for lashing out with studs onto on Johan Absalonsen’s knee, and the VAR sent him packing.
That moment, more than any, in a crunch match playing for finals the Wanderers had to win, is the easy moment to say that was when their season unraveled.
But the moment Western Sydney’s season came apart was when Tony Popovic signed to coach in Turkey, and the club lost the only coach they had ever known on the eve of the season’s kick off.
That Josep Gombau came in mid-season with a squad he didn’t pick, and still had the team competing for finals even when Bacchus lashed out, is a hell of an achievement.
That they didn’t ultimately qualify has nothing to do with Bacchus’ foul, but everything to do with the unfortunate timing of the loss of their head coach.
Josep will have a full off-season now to work on his squad, and the Wanderers next season will be back much stronger, to once again start accumulating moments that matter.
So we move onto the finals, with Melbourne City hosting Brisbane, and Melbourne Victory hosting Adelaide.
Intriguing match ups, both of them, and no real clear-cut favourites.
City should have the advantage over Brisbane, however the Roar are amazing away from home, summed up with the way they beat Perth to just make it into the finals.
Victory on the other hand, against Adelaide, are the favourites – but, again, the Reds have scored at will lately, having won three of their last four, losing only to the imperious Sydney FC.
Victory have also lost their last start – to that team again, Sydney FC.
The pressure of elimination of each finals match does funny things to players, so nothing should be taken for granted.
But, at the very least, here’s hoping to packed stadiums, big viewerships, and an exciting series to put to bed one of the less-memorable domestic football seasons.