No doubt about it – the pressure is on Marco Kurz and Melbourne Victory.
Victory’s torrid start to the season is the result of poor recruitment, incoherent style and a lack of depth, compounded by poor execution on the park and slightly exaggerated by injury concerns.
Ola Toivonen is the clear stand-out – and it is affecting the Swede’s ability to be the game-winning star he needs to be.
Kurz is getting nowhere near what he would have expected from his midfield recruits, particularly the exceptionally disappointing Jakob Poulsen.
Migjen Basha was unlucky to score an own-goal against Adelaide United on the weekend, and has fared better than his Danish teammate, but has hardly inspired with his performances.
Not replacing the creative abilities of James Troisi in the middle of the park has looked a fatal mistake, which was a point driven home by the exiled Socceroo’s fantastic performance against his old club on Saturday night.
With such a void between midfield and attack, Toivonen finds himself moving deeper and deeper to both find the ball and play in other teammates.
It’s no surprise that the one time he found himself on the end of a quality ball – supplied by the returning Robbie Kruse – instead of playing it, he managed to get on the scoresheet.
Kruse’s presence will hopefully allow Toivonen to spend more time finishing than creating for others, but it certainly will not solve all the team’s problems.
The ineffective midfield, in both defence and attack, is a symptom of an overall lack of coherent style or structure.
My Roar colleague Mike Tuckerman fairly pondered how much of the blame A-League coaches should take for the mistakes of individual players or referees, but in Victory’s case, the problems are so widespread it seems hard to point the finger anywhere else.
Perhaps a period of transition was to be expected with the departure of Kevin Muscat, a man who has shaped the culture, identity and style of the club since its inception – but that can only account for so much.
Western United didn’t exist last season, but Mark Rudan has already implemented a definable strategy and style.
Victory’s opponents on Saturday night are led by new coach Gertjan Verbeek, but have played a lovely, attacking brand of football since his appointment.
Even when results weren’t going Adelaide’s way, you could see that Verbeek’s team was progressing each week and while there were individual mistakes which cost them points, the style of play was such that once the kinks were ironed out, the team would start winning more games than it loses.
And of course there is Melbourne City, who top the table under their new boss, Erick Mombaerts.
The difficulty with Victory is it’s hard to discern what Kurz is trying to achieve.
They don’t look to dominate possession. They don’t have any clearly defined patterns of attacking play. They don’t structure particularly well in defence.
It’s hard to pick out much that they do exceptionally well or individuals – other than Toivonen – who you think are capable of doing exceptional things every week.
And for a club of Melbourne Victory’s size, resources and stature, this simply isn’t good enough.