Over the years, an endless stream of theories have circulated around the reasons behind the impending and inevitable death of the A-League.
At 10:00am on Tuesday Football Federation Australia CEO James Johnson announced the A-League will be postponed until 22 April.
But with most of the football journalists dedicating their articles to the coronavirus, I have decided to write my A-League team of the season and how I’d play them in a game. This is not based on how good a team any one player is in; it’s based on how good that certain player has played throughout the season.
Pretty much every A-League goalkeeper is a contender for this spot. You have the likes of Mark Birighitti who has made an astonishing 88 saves but conceded 51 goals, or you have the likes of Jamie Young, who has made 51 saves but conceded 16 goals. Originally Young was going to be the goalkeeper, but Andrew Redmayne has conceded two fewer goals and made ten more saves, so he just edges Young to the No. 1 spot.
It’s hard to look further than Liberato Cacace for the left-back position. Cacace has been a standout in a standout Wellington Phoenix side this season, and the fact that he’s done it from left back is extraordinary. He has three goals and one assist this season and has made 29 tackles with a tackle success rate of 56.9 per cent. He has looked comfortable overlapping as well as tucking in, allowing Reno Piscopo to freely move ahead of him.
Curtis Good deserves a spot in the team of the season. Even though Melbourne City have conceded 34 goals in 2019-20, it’s hard to look past his statistics. He has won 22 tackles, seven more than second-placed Ryan McGowan, and has a 73.3 per cent tackle success rate. He also has solid distribution skills – he has completed 1300 passes and has a passing accuracy of 85.6 per cent.
I have opted to put Nikolai Topor-Stanley alongside Good. Topor-Stanley has made 13 tackles this season as well as 31 interceptions and has played 1139 passes with a passing accuracy of 84.6. A special mention goes to Steven Taylor, who was a millimetre behind in second place.
The two main candidates for the right-back spot are Josh Risdon and Rhyan Grant. While Grant has averaged better passing accuracy and more successful passes, Risdon beats Grant in assists and key passes. Risdon has won eight more tackles than Grant, but Grant has a significantly better tackle rate and has also made more interceptions and blocks. It’s tough to choose between the two Socceroos teammates, but I feel that Rhyan Grant edges it based on his engine and overall contribution to Sydney this season.
Luke Brattan needs to be in this team. With the tactics that I will be using, he will be the perfect No. 6 to help spray passes along the field. He also has made 28 tackles in defence and 33 interceptions, which will be handy in the middle of the park.
While Joshua Brillante’s defensive statistics stand out, I don’t want to play with two midfielders who sit off and prefer to be a deep-lying midfielder. Matti Steinmann is a good shout but is a bit too defensive-minded for my liking.
Cameron Devlin is my pick to play alongside Brattan in the heart of midfield. Devlin has been adequate defensively, winning 34 tackles and making 37 interceptions, but is also great going forward, playing as an attacking midfielder at youth level. Special mentions go to Steven Ugarkovic and Neil Kilkenny.
The main four attacking midfielders that have impressed throughout this season are Diego Castro, Ulises Davila, Riley McGree and Milos Ninkovic. Ulises Davila goes through on sheer numbers, having contributed to 16 goals in 20 games this season for Wellington, with 11 goals and five assists.
Diego Castro will be playing alongside him in the left attacking midfield spot. Castro has four goals and 11 assists this season, while also having played 42 key passes and having 86 successful dribbling throughout this season.
The two strikers I am going with to complete my A-League team of the season are Adam Le Fondre and Jamie Maclaren. The two top scorers of the competition, between them they have scored 35 goals in 2019-20 and will be a deadly strike force up front.
The style of football I am going to play with this quality team is possession-based attacking football. Curtis Good and Nikolai Topor-Stanley will operate as ball-playing centre backs, while Luke Brattan will slot into the defensive line to help provide penetrating passes forward.
Cameron Devlin will move in between the lines of the press, creating an option, while Rhyan Grant and Liberato Cacace will remain high and wide. Milos Ninkovic will drop into the little pockets of space on the left to help hold up the ball, while Ulises Davila will remain in a more advanced position.
Jamie Maclaren will make runs in behind while Adam Le Fondre will help build up play and press from the front.
This would be an exciting team to watch. I enjoyed picking my A-League team of the season. Have I got anything wrong with this team? What would you change?