Melbourne Victory are W-League champions for the second time but they did it the hard way with a last-gasp extra-time winner over Sydney FC in Sunday’s grand final.
I was at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium for Sydney FC’s come-from-behind 2-1 win over Newcastle recently and I was excited for a multiple of reasons.
As a Novocastrian living in Sydney, I don’t get to see the Jets play live often, and after lockdown I was excited to see some live football again.
I’ve never been to Kogarah before so I decided to take a seat in the sun adjacent to Newcastle’s active support. Despite proudly (for about an hour) wearing my gold Jets away strip, a man supporting Sydney FC sat two seats next to me. As Steve Corica’s men chased the game, the more desperate this fan got, muttering under his breath, but also yelling out to the players, as if he’d make an impact.
But his criticism of Kosta Barbarouses stuck with me. This article asks the question: is Barbarouses wasteful, or is he just unlucky in front of goal?
Since Sydney FC last missed the finals in 2015-16, their top scorer has scored no fewer than 15 goals every season. Bobo set the A-League record for most goals in a single campaign with 27 in 2017-18, and former Premier League striker Adam le Fondre netted 39 times in his two-season stint.
This season, however early, they’ve struggled. Barbarouses is their joint top scorer on three.
To compare, Bobo had seven after 11 games in ’17-18, and le Fondre had ten and 11 respectively. This is rather meaningless but it does show what the Sky Blues are lacking in their hunt for a third consecutive championship.
Barbarouses signed for the Sky Blues having had his best return rate in his A-League career, netting 15 times, his best since scoring 12 under Ange Postecoglou as Brisbane Roar won their maiden championship in 2010-11
Without an established striker prior to the return of Bobo, Sydney FC have struggled for goals this season. They’ve only scored 15, the third lowest in the league, however have had eight different goal scorers.
Barbarouses is their leading scorer with three alongside attacking midfielder Milos Ninkovic and fringe striker Patrick Wood. But three goals isn’t enough for your leading man. Whether this was the impetus to re-sign the Brazilian Bobo is beyond my knowledge.
When you put the amount of shots taken into consideration, the New Zealand international should be further up in the golden boot race. Only Matt Derbyshire, Dylan Wenzel-Halls and Jamie Maclaren have had more shots, but 15 players have scored more goals.
Babarbouses’ three goals from 28 shots gives him a conversion rate of only 10.7 per cent, which is among the lowest in the league for players who try their luck as often as he does. You want your front man to be a constant threat, but Sydney’s number 11 only scores once every 264.7 minutes.
Melbourne City, who lost to Sydney in last year’s decider, look like they will be there again this season. They are led by Jamie Maclaren, who is potentially having his best season to date.
He’s leading the golden boot with 11 goals from 42 shots, which gives him a conversion rate of 26.1 per cent. Twenty-three of those 42 shots have hit the target, which at 54.8 is again higher than Barbarouses’ rate. His 11 goals from 11 games is no surprise. He has a goal every 89.6 minutes per goal.
Macarthur’s Matt Derbyshire has taken to the A-League like a duck to water. His eight goals have come from 34 shots, which gives him a conversion rate of 23.5 per cent. Fifteen of those shots have been on target (44.1 per cent), and he has a goal every 142 minutes.
Brisbane’s Dylan Wenzel-Halls is still finding his feet as a striker and isn’t as efficient in front of goal as he could be, but is still producing better stats. His six goals have come from 42 shots giving him a shot conversion of 14.28 per cent. Twenty-one of those shots have been on target, again a negative. He only has a goal every 168.5 minutes.
Bruno Fornaroli, Besart Berisha and Central Coast duo Alou Koul and Matt Simon have all shown to be more thrifty when in on the keeper as well.
Newcastle’s Roy O’Donovan is the only forward whose stats aren’t pretty to look at. The Irishman only has two goals from 26 shots, giving him a shot conversion of only eight per cent. Speaking of eight, that’s the amount of those 26 that have been on target, giving him a 30.7 per cent shooting accuracy.
The 35-year-old has been below his best this season, but the expectations – the club’s and his own – are not as high as Barbarouses and Sydney FC.
This isn’t to downplay how good and successful Barbarouses is. Only Michael Theo has won more championships, and no one has won it with as many clubs as the All Whites forward, but there’s no denying he could and should have more goals this season.
So is he wasteful? Yes. Is he unlucky? Not really. It’s not as if he’s not getting the chances. We went through his numbers earlier. Milos Ninkovic and Alexander Baumjohann have made 34 key passes between them. Luke Brattan is also there creating opportunities for Sydney FC. Rhyan Grant is always a nuisance for defenders at right back.
But the service is lacking. It’s not all Barbarouses’ fault. Sydney aren’t having the season we’ve come to know, but we’re only at the halfway stage of the season. Things can turn around. Someone needs to break that barrier.
Bobo is experienced and proven, but is he too old? Will the lack of time with this Sydney FC side affect him? It’s unfair to put the onus on Patrick Wood to net ten-plus. So where are the goals going to come from if they’re not going to come from Kosta Barbarouses?
No one is expecting him to win the golden boot, but many – including that Sydney FC fan sitting two seats next to me a fortnight ago – are expecting him to carry the load and help the Sky Blues claim an unprecedented third straight A-League championship.