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You can stick your uncompetitive EPL, Bundesliga and Serie A - this year's A-League is far more entertaining

28th November, 2023
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28th November, 2023
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The four most recent winners of the A-League Men’s currently occupy the bottom rungs of the competition ladder – and it is the best thing to happen to the league for some time.

2021/22 Champions Western United are floundering at the bottom under John Aloisi, who appears to have reassumed his role as a former Socceroo battling terribly as a coach at the top level; a role he played superbly with Melbourne Heart and Brisbane Roar.

The reigning champion Central Coast Mariners may have secured a first win of the season against the Jets on Saturday, yet with just three points from five matches, they occupy eleventh on the ladder and face a tough run ahead, with the need for results urgent and the team looking from from the powerhouse that whipped Melbourne City in the decider last season.

Sydney FC players celebrate an unexpected win over Adelaide United. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

City’s 2023/24 group stink to high heaven based on the rubbish they have produced across the opening month of the season. The Phoenix had their measure in Round 5 and with just the lone win against the equally disappointing Sydney FC, the writing is already on the wall for the perennial contenders who look more like pretenders at this point of the campaign.

As for Sydney FC, well, a sacked coached and an unexpected three points against Adelaide on the road is all the Sky Blues have to show for the pre-season preparation.

The 1-0 loss to ladder leading Western Sydney on Saturday night appeared to lock in the reality growing ever more disturbing within the fan base that former coach Steve Corica’s recruitment and retention decisions over the last few years have not placed the club in a promising position moving forward.

New coach Ufuk Talay has a tough task ahead in building Sydney into a team capable of playing finals football in 2024 and the critics of Corica and the rather conservative approach he appeared to have been taking over recent years have been proven correct, as the Sky Blues languish in tenth spot after four losses across the opening five matches of the season.

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All of the above is cause for celebration because the A-League offers us something different, something unique and something far more competitive than the farcical and non-competitive leagues we see unfolding predictably year on year in Europe.

Anyone even remotely interested in the English Premier League, Bundesliga, LaLiga and Serie A will be more than aware of the dangers of a competition becoming the bastion of a few.

Manchester City are moving towards yet another EPL title. (Photo by Richard Sellers/Sportsphoto/Allstar via Getty Images)

Manchester City look good things for the English title yet again this season, after God knows how many across the last decade. Bayern Munich have Leverkusen in their sights and are sure things in Germany for the umpteenth time, Real Madrid have assumed top spot in Spain and will romp to the title as Girona desperately attempt to stay within cooee of them across the back half of the season.

It is the same old story in Italy, with Inter, Juventus and Milan taking hold of the race for the championship early, in spite of the joy and hope that Napoli’s winning 2022/23 season brought to fans right across the world.

As usual in European football, the outliers are few, far between, far too irregular and underserving of the interest the competitions still manage to maintain.

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In far more competitive markets, where other codes actually threaten in terms of bums on seats and ratings, the four biggest football leagues in Europe might actually be forced to tackle financial fair play seriously and make adjustments to keep the leagues more competitive and interesting.

There is no such problem in Australia, with our Western Sydney Wanderers returning to competitiveness and sitting top of the ‘inverted’ league early on. In second place is Wellington, a team from across the ditch soon to be joined by another ‘Kiwi raider’ to the A-League competition.

What a joy to have two teams at the top of the pile without an A-League Championship, despite Western Sydney blowing a number of chances over the years and bringing heartbreak to a stack of fans who have since deserted the club.

Daniel Penha of Western United and Aziz Behich of Melbourne City contest the ball. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Adelaide United sit third, as consistent as ever and with some of the best young talent in the country firing up Hindmarsh on a fortnightly basis.

It has been a long time between drinks for Brisbane Roar, title-less since 2013/14, but finally, finally, they appear to be back in the hunt and looking a decent team this season, occupying fourth spot after five rounds.

Melbourne Victory sit fifth early on, look a danger, yet buck the trend of the new contender top six that creates a rejuvenated competition to savour. The newly born Macarthur FC are lurking in sixth and playing well, as the heavyweights struggle and bumble their way early in the season.

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Frankly, it is brilliant to see and a result of a working salary cap that, despite the odd marquee player making a difference, maintains a parity in the competition that others around the world would benefit from and can only dream of.

Who knows – the EPL, Serie A, Bundesliga and LaLiga might eventually take on a salary cap, especially considering the ridiculous rules currently in place that allow a team like Manchester City to escape sanction and the ‘might’ of Everton be whacked with a powerful truncheon.

I’ll stick with the A-League, it is far more entertaining in my view.

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