The Australian A-League is in full swing, and our man Down Under Darren Lutton gives BackPageFootball an update on how things are progressing.
We’ve just passed the halfway mark in the A-League season. Two new teams have provided a new dimension to the competition which is throwing up suprise results week after week. Last season there were probably three teams with any realistic chance of winning the coveted dunny seat. Although this is probably still the case, the chasing bunch have closed the gap and are more than capable of causing an upset.
The positives - The big improvements this season has been the refereeing and the goalkeeping. The number of howlers has been reduced and the quality has improved. The referees have let play flow and have used the advantage rule intelligently. The goalies have been more consistent and are making players earn their goals.
The negatives - At some grounds the crowds have been very poor. The coaching is not as astute as it should be and there have been no new starlets putting up their hand and showing their quality. The A-League is a development league and it needs young players to rise to the challenge and show the world what they are made of.
Team by team here is the mid-season report:
1. Sydney FC, 25 points
Top of the league with more improvement to come. Sydney have been the most consistent team in the competition grabbing points on a regular basis. They have a great blend of youth and experience. Viteslav Lavicka has done a great job managing the team. The scary thing is, the team have yet to hit top gear. The FC’s are going to give a team a real spanking soon and truly set the league alight. Nothing will stop them from making the finals. Whether they can go all the way remains to be seen. It would be wonderful if they made the Asian Champions League as they have the ability to go deep in the competition.
Consistent and yet to peak. A
2.Melbourne Victory, 24 points
When the Victory are on fire there is no better team in the league. Despite losing forward Danny Allsopp to the UAE the goals have still flowed. The spine is very strong and has the ability to dominate games. However, there is a weakness on the flanks which may be an achilles heel come finals time. Melbourne have scored the most goals in the league. They have also conceded the most. Sort out the defence and they will be favourites to defend their title.
Must defend better. A-
3. Gold Coast United, 23 points
Well, the Gold Coast haven’t gone through the season undefeated as their owner Clive Palmer boldly predicted. They are still doing pretty good though. Some off field unrest has caused ructions throughout the club and results have suffered. If the result against Sydney last weekend is anything to go by, these issues have been resolved. The team have quality across the pitch and have the ability to go very deep in the finals series. When Jason Culina runs the show the Coast are a pleasure to watch. If only more fans came out to watch them….
Must get over mid season wobbles B+
4. Central Coast Mariners, 20 Points
The stingiest defence in the league. In 14 games the Mariners have conceded just 8 goals. Their are no stars in this squad, no drawcard marquee players. What the Central Coast do have is stability. Lawrie McKinna has moulded his players into a team that’s very hard to beat. When they play the ball on the deck they look good too. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Too often the team succumb to the high ball tactic. With confidence in themselves and their ability, the Central Coast have the ability to upset their more fancied rivals. If the defence holds, anything is possible.
Please play the ball on the ground. B+
5. Perth Glory, 18 points
Aaaarrgghh they are so frustrating!!! The Glory have a quality squad with dynamic players. Tactically, they play like schoolkids. Not naming names but I’m looking at you Dave Mitchell. The Shed deserve better. Relying on Mile Sterjovski’s pace to score goals is not the way to win the league. The Glory have had the rub of the green thus far and won matches they had no right to win. The season can go one of two ways. The squad can build on their fortunate start by gelling, working hard on the field and playing with more tactical intelligence. This is the preferred route. Or they can continue as they are and get found out in the second half of the season when things don’t go their way. Coach Mitchell, it’s in your hands….
Must show more application. C
6. Wellington Phoenix, 17 points
If the Phoenix still had Shane Smeltz in the squad they would be top of the league. The Phoenix have suprised many this season showing real fight and determination. Being the team from New Zealand, Australians tend to not pay too much attention to the team from across the ditch. Ignore them at your peril!! This is a quality squad. The problem with the Wellington outfit is their lack of composure in front of goal. So many chances have lacked the quality finish to turn the 8 draws from 14 matches into wins. Paul Ifill has found some form of late. If he can keep the run going the Phoenix could be smokies for the title. I’m serious!!
Finish what you start. B-
7. Brisbane Roar, 16 points
The underachievers of the league. The Roar have sputtered through the season losing a manager along the way. Bye bye Frank Farina. Hello Ange Postecoglou. Can he whip the Roar into shape? In his favour he has the tools at his disposal. Sergio Van Dijk is one of the best 3 strikers in the league and with quality players such as Henrique coming back from injury a finals charge could be on the cards. They can’t win it, but they can stop others from getting there.
Must improve…..quickly. C-
8. Adelaide United, 16 points
Oh dear oh dear oh dear. What is going wrong at Hindmarsh stadium? Adelaide have scored only 12 goals in 14 matches. They lack confidence and drive going forward. The defence has been reasonable but they are a shadow of the team that boldly challenged for the Asian Champions League just 12 months ago. Tony Vidmar has a job on his hands if he’s going to turn their poor form around. He is one of the best young managers in the league and if anyone can do it, he can. One result can make all the difference to this season. Don’t write the reds off, just don’t put any money on them. Especially when they play Melbourne.
Score more goals. D
9. Newcastle Jets, 16 points
Newcastle look to be a very good team… everywhere except in front of goal. The jets pass the ball around, do all the right things, bring it forward and….and….and pass the ball around and do all the right things. There just isn’t any end product. Which is bizarre as the squad on paper looks capable of matching any team in the league. Sort out the creativity deficit and the Jets will fly up the ladder. They are capable of getting results and have some potential stars in their ranks. But bad habits die hard. If you aren’t creating chances you can’t score goals which means you can’t win the league. Simple.
Disappointing all round. D
10. North Queensland Fury, 15 points
Despite being bottom of the table the signs are good up north. The Fury have begun to win games, play an attractive brand of football despite crucial injuries and are making an impact on the league. There is a smattering of good players in the team and if the off field activity can remain stable the results should follow. The big test for the Townsville outfit comes in January. When the transfer window opens, can they keep Robbie Fowler? He’s wound back the clock with some fantastic goals and all attacking impetus flows from his feet. Let’s hope for the league’s sake as well as the Fury that he stays with the club. The bottom team are only 5 points off 4th place so anything can happen. Of course they won’t win the league but they should build on recent results. improvement is on the cards.
Most improved. C+