Australian round-up

A-League

ON THE FIELD

We are more than half way through the season now and this provides the perfect chance for a summary of how each team is faring thus far:

1. Brisbane Roar – 34 points – GD +16

Brisbane are the runaway leaders and seem to have their mojo back after last season’s woes.  Their play at time seems to be close to reaching the heights of a few seasons ago when they were dubbed ‘Roarcelona’.  They have goals all over the park with 12 individual goal scorers so far lead by the ever impressive Albanian Besart Berisha.  Mike Mulvey has his team playing easy to watch football and are definitely the team for everyone to chase.  Star Player- Former German prodigy Thomas Broich has been pulling the strings and is key to their chances

2.  Western Sydney Wanderers – 27points – GD +2

Last season’s fairytale story continues with the Wanderers the most likely team so far to challenge Brisbane.  They’ve been a bit inconsistent of late but Tony Popovic still has his team playing tight, disciplined football in front of the most passionate fans in the league.  They were last season’s Premiers (for finishing 1st after the regular season) so definitely cannot be underestimated. Shinji Ono has decided to leave the club at the end of the season so it will be interesting to see the reaction of squad to this  Star Player –  Young gun Tomi Juric is their leading scorer with 5 goals and provides a real focal point up front.  He needs to stay fit and firing for the Wanderers to have a chance

3. Central Coast Mariners – 24points – GD – 0

Last season’s Champions (for winning the Grand Final) suffered a massive blow early in the season by losing their manager Graham Arnold to J-League club Vegalta Sendai.  His long-time assistant Phil Moss took the reins and initially this seemed to destabilise the squad and they had a very slow start.  The goal-keeping role was also an issue after Maty Ryan’s departure to Club Bruges but the reformed Liam Reddy seems to have found his feet again.  Their early season woes seem to be behind them and they are putting together results of late without really hitting the heights of last season.  They need last seasons Golden Boot winner, Daniel McBreen to find his form again. Star Player – The Argentinean  Marco Flores was back to the form that made him a star at Adelaide a few years ago before a knee injury ended his season

4. Melbourne Victory – 23 points – GD 0

The self-proclaimed ‘Biggest Club in the Land’ were dealt a hammer blow early in the season when star manager Ange Postecoglou took on the Australia National Team role after the firing of Holger Osieck.  Club legend Kevin Muscat took over as Manager and his inexperience has hampered this star studded team thus far who have yet to fully find their rhythm.  Blessed with abundant attacking talent who on their day can rip teams apart but have also themselves suffered some big losses so far.  If they can find some consistency they are real contenders in the finals series especially if star striker Archie Thompson can overcome his injuries Star Player – On loan from Atalanta in Italy, James Troisi has stepped up in Thompson’s absence to be the main scorer for the side

5. Adelaide United – 21 points – GD +2

Hired ex Barcelona youth coach Josep Gombau at the start of the season with the idea of revolutionising the playing style of the club.  Gombau himself stated that it was all about the style of play rather than the results and the team struggled initially to come to terms with his tiki-taka style of play.  Have hit some form recently to rocket up the table, including a win away at Brisbane in recent weeks.  They are a very fun team to watch but probably don’t have the defensive nous to trouble the leaders.  Star Player – Marcelo Carrusca is the ideal midfield flair player to adapt to Gombau’s style of play.  When he’s pulling the strings Adelaide look the goods

6. Perth Glory – 20 points – GD +1

Perth started the season by appointing renowned local manager Alistair Edwards as Manager, who then signed his 2 sons for the club.  This was ultimately his undoing and he left his post amid a squad mutiny with accusations of nepotism towards his sons.  He was replaced with Kenny Lowe and this has galvanised the squad.  Marquee player William Gallas has been largely missing in action thus far and this has interrupted their rhythm.  Star Player – Brazillian Sidnei has been great but the heart of this side is Jacob Burns whose antagonistic style fires up the squad

7. Newcastle Jets – 19points – GD -2

Suffered a setback in pre-season with Emile Heskey not being fit for the first part of the season.  Despite this setback the Jets had a good start to the season on the back of some great form by young striker Adam Taggart.  Their inconsistency is highlighted by the fact that 2 of their 5 wins have come against the leaders Brisbane yet they’ve been the only team that Melbourne Heart has defeated.  They’ve recently sacked Gary van Egmond as manager and replaced him with former Socceroo Clayton Zane.  Star Player – Despite not yet playing a game yet after his transfer from China club legend Joel Griffiths returns and is the man most likely to spark the Jets into a late season surge up the ladder

8. Sydney FC – 19 points – GD – 5

‘Del Piero’ FC as they have been affectionately dubbed have again not lived up the lofty expectations of their fans.  Sydney lost 3 of the first 4 games of the season and is presently on a run of 5 games without a win.  Manager Frank Farina is under massive pressure to get something from his ageing squad and too many of his players have been under-performing.  The recent retirement of Brett Emerton opens up some of the salary cap to strengthen the squad and Farina’s future relies on his team finding form very soon. Star Player – Who else but Alessandro Del Piero.  Despite being in his late 30’s now ADP is still the go-to man at Sydney.  He has definitely slowed the pace of his game this season but his on-field leadership and dead-ball skills have prevented Sydney from dropping further

9. Wellington Phoenix – 17 points – GD +2

The ‘Jekyll and Hide’ team of the league this season. Wellington went the first 10 games without recording a victory before winning 4 of their next 5.  Long time Manager Ricki Herbert left in the off-season to focus on his duties with the New Zealand National side and former Victory manager Ernie Merrick took the reins.  It’s been their home record that’s let them down so far with the usually home fortress of Westpac Stadium providing disappointing results thus far, a fact not helped by the decision by the club to move some home games to other cities in New Zealand.  They are hitting some form now and if they can improve their home record Wellington can still make a late play for the Finals  Star Player – Belgian striker Stein Huysegems is the leading scorer in the league to date and his form has been the fulcrum of Wellington’s revival.  There have even been cheeky calls in New Zealand for the former AZ player to get a call up to the Belgian World Cup squad!

10. Melbourne Heart – 8 points – GD -14

An absolute shambles is the only way to describe the Heart’s season to date.  The season started with big name signings Harry Kewell and Orlando Engelaar being unfit for the first part of the season and inexperienced manager John Aloisi just didn’t have the nous to get the best out of his squad.  They tied the all-time league records for games without winning (with the hapless and now defunct New Zealand Knights).  A change of manager bought in Dutchman John van’t Schip and has seen a steadying of the ship and first victory vs Newcastle.  With Kewell and Engelaar now fit they should fare a bit better in the 2nd half of the season  Star Player – Tough to name one in a squad that has been underperforming all season but Massimo Murdocca has been ever present in midfield and has been one player who has performed admiringly thus far.

OFF THE FIELD

Some key points

–        The league is experiencing a real upturn in fortunes in the tough and very competitive Australian sporting landscape.  Crowds generally are up and the season average of 14,000 per game is a definite increase on recent seasons.  TV viewership is also up on the back of ‘free to air’ coverage.

–        Strugglers Melbourne Heart have been boosted this week with news that EPL giants Manchester City have taken over ownership of the club.  This link with Man City should see the club move on in leaps and bounds with proposed investment not only in the playing squad but to their training and youth academy facilities.  The investment by Man City has been greeted very positively as signs of the growth and stability of the league going forward.

–        Hooliganism has unfortunately raised its ugly head with a recent game between Melbourne Victory and the Western Sydney Wanderers being marred by violent clashes between both sets of fans before the match.  Both clubs have been given a suspended punishment of 3 points deduction in the hope that these scenes are not repeated.

PLAYER TRANSFERS

With the transfer window now being open some deals have already been announced including:

–        Tom Rogic on loan to Melbourne Victory from Celtic – the Australian starlet has moved back to the A-League in the hope of getting valuable match time in the lead up to the World Cup

–        Mitch Nicholls  to Cerezo Osaka – Melbourne Victory’s midfield dynamo has been sold to the J-League

–        Michael McClinchey – loan to Vegalta Sendai – Former Central Coast boss Graham Arnold wasted no time in raiding his former club for this New Zealand player maker

–        Rostyn Griffiths – Former Blackburn and Central Coast Mariners midfielder has moved from Guangzhou R&F in China to Perth Glory

–        Besart Berisha – free transfer to Melbourne Victory – Brisbane Roar have been rocked with news this week that their talisman and club legend Berisha will move to Melbourne Victory at the conclusion of the season.

Click on Rogier’s name above to follow him on Twitter.

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