A-League 1,000: The Ideas Edition


1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on Round 15 of the A-League which, like Round 14, starts on Friday night with a game in Victoria and concludes with a game involving Wellington.


Melbourne Victory v Brisbane Roar, Friday – AAMI Park

In a big game Besart Berisha is paid to deliver and he did in Geelong helping Melbourne escape with a draw. Melbourne’s slightly re-jigged side, with five players away on Olyroos duty, came back well and that should give them a huge boost against a Brisbane side who sorely missed their lead marksmen last weekend. The Roar will be annoyed they couldn’t nail even one goal against a hugely inexperienced Phoenix backline, excluding skipper Andrew Durante the defensive unit had nine A-League appearances between them. John Aloisi will hope he can ride his luck for the next month with Jamie Maclaren and Brandon Borello away.


Big game for: Leigh Broxham. With Nick Ansell’s return coming during the draw against Central Coast it means Broxham will likely move into his more customary midfield role to allow Ansell to play next to Matthieu Delpierre in defence – the title-winning defensive combination the Victorians had in 2014/15.


The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing Thomas Broich responding to big goals from another key import. The German struck the woodwork in Wellington and will want to be slightly more accurate here. With Melbourne also having Archie Thompson scoring Brisbane will want to take their chances here.


Adelaide United v Central Coast, Saturday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium

Anthony who? They may not have won but the Mariners scoring three goals in 35 minutes of action is good news for the franchise that endured a torrid 2015 with the axing of a coach and only two wins in the A-League for this season – the second of those coming on New Year’s Eve. With some positive attack it was the set piece defending which let them down when Berisha scored. At times when they were up 3-0 and then 3-1 the Mariners lost their positivity and the substitutions Melbourne were able to make (see Thompson, Archie) were decisive. If the same eleven run out for the Mariners this weekend that will be a win in itself given the drama the club has endured this season. Adelaide saw off Perth and will look to kick clear in sixth spot here but their result is hard to gauge completely as it was 1-1 when Alex Grant was sent off for Perth so maybe the away win wasn’t that impressive for Guillermo Amor’s men. They will also be missing defender Jordan Elsey due to suspension.


Big game for: Continued variety. Marceola Carrusca, Sergio Cirio, Craig Goodwin and Michael Marrone. These are all the Adelaide players to score in the last three games for the Reds. Socceroo Bruce Djite is not amongst that quartet but in the last three games Adelaide have netted six goals and picked up seven points. Maybe it’s not all bad Djite isn’t banging them in consistently yet.


The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Who gets a start from the Mariners 2016 recruits? All three (Francisco Stella, Alastair Bray and Trent Buhagiar) came straight onto the bench so could come into calculations for a start in the coming weeks. Tom Heward-Belle, 18, has played well in goal but has conceded four goals in the two full games he has started. New back-up Bray is four years his senior and has played in the FFA Cup for Bentleigh Greens.


Western Sydney Wanderers v Sydney FC, Saturday – Pirtek Stadium

Feeling wronged the Wanderers return home to Parramatta, the scene of New Year’s Day controversy, to host the Sydney Derby against Sydney who beat Newcastle last weekend at ANZ Stadium*. Graham Arnold’s side haven’t beaten a now top six team since they defeated the Wanderers 1-0 in round three when Milos Ninkovic netted two minutes from time. The Serbian is in good scoring form but the Wanderers have scoring threats all over the park and virtually a full team to pick from with Sydney still missing the influence of Olyroo Brandon O’Neill.


Big game for: Wanderers, with two more wins than Sydney this season and playing at home the Wanderers should win. If this was say Western Sydney v (insert random team) with the same record they’d be expected to get home here.


The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Sydney’s right and the Wanderers left wing battles. Seb Ryall was able to bomb forward relatively easily last weekend, although he was caught out occasionally. The former Victory defender may need to be more circumspect with Scott Jamieson matching up against him in pretty good form.


Perth Glory v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Saturday – nib Stadium

Andy Keogh failed to score on his return to Glory colours but gets another chance at home this weekend and the Irishman will be looking to repay the faith shown in him by the club. Perth squandered a few chances and with Michael Thwaite in doubt after missing the Adelaide game with a knee injury plus Alex Grant out after his red card last weekend it will mean a reshuffle by Kenny Lowe. Further changes could be occurring as well if moves abroad for Thwaite, Anthony Golec and Josh Risdon materialise. If the second Victorian franchise are true title contenders they should win easily but football is never that easy. Harry Novillo started the season slowly and continues to improve, which kind of makes up for the missing marquee Robert Koren, and the Frenchman’s combination with Bruno Fornaroli continues to blossom.


Big game for: Fornaroli has been the talk of the A-League with labels of ‘best ever import’ now that the has topped the goal-scoring charts but he is still yet to win a title. Keogh at least has a, somewhat tainted, FFA Cup final appearance. Both are yet to win anything as such but Keogh’s form will improve in coming weeks. Big game for the both of them.


The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: John van’t Schip’s tactics. After tweaking his formation against the Wanderers will the Dutchman return to his normal set-up?


Newcastle Jets v Wellington Phoenix, Sunday – Hunter Stadium

Wellington play the first of two games in a month or so in Newcastle on Sunday afternoon following a staunch defensive effort at home to hold out ladder-leaders Brisbane 0-0. Wellington get key midfielders Alex Rodriguez and Roly Bonevacia back. Previously I’ve been critical of Scott Miller in holding back his substitutes but the former Fulham staff member wasn’t afraid to make early changes when he inserted Mitch Cooper at the expense of Ryan Kitto at the break on Saturday in a game the Jets lost 2-0 to Sydney. Cooper won’t likely get a run here if Leonardo is free but the former Gold Coast midfielder has shown improvement in a career which has stuttered since Clive Palmer’s franchise was dumped from the A-League.


Big game for: Off-contract duo Ben Kantarovski and Cameron Watson. With the recruitment of Steven Ugarkovic, Kantarovski and Watson could be playing for a new deal. With fellow midfielder Ugarkovic away with the Olyroos the pair have a few more weeks to confirm their worth before they face further competition for spots. Watson, who was on the bench against Sydney, would be particularly worried.


The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Somewhat #captainobvious but the return of Bonevacia. Kicked off the park in Gosford and a late yellow card when the Dutchman finally got one back on his opponents meant the marquee man missed last weekend. His return is huge for the visitors.


The betting bit – One serious one not:

At 50/50 for the season but still in profit. After going against Wellington last weekend, and getting burned, we renew our faith in the Phoenix at $2.60 to see off Newcastle into a “Three points and a new licence please” banner from the traveling Yellow Fever fans. (I might scrawl it in crayon on a bit of A3 cardboard if needed.)


Record: 7/14


Profit: $11.95 units (ten units per investment)


*NB: Last week we referenced the odd call to take Sydney’s home game to ANZ Stadium last weekend. Speaking on the Daily Football Show podcast on Tuesday Sydney FC CEO Tony Pignata noted it was the highest ticketed match outside of the Sydney Derby already played this season so it turned out to be a good call. Maybe more games at the Sydney Olympic Park venue on a consistent basis is a good idea? Victory? Derbies? Triple-headers? (eg. W-League and A-League Sydney v Newcastle plus Mariners v Phoenix) Time will tell. In the meantime well done Sydney on the move last weekend.

This blog first appeared on https://hamishneal.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/a-league-1000-the-ideas-edition/

About Hamish Neal

Born in Lower Hutt New Zealand Hamish is forever wedded to all things All Black, All Whites, Tall Blacks and more. Writing more nowadays in his 'spare time' (what is that anyway?) but still with a passion for broadcasting. Has worked in various sports development roles in England, Northern Ireland and Australia.

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