The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of the A-League 2014/15 so far

 

The 2015 Asian Cup starts on Friday night in Melbourne. If you’re interested in filing match reports for us in the spirit of The Footy Almanac, we’d love to hear from you. If you’re not already an Almanacker, email [email protected] to find out more. 

 

Well, after two quickfire rounds that has brought us halfway through the season. And with a break upon us due to the Asian Cup, perhaps it’s good to sit back and go through how all 10 clubs have done far this season.

 

ADELAIDE UNITED 4TH (W:8 D:2 L:4 GD:+8 26)

THE GOOD

Well, after two A-League Grand Finals (one a humiliation, one ruined by awful refereeing) along with a harsh lesson learned in an Asian Champions League Final in 2008, United finally have a trophy to treasure.

The FFA Cup win over their bunnies Perth Glory finally gave the long suffering Reds a reason to have a trophy cabinet and didn’t they come to play in the final! They’ve come to play most games this season in fact and are in the hunt playing a style under Josep Gombau that is very easy on the eye.

The #10 Marcelo Carrusca has been irrepressible and has been sorely missed when injured (see bad). His vision is up to the standards of Broich and is complemented by United’s wonderful use of the wings with their players switching between the two with devastating effect most of the time. Then there’s probably the best keeper in the league Eugene Galekovic and Nigel Boogard now being more known for solid defensive efforts that almost spill over in to blatant schoolyard bullying rather that stupid red cards and brain fades.

United fans still cower due to heartbreak in the past but they have to believe this side is good enough to go all the way. They’re also the only team to defeat table topping Perth this season.

THE BAD

Their form has wavered in December with a couple of home losses but it’s their inability to beat Victory when it counts that is also still a mental roadblock. Victory’s win in November was lesson 1.0 on how to pressure the United defence in to mistakes by not letting them play out from the back. United have to overcome their own fears before April/May if they finally want the big one. They also need a hell of a lot more luck with injuries which, to their credit, they haven’t used as an excuse once this season when important players have gone down.

There’s perhaps also an over reliance on Carrusca at times. They seem to lose that razor sharp edge to their passing game when the Argentine isn’t pulling the strings.

THE UGLY

I would say Josep Gombau’s face when watching a reds game on a HD TV but the young talent Awer Mabil’s finishing skills have been horrendous at times. His howlers against Glory and Victory are particularly memorable as it was easier to score than miss.

 

BRISBANE ROAR 7TH (W:3 D:3 L:7 GD:-5 12)

THE GOOD

Well there’s not much good at all for the champions unfortunately. You could say their new badge design and strip are great example of good graphic design and a nod to the Dutch origins of the Queensland Lions (formed as Hollandi-Inala) who were behind the original push for the club to be part of the A-League.

THE BAD

So where do we start? The loss of Michael Theo to injury before the start of the season? Matt Smith leaving? Ivan Franjic leaving? Their aura of invincibility being washed down the drain? They’ve had a wretched season so far with the heart of the team seemingly gutted among other problems because of ego or other human failings. Every heartening win or draw is then followed with a horrendous loss that has them looking like they are making up the numbers for the first time since the dark days of Farina’s boys club. Why did all this happen? See below.

THE UGLY

The Mike Mulvey affair was a story as unexpected as it was tumultuous. Mulvey took it on himself to sign the replacement for their star man Berisha from DVD evidence. He then decided to turf off his assistant and get in Ron Smith as well as rebuke his professional relationship with the club’s director of football. He also fell out with Irish veteran Liam Miller and then other senior players which meant that that would be the story of him.

If this wasn’t bad enough it seems Mulvey found out about his sacking through the media rather than being told by the club first; a shambolic affair for a club that had just wiped the floor with all-comers to win an unprecedented third A-League title just six months previous, and been a prime example of how to run a club. They now have a veteran Dutchman who will only be in the job until the end of the season while they look for a replacement and management sprouting forth about team ethos, culture and the way forward – if they even know what those are now.

Then there was also the onfield spat between the derided fill in keeper Jamie Young and veteran Shane Steffanutto.

 

CENTRAL COAST MARINERS 8TH (W:2 D:6 L:6 GD:-9 12)

THE GOOD

Another team most would struggle to find anything good about this season so far. They still have the giant sauce bottles at one end of the pitch in Gosford. Everyone like sauce with their barbie this time of year I guess.

THE BAD

Much like the Roar the Mariners’ ability to give a united front and air of invincibility has evaporated this season – especially at home. The loss of veterans and key players to retirement (Sterjovski and Kwasnik) or to another club (McGlinchey) hurt the Mariners deeper than expected. It especially hurts when their coach Phil Moss, who is Mariners through-and-through, is now being made to look more incapable of coaching at this level by replacing these senior players with state league fodder.

What also doesn’t help is the signings of players from overseas who have been mediocre at best, and are already out the door. The Senegalese player Malick Mane at least had a bit of diva quality about him by throwing his boots at his teammates and telling them they are all shit before getting on a plane to Sweden to be with his pregnant wife.

THE UGLY

It was thought that hopefully the issue of club owners going rogue was something that left for Canberra along with Clive Palmer but Mariners majority owner Michael Charlesworth is doing his best to put the Gosford locals offside.

Charlesworth sees North Sydney as an area ready to reap, with the Mariners becoming more of a North Sydney concern rather than be connected with the local Gosford Community; a community that has been connected to the club since 2005. The first sign things weren’t right was when former coach and current Gosford mayor Lawrie McKinna decided to withdraw from ambassadorial role promoting the club. This is a man who is the club.

Then the protests started: First at the game in North Sydney that drew a disastrous crowd due to thunderstorms and the fact it was in North Sydney. Then their next home game in Gosford was turned in to a ‘Stand Up for the Mariners Day’ organised by McKinna who was morphing from a dour Glaswegian in to a modern day footballing Salvadore Allende with a protest march and telling the people to rise up like vengeful serfs. It was semi-successful with a jump in crowds and local fervor wanting the Mariners to stay in Gosford. They need more to stop the club being spread around the region though.

What also hasn’t helped is Charlesworth now appointing Englishman Peter Storrie as a special director to oversee the future direction of the club off the field. This is the same Peter Storrie who had his fingerprints all over the disastrous fall from grace of Portsmouth that many experts who followed events in Pompey believe should’ve seen people go to jail.

 

MELBOURNE CITY 6th (W:4 D:4 L:5 GD:-4 16)

THE GOOD

Well some of the big names have been a joke but the youngsters are flying the flag for City with the help of a very processional former Irish captain and Chelsea stalwart in Damien Duff.

Jacob Melling hasn’t let his spot go after finally getting in to the team. The AIS Graduate did have a short stint in Adelaide but it seemed he’d be a state league player at best before City took a punt. He also managed to elbow a Victory player in the face and only get a booking. How does that work? The former Jet Connor Chapman has also settled down the defence after making his debut a month or so ago.

One player many have been impressive with though is the afore-mentioned Damien Duff. The former Premier League winner and Irish Legend has been the consummate professional since showing up for pre-season on day one with his vision, fitness and skill a joy to watch. This is what happens when a player has competitive fires burning and isn’t just here to collect a pay cheque. Aaron Mooy is another who has come down from Western Sydney to really go up another level so far. Somehow the 24 year-old missed out on a spot in the Socceroos Asian Cup squad.

THE BAD

Inconsistency is what is stopping City from going up the table at the moment and that’s mainly down to their leaky defence. When I say leaky defence, it’s not just playing defenders out of position (which is what JvS does),  I mean their goalkeepers are both lucky to be in the League with a contract, let alone have game time. Andrew Redmayne was their initial first choice since the start of last season, but a series of errors has seen the much derided Tando Velaphi get his chance. While he had a fantastic game in the win over Victory and a great save against Glory, his inability to judge a cross and command his area will continue to cost City. Surely with the clubs’ money and connections they can get in a capable number one ‘keeper when the transfer window opens?

THE UGLY

Marquee signing and former Hull City captain Robbie Koren can be forgiven for not making much of an impact so far due to injury, but the David Villa signing can be safely seen as a bit of a PR disaster. Even in the promotion material for City memberships he looked like he didn’t want to be there.

It’s not like he played poorly. He scored in his first two games but unfortunately left only four games in to a 10 game stint. It was kind of expected. It was like the hot girl coming to your party containing geeks who are discussing Star Trek Voyager and footy five months out from the season. You want to desperately make the hot girl feel comfortable and give off the impression it’s cool to be there, but deep down you know you’re getting more desperate as you go and she has one eye on the door already. This hasn’t happened to me by the way…

City tried with Villa, they failed. Hopefully they learn.

 

MELBOURNE VICTORY 3rd (W:8 D:4 L:2 GD:+13 28)

In the A-League coaches are sacked as often as people change socks and players come and go in large volume in what is pretty much a large heap of flotsam and jetsam that comes with a fledgling league and salary cap. This is where Victory have a huge advantage over everyone else: they have stability. Huge and fervent support, a winning culture and ‘brand’, along with owners that are hands-off, helps this stability with foundation captain, assistant manager and now senior coach Kevin Muscat being given a long term deal to continue the great work he’s doing.

United still don’t seem to have that killer instinct, Glory may not be there thanks to creative accounting but the Victory will be up there at the end of the season and having a crack. It’s in their DNA to be there almost.

The signings this season have also all been fantastic. There is of course Besart Berisha catching the Greyhound down from Brisbane in the biggest pre-season signing this side of a sullen Spanish star but Macedonian International (via Blacktown) Daniel Georgievski and Tunisian Fahid Ben Khalfallah have been just as good – if not better – than the mad Albanian. Georgievski has been a rock at right back for Victory whilst also managing to score the odd cracker in North Sydney. Khalfallah has been a revelation with a season that has mirrored Duff’s for his wonderful ability to seemingly spot a player out of vision and on the other side of the pitch with passes that defy logic. Then there’s Finkler’s free kicks and the midfield of Mark Milligan, Carl Valeri and Leigh Broxham; a collective who would be defended by Victory fans as ‘harsh but fair’ yet very effective. Finally, there’s Archie who took umbrage at another A-League legend scoring for fun up the other end of the pitch for Sydney FC a few weeks ago and decided to score a hattrick…at 36.

THE BAD

For all of Victory’s wonderful work up the sharp end, their defence is still the chink in an otherwise strong navy blue armour. Adrian Leijer was once on Fulham’s books and left these shores being seen as a long term replacement for a Neill or Moore at Socceroos level. Unfortunately this was his high water mark as far his career goes so far. Leijer returned from England and despite captaining Victory for a season has turned in to a bit of a bombscare. When he’s not being outpaced he’s being booked for needless fouls. Or he’s doing both. [Usually both – Ed]

The injury to the French veteran Matthieu Delpierre has stunted their defence too. The big man scored on debut and was impressive before being struck down with a hammy problem in October in Perth. Muscat would love to see him back after the Asian Cup break to partner a now fit-again Nick Ansell or Leijer who may get his groove back next to an experienced rock like Delpierre. The keeper Nathan Coe is also not exactly the most reliable.

THE UGLY

There isn’t much that can be described as ugly with Victory so far this season. I could take a cheap shot at Muscat because of reputation alone or Milligans’s elbow that saw him take three weeks off but the young Kiwi Kosta Barbarouses perhaps needs to work on his awful final ball at times. Most of these passes or crosses from the winger are normally meant for Berisha who is in a perfect position more often than not. Unfortunately a few of these passes aren’t hitting that target at the moment which frustrates Berisha wishing Kosta was perhaps: A) German, B) into classic music, and C) called Thomas Broich.

 

NEWCASTLE JETS 9TH (W:1 D:5 L:8 GD:-16 8)

THE GOOD

On the pitch there has been scant news regarding anything decent but the crowds have been serviceable. This may be down some of the initiatives taken on by their marketing people to get bums on seats offering tickets for $1 some 20-days out from the games, then $2 19 days out and so on, and so forth. Let’s see if it works. It seems the Jets have now settled on a decent formation too, with the 3-4-3 getting them at least closer to results – with their 5-2 hammering at home to Melbourne City a major blip.

THE BAD

Phil Stubbins is either not working well with the players or things just aren’t going his way luck-wise. His major signings (the Argentinians Marcos Flores and Jeronimo Nuemann) haven’t seemed to be 100% fit all season leaving a big gap left by the departure of young stars like Taggart and Brilliante who are now both in Europe. Stubbins doesn’t have too much to work with as far as the squad goes, but they only seem to have a tactic of pass the ball around the back, try and get it to Dave Carney and then work out something from there. Very rarely does this work. The very real chance of a wooden spoon is dawning on this struggling club from a proud footballing area.

THE UGLY

As I write this the CEO and Chairman of the club (Robbie Middleby and Ray Baartz respectively) have resigned from the club leaving, them in a crisis on and off the pitch.Über bogan and Jets owner Nathan Tinkler has been trying to offload the club for months as his empire crumbles, leading to a lack of funds for the team, their facilities and an unknown future. What makes them precarious, is the fact they are not a capital city and, like Central Coast, are not part of the TV deal that stresses capital city clubs must always stay in the competition at all costs to the FFA. There is talk from Dundee United taking over (among others) but a buyer is needed sooner rather than later, as the pressure mounts on a side from a region that has always had a team in the national domestic league.

 

PERTH GLORY 1ST (W:10 D:2 L:2 GD:+10 32)

THE GOOD

Well, where do you start for a club that’s been a basketcase for all but two of the 10 season of the competition? They sit on top of the table losing to only one side (albeit twice), made the Cup final (losing to that same side) and now for the first time seem to have a chairman, football department and players all pulling in the same direction. They also now have more points than they did in 2010 when the made the A-League finals for the first time.

Glory have been a major surprise so far this season under Kenny Lowe who was seen as ‘just another dour pom’ by a large majority of fans when he took over following the embarrassing Edwards sacking. Their own fans and many in the east keep waiting for inevitable tumble in mediocrity which they do most seasons but they keep on winning – and winning well. This season so far has seen only their second win in Wellington, their first ever regular season win in Gosford, whilst also beating Victory and Sydney FC away. These are things that they never do. Yet, under Lowe the players find an inner strength with a regimented system that is confident all the way through from Danny Vukovic to the strikers.

This is down to Lowe’s tactics and his recruiting. Dino Djulbic returned to the club to maraud attackers while the surprise signing Andy Keogh settled instantly scoring more goals so far this campaign than the two leading goalscorers from last season put together. There has also been great support from Richard Garcia and Mitch Nicholls at times. Then there’s the players who have stepped up from last year. A now fit Rostyn Griffiths and settled Nebo Marinkovic have been beyond important so far, while Josh Risdon is back to his best form and the young stars Danny Da Silva and Jamie Maclaren both now have confidence at this level and play in positions catered for them when played.

Their youth team is also top of their competition and Perth’s womens side ran away with the League before being beaten in the recent Grand Final.

THE BAD

Despite all of Glory’s success so far this season, the crowds still stay away to a degree. Some are surprised but many regulars to the games aren’t with the way the club has treated them over the years. The Glory have lumbered from one PR crisis to the next along with shambolic performances on the pitch. Anything from Robbie Fowler’s signing and the awful season that followed to the Edwards sacking and a heap of accusations laid against owner Tony Sage who now must have threatened to walk away from the club over 10 times.

Their advertising budget is limited but compare their presence in the hearts and minds of the summer crowds in Perth, to the presence of the Wildcats in the NBL, who have advertising everywhere, and play at the new Arena right in the middle of the city. Glory still have a lot to do, to get people wanting to fork out their hard earned again.

THE UGLY

The salary cap investigation by the FFA is still lurking like an overweight sex offender outside an outer suburbs bus station. Despite what is alleged to have happened occurring in previous seasons, the FFA may still dock Glory points for this season. That would derail their fantastic campaign and drive even more fans away. Things could also get ugly as the possibility looms large that Tony Sage would no doubt again threaten to give back the licence, leaving the FFA with a massive headache. Glory finally have it right on the pitch and seem to now be making a concerted effort to rebuild their relationship with fans. If there is any substance to the salary cap claims that have been made and they are found guilty, this will ruin their attempt at building bridges and pretty much kill the clubs chances of ever getting back to anything near ‘the good old days’ of 1996-2004. The current FFA CEO, David Gallop, was in charge of the NRL when they threw the book at Melbourne Storm so he’s not afraid to risk alienation in a market they need a foothold in.

 

SYDNEY FC 5TH (W:4 D:7 L:3 GD:0 19)

THE GOOD

The signing of Graham Arnold as coach of Sydney FC had seemed to initially galvanise a side that has always seemingly had a litany of journeymen, half-arsed CEOs and even more half-arsed coaches. Sydney had a fantastic start to the season with Corey Gameiro an important signing, as was Bernie Ibini. It is probably Marco Janko though, that has been the most loved so far although he could still score more goals. Like Andy Keogh, the Austrian international has not come down to Australia at the end of his career for coin. He is still an international-quality player at his prime and has had a positive impact on the league scoring a wondergoal against Brisbane in the process. It would have been two contenders for goal of the season if the linesman hadn’t erred in Wollongong last week.

Sydney FC own their city again too. The fans in the Cove had a concise effort through their TIFO displays among other things to get back the ascendancy from Western Sydney Wanderers. They finally did that in Sydney FC’s 3-2 come back win over Wanderers at the start of the season.

THE BAD

Injuries have pretty much derailed Sydney’s season unfortunately. Gamiero had an excellent start to the season halted by a knee injury that will keep him out for a year. The combative midfield antagonist Ali Abbas will also miss the season with a knee injury suffered in Western Sydney. This is also coupled with Sasa Ognenovski who will probably miss the rest of the season, leaving a massive on-field presence in every way very much missed.

THE UGLY

Graham Arnold is trying to get rid of the ‘bling’ tag from the club but he needs to remember he can’t really have an ‘us against them’ attitude when the Chairman of the FFA has a financial stake on the club. Arnold used his ‘they-are-all-out-to-get-us’ shtick to full effect when at the Mariners. The Mariners are the smallest club with the smallest catchment of fans being barely held together financially, so it worked. He went and batted for his players and club, and it got him a title. Complaining about being targeted by refs and the powers-that-be when you’re Sydney FC? That dog won’t hunt, Arnie. He needs to remodel his persona if he wants it work.

 

WELLINGTON PHOENIX 2ND (W:9 D:1 L:4 GD:+14 28)

THE GOOD

I really hope the Phoenix fans start producing shirts that simply say ‘Ernie Knows’. The dour Scot must have gone to same crossroads Robert Johnson went to and instead of trading his soul to play guitar with the devil, he instead traded his personality to be a good football coach. In just his second season over the ditch Ernie now has the team he wants bringing in players that – all bar one – have been magnificent additions.

Michael McGlinchey’s move from the Mariners was protracted but has become a wonderful #10 for them. Behind him is the former Ajax starlet Roly Bonevacia who seems to always just escape a red card but does it with style and effect controlling the midfield. Then there’s the Fijian winger Roy Krishna who has scored some tremendously powerful goals, and proves that there is real talent in this sport in the Pacific islands. The best signing so far though is Nathan Burns. The 26 year-old striker had a career-stalling overseas journey and after being loaned to the Jets for a season by his Korean club, was signed up by Phoenix where he has scored 10 goals in 12 games and been fantastic. His form was impossible for Ange to ignore and is now hopefully going to go one better with the Socceroos at the Asian Cup after being part of the 2011 side that lost to Japan in the final.

Like Glory, this team are confident and play well-structured football with a golden run seeing a playing style that rivals Adelaide so much that they even beat United in Adelaide without Burns. Beating United is something Glory have been unable to achieve three times already this season. They also have 28 goals which is equal to Melbourne Victory and their bevvy of strikers. Credit to SBS’s Asian Correspondent Scott McIntyre for being only one to predict Phoenix will be in the top four this season. Phoenix are a pure joy to watch so far… so long as they don’t beat my team…

THE BAD

Only four clean sheets may be one of the only worries for Phoenix who seem to have an ethos of if you score two, we’ll score three. Very un-Merrick. Clean this up they should be considered a big chance in May.

THE UGLY

Much like Gombao’s head the rather portly Phoenix fans with shirts off and pale skin ablaze swinging their Phoenix shirts around their head in HD is a bit of an assault on the eyes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great they look like they’ve put down the D20 and given Dungeons and Dragons a rest for the day to get down to Westpac Stadium on the Docks – neckbeards and all – but think about the viewers guys. The rather biased commentary from SkyNZ for Phoenix homegames is more funny than ugly I guess, but come on, some credit for the away team sometimes.

 

WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS 10TH (W:0 D:4 L:8 GD:-11 4)

THE GOOD

Not specifically A-League related but you can’t go past their historic Asian Champions League title. What makes it remarkable is they did it at the business end without their midfield stars Ono, Mooy and Hersi. Popovic’s highly organised defensive plan worked very well and even when it faltered, Ante Covic was there to pull off saves that would defy any theoretical physics problem thrown at them by NASA’s finest. History will show in time how much of an achievement this was and the scenes in Western Sydney were wonderful with the community out in force in the early November morning sun riding every pass, tackle and save in their thousands.

THE BAD

Pretty much everything A-League related so far this season. The loss of Ono, Mooy and Hersi has hit the club harder in the league with the replacements not being able to play to the level expected of them. Wanderers have always had a small squad reliant on individuals who churn out 90 minutes week-in, week-out and loyal to Popovic’s rigid system that is (to quote someone from the 2014 Footy Almanac) about as attractive as someone wearing an Aussie flag as a cape. With the ACL putting extra pressure on the squad, some players have simply been unable to stand up to the workrate. The side looks tired more often than not. They also look like they are out of ideas and need this rest during the Asian Cup more than anyone. With a new consortium now owning the club, they’ll look to bring in new faces in the transfer period. The trouble is how many will that be? Popovic has been rumoured to have fallen out with anything up to eight players which is probably not true but expect a high turnover with the malignant Vitor Saba first out the door and to some no-mark league.

The record for least amount of points in a season is six points by the New Zealand Knights in Season one. Just one more point needed Wanderers.

THE UGLY

The horrible form of Wanderers is the first true test for those massive numbers of passionate fans that are behind the club. While they have the Asian title to fall on, patience is needed from these fans and acceptance is required when things aren’t going their way. It almost kicked off in horrible fashion last week when a member of the RBB threatened to jump the fence and confront midfielder Shannon Cole. This just can’t happen and the FFA can’t let it happen for the sake of their ‘brand’. The RBB cannot go and criticise the players of not trying too. Their Fight Like Your Fans tifo banner indicated this is what they thought when they should appreciated the squad had just played around 50 games in a calender year all around the World and, for all intents and purposes, were knackered.

 

The A-League returns on January 24th. You can read more of Dennis Gedling’s A-League Good, Bad and Ugly thoughts, as well as our Goodfellas World Game Podcastby clicking here .

 

 

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

Comments

  1. David Zampatti says

    THE ASIAN CUP

    THE GOOD
    No A League matches

    THE BAD
    The Asian Cup

    THE UGLY
    Soccer

  2. Dennis Gedling says

    One of Oscar Wilde’s I see.

  3. Must be a barrel of laughs when you two get together in the outer at Cardies games. As Churchill said of Americans and Brits “two nations divided by a common language”.

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