It is far too soon to jump to conclusions about the ten A-League clubs after only one week. Or is it?
All sporting teams have patterns and cultures and after the first weekend of matches, some clubs appeared to be confirming theirs, with others bucking the trend and threatening to morph into a better version of themselves.
A cliché might be the best way to define each club’s first foray into the season.
Brisbane Roar – ‘With all due respect, don’t take this the wrong way’
Friday night was a disappointing result for the Roar after Melbourne City proved far too clinical, with Bruce Kamau snaring a brace. Unfortunately for Brisbane, many pre-season forecasts appear to now have weight after a lacklustre performance, albeit with an undermanned squad.
Many had the writing on the wall, claiming John Aloisi’s ‘Dad’s army’ would lack speed and skill, and find it difficult to replace the goal-scoring prowess of Jamie Maclaren.
On the basis of what we saw, those predictions appear accurate. Massimo Maccarone will need far better service than that with which he was provided on Friday.
The return of Brett Holman, a fitter Maccarone and the impending arrival of Eric Bautheac will be positives, however there was something a little ominous about the performance.
Melbourne City – ‘Money can’t buy happiness’
Or can it? With all their internationals on deck, City will look a powerhouse. The only problem is that we have said the same thing for the last three years.
Even without Fernando Brandan, Tim Cahill and Bruno Fornaroli, City were far too good for a struggling Brisbane and ironically, it was Kamau, the local, who did the damage.
Ross McCormack and Bart Schenkeveld were impressive in their debuts. At their best, this squad looks likely.
If Brisbane’s unimpressive performance was as poor as some felt, City might still have a lot to prove. Alternatively, they may have finally assembled a squad capable of producing the returns expected of considerable expenditure.
Central Coast Mariners – ‘Two steps forward, one step back’
In what many will see as the match of the round, the Mariners were eventually belted by the Jets, yet not disgraced. It was a positive start and after taking an early lead, a penalty and a stunning Roy O’Donovan hat-trick made things look far worse than what they actually were.
Asdrubal scored, they dominated the corners won and, with some more poise in front of goal, the match could have taken on a different aspect. Wout Brama will add some much-needed composure when he is fit and firing.
Newcastle Jets – ‘I’ve changed, I promise’
Wow, what else was there to say after the Jets thumped five unanswered goals past the Mariners after falling behind early. Many felt O’Donovan would be a good signing, however no one could have predicted such opening-day efforts.
Ronny Vargas lived up to his billing as a potential A-League star and the Hunter will come alive if their team is able to continue to produce the attacking, Ernie Merrick football they seemed committed to play on Saturday.
Sydney FC – ‘Form is temporary, class is permanent’
Nothing much appeared to have changed from a Sydney FC perspective. If anything, they might be more dangerous this season. There were, however, some serious defensive lapses with Paulo Retre struggling on the left.
While still sweating on the pending return of the first stringers, Michael Zullo and Rhyan Grant, the distinct lack of clear chances created by the Victory will be seen as a positive by the manager.
The class through the middle of the park was evident again, and Milos Ninkovic looks again set to choreograph much of Sydney’s attack.
Melbourne Victory – ‘We was robbed’
The Victory will be a top-four side again this season, that much is clear, yet Kevin Muscat has them convinced that they always deserve more.
The intensity and aggression of the manager will again entertain all and sundry, as he launches barrage after barrage on officials, opposition coaches and players.
Their weapons are intact, young players like Jason Geria and Thomas Deng have another year under their belt and Leroy George looked particularly impressive.
But for an overplayed ball to Besart Berisha, the grand final draw may have been emulated in this, the 44th edition of the Big Blue.
Irrespective of the score, there will always be a case for the injustice of the result. Muscat is an expert at finding it and using it to motivate his talented squad.
Wellington Phoenix – ‘Don’t shut me out’
In their ongoing quest for success, respect and numbers that validate their continued participation in the A-League, the Phoenix began in impressive style against the Reds. An attendance well in excess of last season’s average was a good place to start.
Despite the fact that both teams seemed content with a sharing of the points, there was enough positivity in Wellington’s play to suggest they will surprise many this season.
With three players absent on international duty, their full starting XI looks solid. Relying heavily on Roy Krishna for goals is an issue, however a firing Andrija Kaludjerovic could be a buffer for Wellington and provide another attacking option.
Adelaide United – ‘Just give me some time’
There was so much to like about the Reds’ opening performance. After the horror season that ended last April, Marco Kurz has assembled a solid squad, with impressive imports, and worked hard on developing combinations.
Unfortunately, those combinations were far from polished and Adelaide will be a different team after eight or so weeks of A-League action.
Once Isaias, Baba Diawara, Karim Matmour and Johan Absalonsen start to link and find continuity in attack, the team will appear more like the top-six candidate they look likely to become.
Western Sydney Wanderers – ‘A change is as good as a holiday’
The ‘everybody out, everybody in’ recruitment style of Tony Popovic over the last few seasons looks to have finally returned the Wanderers to something near their former selves.
Ironically, the man behind the moves is gone and Hayden Foxe is overseeing the still-developing squad.
If the combinations between Oriol Riera, Alvaro Cejudo, Roly Bonevacia and Jumpei Kusukami continue to develop, the entire league will do well to stop them.
They look to be the squad that, more than any other, will buck the trend of their recent performances and return to the lofty heights of the ladder.
Perth Glory – ‘Defence wins championships’
If this cliché is indeed the case. Perth Glory won’t be winning one this season.
The dual strikes of Riera and Kusukami just before the break were wonderful goals, yet the defensive lapses were obvious and a continuation of the failings of the back line last season.
While Kenny Lowe flapped his way up and down the sideline and his quality attacking imports such as Andy Keogh and Diego Castro created some chances, the harsh reality of the defensive issues at the Glory remain.
Positive additions such as Xavi Torres and Andreu Guerao, as well as the ever-improving Adam Taggart, will mean little unless the Glory address their defensive insufficiencies.
It’s great to have you back A-League, and nice to see you on commercial free-to-air television as well.
Shame everything was so cliché.