Season Preview: Western Sydney Wanderers

As season 8 of the A-League moves ever close, here’s the final part of our extensive league wide preview, today taking a look at the new kids on the block- Western Sydney Wanderers.


It’s taken 8 years to get a team into West Sydney and FFA have finally made it happen with this new club- Western Sydney Wanderers. They’ve been put together reasonably quickly, but looking back so were Wellington Phoenix and they were competitive from day 1, so Wanderers should be the same. They’ll play their home games at Parramatta Stadium and wear red and black stripes at home, with red and white as road colours. The derby in round 3 should be a great occasion- hopefully it takes off in a similar vein to the Melbourne derby.


Manager: Tony Popovic

Since retiring and walking out on Sydney FC mid-season Popovic has returned to a club where he had success as a player in Crystal Palace where he got into coaching as their ‘First Team Coach’ for the last 2 seasons. He was highly sought after by both Sydney clubs when he made it clear he’d like to return, but it seems like for him atleast it would always be Wanderers.  An unproven manager at a start-up club, interesting. Tactically it’s tough to know what to expect from him, but he said when introduced he’s aiming for a short passing, possession game. Then again just about every manager has said that this season.

Squad:
1. Ante Covic 2. Reece Caira, 3. Adam D’Apuzzo, 4. Nikolai Topor-Stanley, 5. Michael Beauchamp, 6. Jerome Polenz, 7. Labinot Haliti, 8. Jason Trifiro, 9. Dino Kressinger, 10. Aaron Mooy, 11. Tarek Elrich, 12. Shannon Cole, 13. Tahj Minnieccon, 14. Kwabena Appiah-Kubi, 15. Iacopo La Rocca, 16. Mateo Poljak, 17. Youssouf Hersi, 18. Shinji Ono, 19. Mark Bridge, 20. Jerrad Tyson.

Ins:

Tarek Elrich (Newcastle Jets), Aaron Mooy (St Mirren F.C), Kwabena Appiah-Kubi (Parramatta Eagles), Michael Beauchamp (Sydney FC), Mark Bridge (Sydney FC), Shannon Cole (Sydney FC), Nikolai Topor Stanley (Newcastle Jets), Labinot Haliti (Newcastle Jets), Ante Covic (Melbourne Victory), Adam D’Apuzzo (APIA Leichhardt Tigers), Jerrad Tyson (Gold Coast United), Reece Caira (Aston Villa), Jason Trifiro (South Melbourne), Tahj Minnieccon (Gold Coast United), Dino Kressinger (HNK Cibalia- Croatia), Mateo Poljak (GNK-Dinamo Zagreb- Croatia), Jerome Polenz (1.FC Union Berlin- Germany), Iacopo La Rocca (Grasshopper Club Zurich-Switzerland), Youssouf Hersi (Alki Lamaca- Cyprus), Shinji Ono (Shimizu S-Pulse).

Key in: Shinji Ono

Western Sydney’s inaugural marquee man will have a lot on his shoulders going into their 1st season in the completion and will be expected to be the creative link in the attacking third alongside Dutchman Youssouf Hersi. The 3 time World Cup player from Japan who spent time with Urawa, Feyenoord, Bochum, and Shimizu during his career might be getting on a bit but his technique should see him through this season.


Possible starting line-up:

Strengths: Midfield.

Wanderers midfield looks as good as any, atleast on paper with deep lying Croatian Mateo Poljak, German jack of all trades Jerome Poljak, Dutchman Youssouf Hersi and marquee Shinji Ono there. Seems like a good mix of defensive capabilities and attacking flair, also somewhat intriguing to me that Popovic has used the majority of his foreign spots on that midfield area instead of spreading them around the team a little more.

Weaknesses: Defence.
While in midfield they’ve opted for the foreign touch, the backline is very familiar to A-League fans with the majority of them all having played for atleast one other A-League club. Beauchamp as captain is assured of a spot in the backline, but the other 3 spots are not so clear cut. Whichever way they go with it, it’s still a little underwhelming imo.

One to watch: Aaron Mooy

The young attacking midfielder returns to Australia following an upbringing in the Brittish football system, learning his trade at Bolton before moving on to St Mirren in the SPL. Played at u-20 and u-23 level for Australia and now back in his hometown, he could be one to watch this season.

When do we play:
Round 4:
Suncorp Stadium
Round 9:
Parramatta Stadium
Round 17: Suncorp Stadium

Pre-Season record:
Western Sydney Wanderers 5-0 Nepean FC
Western Sydney Wanderers 2-0 Blacktown Spartans FC
Western Sydney Wanderers 2-0 Blacktown City FC
Brisbane Wolves 0-1 Western Sydney Wanderers
Melbourne Heart 0-0 (5-3 p.k) Western Sydney Wanderers
Western Sydney Wanderers 1-0 Parramatta FC
Newcastle Jets 1-1 Western Sydney Wanderers
Wellington Phoenix 1-1 Western Sydney Wanderers
Western Sydney Wanderers 3-0 Bankstown City Lions FC

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Season Preview: Wellington Phoenix

As season 8 of the A-League moves ever close, here’s part 8 of our extensive league wide preview, today taking a look at Wellington Phoenix

Last Season: 4th, Lost in week 2 of finals to Perth Glory.

It was looking like being a long season for Herbert and his chargers with just one win in their opening 7 games, but 9 wins from their next 13 games left them in a strong position going into the final stretch of the season. 2 losses to Central Coast and Brisbane essentially ended their top 2 aspirations but they managed to end the season in an impressive 4th place securing finals football for the 3rd successive season. In the finals they disposed of Sydney at home 3-2 before taking a 2-1 lead in the West against the Glory before Billy Mehmet equalised and Todd Howarth scored in extra-time to end their season.

Manager: Ricki Herbert

What can you say about Ricki Herbert- the job he has done with both Wellington and the NZ national team is outstanding. If you look at what the New Zealand Knights were in the early years and compare that with the current day Phoenix it just shows how much he’s brought to them. Another big –and busy- season awaits for Herbert with 2014 World Cup Qualifying kicking into full gear.

On the tactical front Herbert is stringent in his 4-4-2 with the Phoenix and he rarely switches to alternatives. The aim of this is for them to break into wider areas with tricky and pacy wide men and also to get the best out of talisman Paul Ifill. While they are rigid to the 4-4-2 system Herbert employs a lot of movement and interchanging of positions. Finally- while he sticks with his 4-4-2 for Wellington, he has used a more offensive 3-4-3 and 4-3-3 with New Zealand in recent times which shows his tactical versatility.

Squad:
1. Mark Paston, 2. Manny Muscat, 3. Tony Lochhead, 5. Michael Boxall, 6. Alex Smith, 7.. Leo Bertos, 8. Paul Ifill, 9. Benjamin Totori, 10. Stein Huysegmens, 11. Jeremy Brockie, 12. Tyler Boyd, 14. Mirijan Pavlovic, 15. Cameron Lindsay, 17. Vince Lia, 18. Ben Sigmund, 19. Jimmy Downey, 20. Glen Moss, 21. Dani Sanchez, 22. Andrew Durante, 23. Lucas Pantelis,? Louis Fenton.

Ins:

Glen Moss (Gold Coast United), Jeremy Brockie (Newcastle Jets), Benjamin Totori (Koloale FC- Solomon Islands), Michael Boxall (Vancouver Whitecaps-MLS), Stein Huysegmens (Lierse S.K), Tyler Boyd (Waikato FC), Louis Fenton (Team Wellington), Ricardo Clarke (Sporting San Minguelito-loan- Panama)

Outs:

Tim Brown (Retired), Nick Ward (Perth Glory), Daniel Cortes (Insee Police United- Thailand), Nikolas Tsattalios (Sutherland Sharks-NSWPL), Tony Warner (Released), Chris Greenacre (Retired- took up role as Assistant manager), Brent Griffiths (Central Coast Mariners)

Key in: Stein Huysegmens

The Belgian forward- who has 15 caps for his country- shapes as an underrated addition given the recent additions at other clubs, but Stein could outdo them. He arrives with a solid scoring record at some of Holland’s and Belgium’s biggest clubs including AZ Alkmaar, Twente and Feyenoord.

Key out: Tim Brown

The heart of the Phoenix since their arrival in 2007, Tim amassed 112 games for the club netting a handy 23 goals from midfield. How Herbert replaces him –and especially his goals- will go a long way to defining their season.

Possible starting line-up:

Strengths: Continuity.
Much like the Mariners, Herbert has got a real tight knit group of players that believe in him his philosophy and their teammates. Players like Paston, Muscat, Lochhead, Durante, Sigmund, Bertos, Ifill and Lia have played together for the past 3-4 seasons and their experiences together will be a massive factor in any success they have.

 

Weaknesses: Central midfield

The loss of Tim Brown will be underlined with an exclamation mark in the early weeks and the challenge for Herbert has to be to find a replacement in a creative sense in that role. Dani Sanchez –if fit- may get the 1st crack at the role but I wouldn’t rule out Alex Smith or even Benjamin Totori getting a chance in a creative role in midfield.


One to watch:
Tyler Boyd

Not entirely sure who to put in this section due to my lack of knowledge of Wellington’s youngsters, but from what I understand Tyler Boyd has a gained a good reputation in the NZ League and could become a similar success story to Kosta Barbarouses and Marco Rojas.

Record vs. Brisbane:
Played 15: Won 9, Lost 2, Drawn 4. Goals for 27, Goals against 14, goal dif +13.

 

Last Season:

Round 6: Brisbane Roar 1-1 Wellington Phoenix
Round 11: Wellington Phoenix 2-0 Brisbane Roar
Round 21: Wellington Phoenix 0-2 Brisbane Roar

When do we play:
Round 3:
Westpac Stadium
Round 14: Suncorp Stadium
Round 21: Suncorp Stadium
Pre-Season record:
Wellington Phoenix 4-0 Lower Hutt
Wellington Phoenix 9-0 Miramar Rangers
Newcastle Jets 3-1 Wellington Phoenix
United Sikkim 0-3 Wellington Phoenix
Shillong Lajong 0-3 Wellington Phoenix
Royal Wahingdoh 0-3 Wellington Phoenix
Shillong Lajong 3-2 Wellington Phoenix
Wellington Phoenix 4-0 Petone
Wellington Phoenix 5-0 Team Wellington
Wellington Phoenix 1-1 Western Sydney Wanderers

September 29: Young Heart Manawatu vs. Wellington Phoenix


Season Preview: Sydney FC

As season 8 of the A-League moves ever close, here’s part 7 of our extensive league wide preview, today taking a look at Sydney FC.

 

Last Season: 5th. Lost in week 1 of finals to Wellington Phoenix.

Sydney started out alright last season losing just 3 of their opening 12 matches but a 4 game losing streak and 1 win in 8 games left them in a difficult position heading towards the finals- a run which ultimately saw the decision made to change coaches at the end of the season. Following that Sydney went on a good run to end the season, losing just once in their final 7 games which resulted in a 5th place finish and finals football following a final day victory over Newcastle. They then came back from 2-0 down in Wellington, only to lose 3-2 in the 1st minor semi-final.

Manager: Ian Crook.
Ian Crook is no stranger to Sydney FC; he was assistant there in the early years under Pierre Litbarski and Terry Butcher before moving on in his coaching career in Japan and England. He returned 3 seasons ago now as Sydney FC’s NYL coach before being given the top job this season when Viteslav Lavicka departed.

Style wise Crook has promised to bring a possession based game to Sydney similar to that which has been successful for Brisbane in recent seasons. We shall see how that works out for him, but it helps to have someone of Alessandro Del Piero’s quality.

 

Squad:
1. Ivan Necevski, 2. Sebastian Ryall, 3. Fabio Alves, 4. Pascal Boschaart, 5.Nathan Sherlock , 7. Brett Emerton, 8. Adam Griffiths, 9. Paul Reid, 10. Alessandro Del Piero, 11. Dimitri Petratos, 12. Blake Powell, 14. Mitchell Mallia, 15. Terry McFlynn, 16. Joel Chianese, 17. Terry Antonis, 18. Trent McClenahan, 19. Krunoslav Lovrek, 20. Vedran Janjetovic, 21. Yairo Yau, 22. Ali Abbas, 23. Rhyan Grant, 24. Hagi Gligor, 25. Daniel Petkovski.
Ins:

Fabio Alves (Melbourne Victory), Adam Griffiths (Hangzhou Greentown), Paul Reid (Insee Police United-Thailand), Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus), Blake Powell (Sydney FC NYL), Mitchell Mallia (Sydney FC NYL), Trent McClenahan (Central Coast Mariners), Krunoslav Lovrek (Qingdao Jonoon), Vedran Janjetovic (Sydney United), Yairo Yau (Sporting San Migulito), Ali Abbas (Newcastle Jets), Hagi Gligor (Sydney FC NYL), Daniel Petkovski (Sydney FC NYL).
Outs:

Liam Reddy (Esteghlal- Iran), Jamie Coyne (Sriwijaya FC- Indonesia), Michael Beauchamp (Western Sydney Wanderers), Bruno Cazarine (Released), Shannon Cole (Western Sydney Wanderers), Juho Makela (HJK Helsinki), Mark Bridge (Western Sydney Wanderers), Scott Jamieson (Perth Glory)

 

Key in: Alessandro Del Piero

Could it be anyone else other than Sydney’s latest marquee man? Even in his short stint in Australia, Del Piero has already given a lot to Australian Football through the media attention his signing garnered. Expectations will be high for ADP but he’s more than capable of meeting, and exceeding those. Before ADP signed, I would have mentioned Panama international Yairo Yau here, so keep a look out for him in wide areas for Sydney this season.
Key out: Nick Carle

Yes, it’s only a loan, and yes he was replaced by Del Piero, but Sydney will miss the quality of Carle. Towards the end of last season he began to show what he’s truly capable as Sydney made a late run towards the finals. Now on a yearlong loan at Baniyas in the UAE –the same club who wanted Erik Paartalu- it will be interesting to see if Carle returns to the Harbour City next season.

Possible starting line-up:

 

Strengths: Depth and pace upfront.

In Chianese, Mallia, Yau, Petratos and Abbas Sydney have a wealth of quick and tidy options to play off the likes of Antonis, Lovrek and Del Piero, the question for Crook will be selecting the right combinations of players to get the job done. Nice problem for a manager to have however.

 

Weaknesses: Central midfield.
The one potential weak spot in what is an impressive squad for Sydney is the centre of the park. They have a few options there but there seems to be some question marks over almost all of their options. Is Antonis ready to step up and be a leader in the middle? What have McFlynn and Reid got to offer at the later stages of their careers? What will Jason Culina be able to do if/when he returns after a nearly 2 year layoff?  2 potential solutions for Crook that me may try here are Adam Griffiths stepping forward into the #6 position with Ryall as a central defender, or one of Emerton or Rhyan Grant in the middle. Personally I suspect Emerton may start the season at RB, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play centrally at some stage.
One to watch: Terry Antonis

I probably said this last season, but Terry Antonis is due for a breakout season. Now 18 and a regular in the Australian junior national teams, the gifted midfielder has to cement a regular starting place in Ian Crook’s new looked Sydney. The Crook style should suit him, now it’s up to him to show why he is so highly regarded.

Record vs. Brisbane:
Played 23: Won 9, Lost 6, Drawn 8. Goals for 22, Goals against 20. Goal dif +2.

 

Last Season:
Round 2:
Sydney FC 0-2 Brisbane Roar
Round 9:
Sydney FC 2-0 Brisbane Roar
Round 16:
Brisbane Roar 2-1 Sydney FC

 

When do we play:
Round 7:
Suncorp Stadium
Round 20: Allianz Stadium
Round 27: Suncorp Stadium

Pre-Season record:
Macarthur Rams 1-3 Sydney FC
St George Saints 0-5 Sydney FC
Sydney FC 2-4 Adelaide United
Sydney FC 1-1 Newcastle Jets
Brisbane Roar 5-1 Sydney FC


Season Preview: Perth Glory

As season 8 of the A-League moves ever close, here’s part 6 of our extensive league wide preview, today taking a look at Perth Glory.

Last Season: 3rd place (Grand Finalists)

Perth Glory started out strongly winning their 1st 3 matches and things were going to plan for Ian Ferguson’s men, however that soon halted going on a run of 1 win in 11 matches which put the boss on the hot seat. They turned it around however and won 9 of their remaining 13 regular season matches giving them 3rd spot on the table two home semi-finals. They won both before heading to Gosford and beating the Mariners on penalties to reach the decider.

Manager: Ian Ferguson

Many people’s tip –mine included- to be the 1st coach shown the door, Ferguson turned the Glory around from potentially another disappointing season at Christmas to storm home and almost snare a double chance in the finals.  There were some reports that owner Tony Sage was about to fire him but im betting he’s glad he didn’t as Ferguson took the Glory to within about 10 minutes of causing a massive boilover in last season’s showpiece game.

A lot of people say Fergie is a 4-4-2 merchant and lacks tactical sophistication and variation, but he disproved that myth last season by switching between his customary 4-2-2 and a 4-3-3 4-5-1 at times last season. The variation was essentially a choice between McGarry and Mehmet but he got it right more often than not last season. Will be interesting to see if he can follow that up again this season.
Squad:
1. Danny Vukovic, 3. Bas van den Brink, 4. Billy Mehmet, 5. Steve Pantelidis, 6. Nick Ward, 7. Jacob Burns, 8. Dean Heffernan, 9. Shane Smeltz, 10. Liam Miller, 11. Adrian Zahra, 12. Ryo Nagai, 13. Travis Dodd, 14. Steven McGarry, 15. Brandon O’Neill, 16. Evan Berger, 17. Chris Harold, 18. Jesse Makarounas, 19. Josh Risdon, 20. Neil Young, 21. Scott Jamieson, 22. Ndumba Makeche, 23. Michael Thwaite.
Ins:

Nick Ward (Wellington Phoenix), Chris Harold (Gold Coast United), Adrian Zahra (Melbourne Heart), Brandon O’Neill (Perth Glory NYL), Ndumba Makeche (Perth Glory NYL), Scott Jamieson (Sydney FC), Michael Thwaite (Gold Coast United), Ryo Nagai (Cerezo Osaka).
Outs:

Viktor Sikora (Released, Retired), Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets), Andrezinho (Released), Josh Mitchell (Newcastle Jets), Chris Coyne (Released), Tommy Amphlett (ECU Joondalup SC- Football West State League), Todd Howarth (Released), Scott Neville (Newcastle Jets).

 

Key in: Michael Thwaite

The addition of Thwaite to play alongside former Gold Coast teammate Bas van den Brink is an astute signing from Ferguson and he will help them in playing out from the back if that is his prerogative this season. He’s also a big upgrade over the often injured Chris Coyne and the hot-headed Steve Pantelidis. I would have campaigned for Vidosic to sign him if he wasn’t our rivals’ captain because he would have fitted in perfectly.

Key out: Andrezinho

Most of Perth’s outs are of little to no consequence and are either older players who couldn’t get fit, or youngsters who couldn’t make the grade, but Andrezinho looked lively at times last season and would be the player missed the most. Ferguson has done a solid job imo to cut the deadwood from his squad and bring in some potentially useful signings.

Possible starting line-up:

Strengths: Depth.

12 months ago Ferguson said ‘what im trying to do is, im trying to get 2 good players for every position’ and I think it’s fair to say that by A-League standards he’s done that. If you look at the above XI and add in Pantelidis, Heffernan, McGarry, Nagai and Harold that’s a reasonable squad of players to choose from. The only issue is they could have used a more proven option upfront to go with Mehmet and Smeltz.

Weaknesses: Upfront.

Yes. Shane Smeltz is a top quality striker –for this level- but if you take a look at the other options there’s some question marks for mine. Mehmet was unconvincing imo for much of the season and if something happens to Smeltz it will be up to him to score the goals. The back-ups of Makarounas and Harold have potential but are both still young and lack experience at A-League level.

One to watch: Josh Risdon

A long term knee injury to Scott Neville opened the door for the youngster to get some games under his belt and he didn’t look back becoming an ever present over the course of the season, so much so that Neville has had to leave to get some 1st team football. Expect his consistency to improve this season as he heads into his 2nd season as a pro.

Record vs. Brisbane:
Played 22: Won 14, Drawn 5, Lost 3. Goals for 50, Goals against 26. Goal dif +24.

 

Last Season:

Round 8: Brisbane Roar 4-0 Perth Glory
Round 15: Perth Glory 3-3 Brisbane Roar
Round 22: Perth Glory 0-3 Brisbane Roar

 

When do we play:
Round 1:
Pattersons Stadium
Round 12: Suncorp Stadium
Round 18: Nib Stadium
Pre-Season record:
AmaZulu 1-0 Perth Glory
Platinum Stars 0-1 Perth Glory
Bidvest Wits 1-2 Perth Glory
Perth Glory 3-0 WA State Team
Melbourne Victory 1-2 Perth Glory
Melbourne Heart 0-5 Perth Glory


Season Preview: Newcastle Jets

As season 8 of the A-League moves ever close, here’s part 5 of our extensive league wide preview, today taking a look at Newcastle Jets.

 

Last Season: 7th

Last season started with the sacking of Branko Culina without having even played a match due to the issues surrounding a contract he gave to his son Jason, and was replaced by former Jets championship winning coach Gary van Egmond. They had what could be described as an inconsistent season with a positive start at home over the early weeks backed up by some poor performances on the road.

They did however cause Brisbane no shortage of problems last year taking the lead in 2 of the 3 games and ended up winning up here in Brisbane. Roar turned the tables in the two fixtures in Newcastle but not before Newcastle gave them a fright. They were right in finals contention until a poor end to the season, culminating in a final day loss in Sydney handed the sky blues a finals berth at the expense of van Egmond’s Jets. Expect them to be up there contending this season.

 

Manager: Gary van Egmond

Van Egmond –who is in his 2nd stint as Jets boss- is now in his 2nd season and has had the chance to overhaul the squad in his image. Out go some key contributors and in their place arrives some tremendous young talent which he can hopefully for their sake mould into a strong unit. Van Egmond is very much from a similar style as Postecoglou with ball possession and pressing the opposition a focus and it’s something his new team should excel at with so many young, exciting, skilful players at his disposal.

 

Squad:
1. Ben Kennedy, 2. Scott Neville, 3. Tiago Calvano, 4. Josh Mitchell, 5. Dominik Ritter, 6. Ben Kantarovski, 7. James Brown, 8. Ruben Zadkovich, 9. Emile Heskey, 10. Bernardo Riberio, 11. Connor Chapman, 12. Joshua Brillante, 13. Sam Gallaway, 14. Taylor Regan, 15. Craig Goodwin, 16. Jobe Wheelhouse, 17. James Virgili, 18. Jacob Pepper, 19. Michael Bridges, 20. Mark Birighitti, 21. Marko Jesic, 22. Adam Taggart, 23. Ryan Griffiths, 24. Mitchell Oxborrow, 25. Mitch Cooper, 30. Jack Duncan.
Ins:

Mark Birighitti (Adelaide United), James Brown (Gold Coast United), Adam Taggart (Perth Glory), Scott Neville (Perth Glory), Craig Goodwin (Melbourne Heart), Joshua Brillante (Gold Coast United), Mitch Cooper (Gold Coast United), Josh Mitchell (Perth Glory), Dominik Ritter (FC Winterthur).
Outs:

Mario Simic (Sydney United- NSWPL), Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Western Sydney Wanderers), Kasey Wehrman (Released, Retired), Jeremy Brockie (Wellington Phoenix), Tarek Elrich (Western Sydney Wanderers), Byun Sung-Hwan (Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma), Labinot Haliti (Western Sydney Wanderers), Matthew Nash (Parramatta FC- NSWPL), Ali Abbas (Sydney FC), Francis Jeffers (Tranmere Rovers)

 

Key in: James Brown

Without going for the obvious one in recent addition Emile Heskey who imo will be a success, youngster James Brown would seem to be a handy pickup for Gary van Egmond. The young midfielder was one of only a few bright spots on Gold Coast’s final season in the competition and being in a more stable environment should bring the best out of him.
Key out: Jeremy Brockie

The hard working Kiwi was something of a revelation last season with his goals proving to be a vital part of the Jets game. His versatility to play both wide midfield and upfront will be missed by van Egmond this season.

Possible starting line-up:

 

Strengths: Squad

Football is a squad game and when you look at that of the Jets, it certainly looks a strong one. A host of interesting options in the middle to front third of the pitch should give van Egmond everything he needs to be successful regardless of if he opts for 3 or 4 at the back. When you look at the XI listed above and see the quality not included- Brazilian playmaker Riberio, Josh Mitchell, Marko Jesic and Michael Bridges- there’s no shortage of options for the boss.

 

Weaknesses: Defence

If I was going to be critical of one aspect of the Jets squad it would have to be their defence which imo could turn out to be their achilles heal. Ritter from all reports is better as a left sided defender than a central one and if he does play at LB it will be up to one of Mitchell/Chapman/Kantarovski to strike up a solid understanding with Tiago. They could also play a back 3 some weeks which is something im not a fan of typically.
One to watch: Mitch Cooper

Could have chosen any number of players for this one but I’ve opted for Cooper –aka the kid who was at the centre of the beginning of the end for GCU-. In extremely difficult circumstances for the most experienced players, the young Cooper came in and did an admirable job the Coast’s final games and did enough to show that he’s got the talent to make the grade at A-League level. The rest now is up to him.

Record vs. Brisbane:
Played 22: Won 8, Drawn 8, Lost 6. Goals for 27, Goals against 24. Goal dif +3.

 

Last Season:
Round 7:
Newcastle Jets 1-2 Brisbane Roar
Round 19: Brisbane Roar 0-1 Newcastle Jets
Round 26: Newcastle Jets 1-2 Brisbane Roar

 

When do we play:
Round 9:
Suncorp Stadium
Round 16: Ausgrid Stadium
Round 22: Ausgrid Stadium
Pre-Season record:
Newcastle Jets 3-1 Broadmeadow Magic
Newcastle Jets 1-0 Rockdale
Newcastle Jets 2-0 Wellington Phoenix
Newcastle Jets 1-0 Brisbane Roar
Sydney FC 1-1 Newcastle Jets
Newcastle Jets 1-1 Western Sydney Wanderers
Newcastle Jets 2-1 Central Coast Mariners


Season Preview: Melbourne Victory

As season 8 of the A-League moves ever close, here’s part 4 of our extensive league wide preview, today taking a look at Melbourne Victory.

 

Last Season: 8th place

Last season was an unmitigated disaster in many ways for Melbourne Victory, the supposed biggest club in the country. 2 managers sacked, disappointing performances and a marquee man who struggled to adapt to the Australian game. They started the season by appointing longtime assistant Mehmet Durakovic to the top job following the departure of Ernie Merrick following a disappointing ACL campaign. In addition Victory brought in Australia’s best known footballer Harry Kewell on a marquee deal following protracted negotiations through the media which became somewhat of a circus.

 

On the park the Durakovic lead Victory struggled from the get go and after just 3 wins in 14 games and the team languishing in 8th place Durakovic was replaced by Northern Irishman Jim Magilton. Magilton fared little better achieving just 2 wins for the rest of the season before he too was promptly shown the door, along with a few senior players. Finally marquee man Harry Kewell announced that due to family issues he would be opting out of the remainder of his contract.

 

Manager: Ange Postecoglou

Remember him? The guy who lead us to back to back championships and the longest unbeaten run in Australian Football –all codes- history? Well he’s now the enemy as the new boss of the Victory. Obviously all us Brisbane supporters know about his tactics and how he likes the game to be played, and it’s probably fair to expect the same type of game from his new looked Victory side, however from my understanding he’s leaning towards a different shape. Rather than the standard 4-3-3 that he opted for with Brisbane, im told he’s been trying something of a 4-2-2-2 formation without the use of a genuine #9 in pre-season which will be interesting to watch as the season progresses. Apparently Thompson and Rojas have been operating as wide players with Finkler and Flores operating as duel #10’s/ false #9’s. Interesting.

 

Squad:
1. Tando Velaphi, 2. Matthew Foschini, 3. Adama Traore, 4. Petar Franjic, 5. Mark Milligan, 6. Leigh Broxham, 7. Guilherme Finkler, 8. Jonathan Bru, 9. Marcos Flores, 10. Archie Thompson, 11. Marco Rojas, 13. Diogo Ferreira, 14. Billy Celeski, 15. Sam Gallagher, 16. Theo Markelis, 17. James Jeggo, 18. Danny Allsopp, 19. Isaka Cernak, 20. Lawrence Thomas, 21. Spase Dilevski, 22. Julius Davies, 23. Adrian Leijer.
Ins:

Adama Traore (Gold Coast United), Mark Milligan (JEF United Chiba), Guilherme Finkler (Cricuima Esporte Clube), Jonathan Bru (Moreirense), Marcos Flores (Henan Jianye),   Sam Gallagher (Central Coast Mariners), Theo Markelis (Vicenza), Spase Dilevski (Adelaide United), Julius Davies (1899 Hoffenheim).
Outs:

Fabio Alves (Sydney FC), Matthew Kemp (West Adelaide- SA State League), Grant Brebner (Moreland Zebras- VPL), Jean Carlos Solórzano (LD Alajuelense- loan return),  Rodrigo Vargas (Green Gully-VPL), Tom Pondeljak (St Albans Saints- VPL), Carlos Hernandez (Prayag United- India), Ante Covic (Western Sydney Wanderers), Harry Kewell (released), Ubay Luzardo (Assyriska- Sweden)

 

Key in: Marcos Flores

The standout player of season 6 in the A-League is back following a less than spectacular stint in the Chinese Super League. Flores is a known commodity in this league and the creative midfield role and should be able to give Victory a link between Thompson and the midfielders.
Key out: Carlos Hernandez

I could have taken the easy option here and just gone with Kewell, but for mine Victory will miss Hernandez far more. Over the course of his 4 seasons with the club the Costa Rican was in the upper echelon of foreign imports with his long range shooting a highlight, and he won many games on his own boots for Victory. They’ll also miss club stalwart Roddy Vargas and their best player last season Ante Covic.

Possible starting line-up:

 

Strengths: System

The one thing we Roar fans know is that Postecoglou always sends his side out for specific targets and a way of play, and I don’t think we should expect anything different from the Victory lead Postecoglou. Whether or not the system works is a question, but you can be sure that Victory will play true to it every minute of every game.

 

Weaknesses: Defence

While Victory have some interesting and exciting players in the final third of the pitch, at the back they look a little shaky for mine. The 1st choice back 4 of Dilevski-Milligan-Leijer-Traore looks solid but atleast one of the youthful backups will need to step up at some stage this season.
One to watch: James Jeggo

Victory fans didn’t have a great deal to cheer about last season but the emergence of young centre midfielder James Jeggo was one of the highpoints. Given a run in the side towards the end of the season under Magilton, Jeggo is exactly the type of player Postecoglou likes to work with. Expect a breakout season from the midfield man.

 

Record vs. Brisbane:
Played 21: Won 7, Drawn 4, Lost 10. Goals for 27, Goals against 34. Goal dif -7.

 

Last Season:

Round 5: Melbourne Victory 2-2 Brisbane Roar
Round 13: Brisbane Roar 3-1 Melbourne Victory
Round 22: Brisbane Roar 3-2 Melbourne Victory

When do we play:
Round 2: Suncorp Stadium
Round 11: AAMI Park
Round 24: Suncorp Stadium
Pre-Season record:
Melbourne Victory 1-4 Olympiacos
Port Melbourne 1-2 Melbourne Victory
Oakleigh Cannons 0-3 Melbourne Victory
Richmond SC 4-3 Melbourne Victory
Bentleigh Greens 0-1 Melbourne Victory
Dandenong Thunder 1-4 Melbourne Victory
Tasmania XI 0-4 Melbourne Victory
Melbourne Victory 4-2 Adelaide United
Moreland Zebras 0-3 Melbourne Victory
Central Coast Mariners 1-1 Melbourne Victory
Melbourne Victory 1-2  Perth Glory


Season Preview: Melbourne Heart

As season 8 of the A-League moves ever close, here’s part 3 of our extensive league wide preview, today taking a look at Melbourne Heart.

 

Last Season: 6th (Lost in week 1 of finals)

Heart’s 2nd year in the competition was a success across the board for Melbourne’s 2nd team. They made the finals for the 1st time and played some solid football throughout the season. Their season started slowly but it really picked up pace through the middle rounds before tailing off slightly towards the end. The 3-0 loss in week 1 of the finals will have no doubt stung and they’d be desperate to get another crack at finals football.

 

Manager: John Aloisi

Rookie manager John Aloisi has some big boots to fill after John van’t Schip departed the club in March and was given the nod over fellow assistant coach and former Roar striker Ante Milicic- who has since joined Western Sydney’s coaching panel.

Aloisi –who spent last season as Heart’s NYL coach- has no other coaching experience but he has played under some of world football’s best and will be looking to bring what he’s learned to bear for the Heart this year. It’s assumed that he will continue with Dutchman van’t Schip’s preferred system of 4-3-3 designed to get the best out of their wide talents like Dugandzic and Behich.

 

Squad:
1. Clint Bolton, 2. Michael Marrone, 4. Simon Colosimo, 5. Fred, 6. Patrick Gerhardt, 8. Matt Thompson, 9. Josip Tadic, 13. Jonathan Germano, 14. Golgol Mebrahtu, 15. David Williams, 16. Aziz Behich, 17. Jason Hoffman, 20. Andrew Redmayne, 22. Nick Kalmar, 23. Mate Dugandzic. Unknown numbers: Richard Garcia, Steven Gray, Dylan Macallister, David Vrankovic.
Ins:

Andrew Redmayne (Brisbane Roar), Patrick Gerhardt (FK Zelijemaker), Golgol Mebrahtu (Gold Coast United), Steven Gray (Oakleigh Cannons- VPL), Josip Tadic (Lechia Gdansk), Dylan Macallister (Gold Coast United), David Vrankovic (Bonnyrigg White Eagles-NSWPL), Richard Garcia (Hull City)
Outs: 

Rutger Worm (FC Emmen), Kristian Sarkies (Heidelberg United), Maycon (Pahang), Alex Terra (Dajeon Citizen), Kamal Ibrahim (Heidelberg United), Kliment Taseski (Moreland Zebras), Nikola Roganovic (Green Gully), Adrian Zahra (Perth Glory), Craig Goodwin (Newcastle Jets), Eli Babalj (Red Star Belgrade), Wayne Srhoj (released), Brendan Hamill (Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma), Curtis Good (Newcastle United)

 

Key in: Richard Garcia

Former Socceroo squad member Richard Garcia brings with him a wealth of experience from England where he spent a decade with West Ham, Colchester and Hull City. There has been some reports that he’s going to be adopting a more central midfield type role as opposed to where we’re accustomed to seeing him play for the Socceroos in the Right Wing/Striker role. Not sure I am buying that one though.
Key out: Eli Babalj.

Let’s be honest- they’ve got a few departures. Some of those are of no significance, others are big losses. The biggest loss is undoubtedly young striker Eli Babalj who burst onto the scene upfront last term with his goals and all round game drawing comparisons with another big Victorian striker in Mark Viduka. He’s now taken a step similar to big Dukes by heading for the Balkans with Red Star Belgrade. Hopefully his career continues to head in a similar direction to Viduka’s.

 

Possible starting line-up:

 

Strengths: Midfield

Heart’s midfield is right up there with the best in the completion for mine. Last season they lacked a holding midfielder but the addition of Gerhardt seems to have filled that hole. They’re blessed with plenty of creativity, steel and speed through the middle of their side.

 

Weaknesses: Lack of depth

While Heart’s 1st XI doesn’t look terrible they do seem to lack depth in their squad, especially in defence. Having Vrankovic as the only specialist defensive cover is some risk by Aloisi. Perhaps Germano will be converted into a defender? Either way with at least 1 spot open in their squad they should be looking to add another defender. Perhaps they’ll bring someone in to help round out the squad but it’s looking unlikely.
One to watch:

Heart have sold most of their promising young players but Aziz Behich is still there in the Heart defence for another season. The fullback was linked with a move to Turkey during the close season but has opted to stay and cement himself here in the A-League. His runs down the l;eft side promise to be a threat to all opposition this season.

 

Record vs. Brisbane:
Played 6. Won 3, Drawn 2, Lost 1. Goals for 11, Goals against 6. Goal dif +5.

 

Last Season:

Round 10: Brisbane Roar 1-2 Melbourne Heart
Round 18: Melbourne Heart 1-1 Brisbane Roar
Round 24: Brisbane Roar 1-1 Melbourne Heart

 

When do we play:
Round 6: Aami Park
Round 15: Aami Park
Round 26: Suncorp Stadium
Pre-Season record:
Victorian Champions League XI 0-4 Melbourne Heart
Port Melbourne 0-8 Melbourne Heart
Melbourne Knights 0-2 Melbourne Heart
Northcote City 0-1 Melbourne Heart
Melbourne Heart 1-2 Adelaide United
Western Sydney Wanderers 0-0 Melbourne Heart