Thoughts ahead of final month of the season

Going into the last month of the regular season, four sides remain in the race for the Premiers Plate with Brisbane Roar, Western Sydney Wanderers, Adelaide United and Melbourne City all within three points of one another. Here’s some thoughts.

1) The Premiership run in will be an interesting one given the variables involved, with all four teams in contention having some tough games along the way. Im not going to make any predictions on any of the teams in the race, but this weekend with the top four sides playing off against one another it looks to be a pivotal round in shaping the race. As things stand however, it’s important not to get carried away, with it still being equally possible to finish 4th as it is to finish first given how close things are at the top.

2) At the start of the season, it’s fair to say that expectations were as low as they’ve been since the start of the Ange Postecoglou era in Brisbane due to the clubs off-season financial dramas and the late recruitment. With most peoples expectations set on just making the top six this season, John Aloisi has absolutely exceeded expectations so far given the amount of time Brisbane has spent in the top two this season and remain in contention for silverware and ACL qualification.

3) One of the big reasons for Brisbane’s return to winning was in the past two weeks is the right hand side, where the trio of Hingert, Petratos and Borrello have been combining fluidly going forward. With the return to form of Dimitri Petratos, whose ability to link play and create chances adds an extra dimension to the Roars play. Add in the overlapping Jack Hingert and the work rate and hard running of Brandon Borrello, Brisbane’s right hand side is getting close to being as strong as the left was in the past with Stefanutto, McKay and Broich.

4) Since returning from Olyroos duty in round 17 away to Sydney FC, Jamie Maclaren has been on a tare in front of goal with 10 in his last seven games to take his tally to 17 for the season. That puts him just three behind Bruno Fornaroli in the golden boot standings and two behind Besart Berisha’s regular season Brisbane record of 19. It’s clear that Jamie has been working on his movement, and right now he’s in a fantastic form.

5)This season we’ve seen two positional battles emerge, both in goals and at left back. Both Jamie Young and Michael Theo have been given their chance in goals this season, and at this point it seems clear that Young is the in form shot-stopper and should be the #1 from here on out. It’s perhaps harsh on a long term servant like Theo, but after getting his chance in round 16, Brisbane won 3 games out of 7 conceding 15 goals along the way with the run culminating in a penalty concession against the Wanderers. There’s also the fact that in terms of clean sheets this season, Young leads the way with 6 in 15 games compared to Theo’s 1 in 9. From here on out for this season, Young should be in goals.

At left back it’s a more interesting situation, with the ageing Shane Stefanutto and the inconsistent Corey Brown fighting for the spot. Stefanutto has been the preferred option for the majority of the season with 16 starts to Browns 7. Like Theo, Stefanutto has been below his best in recent weeks while Brown was thrown in against the Victory and played what was probably his best game in an orange shirt. The question now is if he can add consistency to his game in the same way Jack Hingert has over this season. It’s highly likely that Brown will retain his spot on Friday away to Melbourne City, and another composed, assured showing could ensure he remains the preferred option from here on.

6) The other interesting decision for Aloisi will be how he integrates Tommy Oar into the side over the next month ahead of the finals series. It’s highly likely that Oar has been brought in to be an option on the left, for this season however he’s more than likely going to be limited to an x-factor type sub off the bench. In that role, he could spell for either Borrello or Broich in the front third, or McKay on the left side of the midfield three. Come finals time, having the likes of Lustica, Oar and Henrique available on the bench to change the game would be a handy luxury.

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