Tuesday, August 01, 2006


A-League Anticipation, Part 7

As a Sydneysider, I am, of course, bound to find it difficult to be entirely objective about the next team in this extended preview. But I’ll do my best.

Melbourne Victory

The club from the state of Tardistan has, to its credit, looked beyond the traditional hunting-grounds for A-League newcomers, and acquired three players from Brazil. All three have experience in the always chaotic national championship, and will hopefully render Ernie Merrick’s progressive recruitment policy successful from an entertainment point of view, at least.

A fellow football tragic recently mentioned to me that there were plenty of players in Brazil and Argentina, suffering with clubs who pay them poorly and irregularly, who would welcome a move to the A-League. I have no doubt that he is right, and I hope that Fred, Claudinho and Alessandro are not the last South Americans to grace our national competition.

Otherwise, there has been little change to last season’s squad, with Archie Thompson and the unpopular Danny Allsopp likely to lead the line once again. The early indications are that Merrick, despite the new Latin tinge to the squad, will place a good deal of faith in the long ball out of defence once more, an approach which will surely require the presence of Allsopp.

Kevin Muscat’s move into midfield during the pre-season cup is somewhat puzzling. Perhaps Merrick felt that Melbourne lacked bite and tenacity in this area last season (I, for one, wouldn’t disagree), but I doubt whether Muscat, at his age, has what it takes to play the holding role in midfield for 90 minutes. Grant Brebner may prove a better choice.

Another new arrival at the club is Adrian Caceres, who showed plenty of promise last season for Perth. In collusion with Alessandro – who is, it would seem, one of those adventurous left-backs to be found on every street corner in Brazil – he could provide some much-needed sharpness on the left for the Victory.

From an Australian perspective, it would be good to see Kristian Sarkies excel in the playmaker role with Melbourne this season. He showed only glimpses of his potential in 2005/06, but if given the right support and allowed to play his natural game, he could be devastatingly effective.

Much will depend, I feel, on the general approach adopted by Merrick. The current make-up of the squad surely points to the likely efficacy of a short-passing game, and significant use of the wide avenues.

Reports of Melbourne’s singularly unsuccessful pre-season games, however, would tend to suggest that this is not occurring…yet.

I'm also hoping to see Sarkies excel. Not that it was the best individual performance last season, but his game against Perth (in the third round, just after Christmas) was the most exciting for me, in terms of player potential. He was only just 19 and he dominated the game wonderfully, creating genuine opportunities, getting past players and roaming around the box intelligently. He looked the part of good quality playmaker who knows how to dominate games.

I can understand the argument that the MV midfield needed more bite, but I think people are looking in the wrong area when they use this to advocate the non-selection of Sarkies. A holding midfielder worth his salt should toughen up the midfield enough.
Though I wouldn't class it a problem in the squad, worth much discussion anyway, what do you think of the rest of our defence?

I've been underwhelmed by our ability to keep shape and play for 90 mins (not talking about the pre-season specifically) but on individual performance I've seen very encouraging things from Piorkowski and Leijer. Claeys looks disinterested and Byrnes is still struggling.

I'd like to hear the thoughts of an outsider, so to speak.

Also I believe Allsopp will be used in a deeper role for more of the match this season, only really pressing into the box when the team gets numbers well forward. It may depend on whether Claudinho settles - the word is that he's not making a great effort to learn the language and communicate.
Yeah, Piorkowski and Leijer both looked fairly promising to me last year.

FWIW, I though Melbourne's problems last season were mainly in midfield rather than defence.
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