Monday, September 25, 2006
Five from Five
Congratulations Melbourne Victory. Five wins on the trot to start the regular season is a fine achievement.
Although, predictably, the plaudits from some quarters (a TV studio in the northern suburbs, to be exact) have centred on the new Brazilian trio, the real story is the reinvention, and the splendid form, of Kevin Muscat.
Considered a full-back or central defender prior to the current season, Muscat has made a remarkably successful transition to central midfield. All the more impressive given that players of his relatively advanced age tend not to switch from defence to midfield; a move in the other direction is far more common.
Muscat's robust tackling and fighting spirit are undiminished, but what has surprised this season is his hitherto unheralded knack for the killer through-ball. His neat lob to pick out Danny Allsopp's left-wing run against Sydney was a classic of its kind, and he played in Adrian Caceres in similarly clever fashion against Perth.
Melbourne's midfield, in short, looks nothing like the flimsy affair of last season, in which the ineffectuality of the likes of Michael Ferrante and Andy Vlahos frustrated the fans. Grant Brebner has been an excellent addition, providing both grit and intelligence in his role as counterpart to Muscat.
There are other factors behind Melbourne's excellent beginning - including a dose of good fortune - but Muscat's outstanding form has been the highlight.
The 'luck' that we didn't have last season reflected a lack of steel, and a lack of ability to remove pressure on ourselves.
We have met most teams when they are still down, but its good to see the results ground out. Something Sydney and Adelaide managed to do during games when they didn't exactly turn it on last term. The Queensland game looks set to reveal a lot about both teams.
Muscat has been terrific and Brebner certainly complements him well. This has helped the back three and Theoklitos looks far more composed as well.
I think the main reason for their turnaround is having depth in most positions. If Allsopp and especially Thompson didn't score goals last term, the only other potential goalscorer was Kitzbichler or a set piece header from one of the defenders.
The three Brazilians haven't been as influential as most would have liked (not yet anyway), but there is no doubt that even their presence on the bench has instilled much needed confidence and swagger to the brittle team of last season. Recchia, Tadrosse, Ferrante and a few ineffective others were relied upon last season, and now Ferrante plays virtually no part. That's saying something.
Both teams remain undefeated.
First game at Telstra Dome, Victory's new home base.
I would kill to be there. Naturally, as a Queenslander, I'm going to predict that Victory's winning streak is about to end, but either way this is shaping up to be the contest of the season so far.