Monday, October 08, 2007


2007/08 - The First Cycle

The first round-robin cycle of the 2007/08 A-League has been completed, and it's perhaps a good time to take stock of the competition so far.

Overall, the football has been far from easy on the eye. There has been little genuine enterprise shown by most of the teams, with coaches apparently happy for their players to defend in numbers and depth, mark tightly and aggressively, and attack in groups of no more than three or four at a time.

One thing which has been starkly apparent throughout has been the lack of intelligent, purposeful movement off the ball. The sight of teams running and harrying for all they're worth in order to force a turnover, only to turn into statues when they have gained possession of the ball, has become familiar. Too often, the lack of movement "up ahead" has made the long ball into the channels the only viable option for defences; the gaping space that typically exists between defence and midfield has not helped, either.

Coaches obviously have their part to play in enhancing the entertainment value of the competition, but there are other factors that the FFA could address in order to keep the crowds from drifting away.

The general standard of the refereeing has been appalling. There has been such reluctance to punish violent play that one gets the suspicion that players are losing respect for the referees; the situation was perfectly summed up last night when Joel Griffiths was allowed to stay on the field after driving his fist into a linesman's genitalia. Admittedly, it was very early in the game, but if an offence such as that doesn't deserve a red card, what does?

And, as always, when games are not brought under control early, the yellow cards proliferate in the closing stages. It's a familiar phenomenon.

Then there's the availability issue. Perhaps the worst game of the season so far (and there are plenty of candidates) was the soporific draw between Perth Glory and Sydney FC at Members' Equity Stadium in September. This was one of a few games in that round adversely affected by the absence of the Olyroos (and those A-Leaguers who were drafted into the Socceroo squad to face Argentina). A team's stability tends to mirror the standard of its performances.

Given the problems that occurred last season as well, surely it's time for the FFA to face up to the realities of the FIFA calendar and schedule a break for international weeks. The Olyroos' forthcoming game against Lebanon will require more A-League absences, in another FIFA designated window. As we all know, A-League scheduling is tightly shackled by the requirements of the other football codes for ground use (and Foxtel air-time), but can't some solution can be reached in order to avoid clubs having to remodel their side every few weeks?

Scrapping the increasingly pointless pre-season cup might help in that regard.

Have to agree with you on the need for a break for FIFA sanctioned dates. I am disappointed again that this weekend Melbourne won't be playing a full strength Adelaide team - and I'm a Victory fan. Scheduling shouldn't be determined by Foxtel and yes getting rid of the preseason cup would also help.
Mikey, I think you're over-selling the Griffiths infraction, it was more of a jab than a punch. Not that this makes it any less petulant and ban-worthy.
Daniel... he hit him in the balls mate. Straight red. I think he's a great player but you cannot allow that.

Good blog, have to agree with it all. The adelaide v central coast match was excellent however, the rest have been pretty low in standard.
...The adelaide v central coast match was excellent however...

Yep, agreed. Best match of the season so far, for mine.
Best game of the season was Sydney v United for mine.

That said, there haven't been many contenders.

One pleasant surprise has been that Wellington's games have been excellent value. Unfortunately, Newcastle and Perth games have become really hard work to watch as a neutral (whereas Newcastle were captivating last season IMO).
Good article, Mikey.

Keep up the good work.

actually agree on everything bar Griffiths.

not onlt a red card but a long absence.

how can one teach youg kiddies respect for refs and linesmen and accepting gracefully decisions when they are wrong when this happens.
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