As you probably didn’t even notice, there were no A-League tips last week.
There are several reasons for this, but ultimately, the biggest one is that I’m not enjoying doing it in the current format any more.
So going forward, there will be a single $10 Bet Of The Week that I will be doing and hopefully I can begin enjoying this again.
I can usually find at least one game a week that I’m looking forward to!
But we’ll get to that at the end here.
The real issue that needs to be addressed is why is the A-League so dull that I’m not enjoying it this year?
As someone that has followed the league very closely since its inception, I am finding this season to be one of the least interesting on record, and there are several smaller factors that are causing this. The minor ones in descending order…
1. The marquee signings of last season are all a year older and a year less effective – though still occasionally show flashes of brilliance – and the excitement of seeing these guys in the league has worn off after repeat viewings.
2. In a 10 team league, match ups get repeated. A lot. This isn’t unique to this season, but last year the addition of Western Sydney spiced things up a bit. This year the trip to Parramatta has lost a bit of its ‘new toy’ sheen
3. I can’t deny that the poor form of my Sydney FC has obviously had an impact on my enjoyment, but it really is only a minor factor – we have been terrible for years after all…
4. Most teams don’t seem to have any consistency of game plan from week to week. It seems like a great “good luck lads” before each match and hope for the best. It feels like park football.
Which brings me to the biggest reason that the A-League has been so dull this season.
Almost every single team sucks.
We are two thirds of the way through the season, and at a point where you can make an accurate judgement on the teams this season.
There is one good team, one pretty good team, one not bad team, and 7 varying degrees of bad teams.
Just to confirm what you should already know, Brisbane is the good team, Western Sydney is the pretty good team and Central Coast is the not bad team*.
Everyone else is rubbish.
Don’t believe me?
Tell me who is the 4th best team in the league? I’m not sure any teams own fans would be confidently claiming that spot.
Victory probably had the best claim to it until 3 weeks ago when they suffered successive 5-0 losses to fellow terrible teams Wellington and Sydney. Rubbish team.
Who else is in contention?
Sydney? They had the aforementioned 5-0 drubbing of their arch rivals, but followed it up by losing to a 10 man, bottom of the table Melbourne Heart side. Not to mention the 1 draw and 4 losses that preceded those two matches. Rubbish team.
Perth have won 5 games from 17**and have been just as uninspiring under their new coach as they were their old. Rubbish.
Adelaide have improved in the second half of the season and have a couple of big scalps, but still struggle against their fellow strugglers. Rubbish with potential.
Wellington are probably the form team of the competition with only 1 loss in their last 7 matches, but that doesn’t mean you can just discount the 10 matches they went without a win to start the season. They could easily turn back to that and in spite of their form are still only 3 from the bottom. Rubbish.
Newcastle have been rubbish from day one and haven’t looked impressive in the few games that they have managed to sneak a win. Rubbish.
Heart haven’t lost in three weeks and that is considered a major achievement for them. Rubbish.
There is no question 70% of the teams in the league are awful – even by the leagues often low standards. You could easily talk me into a top 3 for this season rather than the current top 6, just to put everyone out of their misery.
The only question here is why? Why are these teams so terrible?
The answer in all cases has to do with the coaching.
4 of the 7 teams have changed their manager since the start of the season.
1 team is openly in a rebuilding phase under a manager that came in during the offseason – and learning a new way of playing does take time. The other 2 teams have tried to go forwards by going backwards and hired a coach that was considered past it when sacked from his previous A League job and done nothing to show any evidence of improvement since then. Neither of those coaches is considered a great tactician and they rely on the old fashioned “hard work” and “get stuck in” to get results. As we’ve seen, that can work in fits and starts, but when the luck runs out, so do the wins.
I’ve said before that in a salary capped league, the most important appointment is the Manager. Why is this so hard for a football club board to see?
The teams that have changed coaches since the start of this season have had varying reasons for doing so – not all of which were their own doing – but it’s the manner of choosing their replacements that concerns the most.
Perth, Newcastle, Mariners and both of the Melbourne’s ALL went with “the guy who was already here” when looking for a new coach this season. I understand the argument for consistency given a mid-year switch, but every one of them has been given the job for at least the remainder of the season. There are no restrictions on who you appoint as your head coach outside of having the relevant qualifications. No amount of money too big. No restrictions on nationality. No quota’s to fill at all, and yet for the most important job at the club, all 5 of them went with the guy who was already on the payroll.
In playing terms it is the equivalent of signing your star youth league player as your marquee. It makes no sense to just go with the nearest guy when the options are so large.
As Adelaide’s ambitious appointment of Josep Gombau has shown, there are plenty of managers out there that are looking for an opportunity to coach a first team at this level – and teams need to realise that they aren’t all Australian.
It was the popular opinion in the media over the last couple of years that to be successful in the A-League, you needed to have an Australian coach. This was entirely down to 2 successful Australian managers in Ange Postecoglu and Graham Arnold as well as Tony Popvic’s run last season. The narrative was also skewed by conveniently counting foreign managers who had been here a long time as “Aussies” as if they were famous New Zealand entertainers***
The truth is that the Premiers Plate has gone to 4 Australians and 4 Foreigners and the Championship has been split 4 and 4 as well.
Gombau has shown with the performance of his Australian recruits that the old line of needing an Australian to know the “local market” is another media driven agenda^
The truth is that the nationality of a candidate shouldn’t come into consideration for an A-League job. It needs to be based purely on their abilities and qualifications.
But enough of that tangent. The point is that there are only two ways to improve a football club. One is money and the other is management. No club – not even Melbourne Heart/City – will be able to spend enough money to make an impact in a salary capped league like this without also investing in quality management. The sooner the powers that be realise this the better For the sake of each club as well as the health of the entire league.
Moving on to my bet of the week!
My bets from two weeks ago went fairly well in all where I won a total of $13.46 leaving my ledger at the start of this week at -$21.39 as we start the new format.
I can’t resist the marquee match up of the top 2 teams in the league this week. Western Sydney host Brisbane and even this far out from the finals, it could be considered a title decider. A win for the Wanderers would see them only 4 points off the top spot and will have them regain the psychological edge that they lost after being soundly beaten at Suncorp earlier this season. If the Roar are to get up they will give themselves a 10 point gap on their biggest contenders and the title race is over.
The Wanderers have struggled with only 1 win in their last 4 matches and have had trouble in their marquee matches this year with only 2 wins from their 5 matches against the other teams in the top 4 while Brisbane have won 4 of their 5 equivalent matches. Just to put the nail in the coffin of this year’s already dull Premiership, I’m putting my $10 on the Roar to win (at $2.75)
*Given they have just lost even more players and the replacements are fairly unknown in terms of A League quality, they may not even deserve this faint praise
**As have Wellington, Newcastle and Adelaide
***Let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time before Lorde is ‘one of us’
^A cynic would say that the media drives this to keep their old pals in positions of power to help them get inside information for their stories. But I’m not a Cynic.