It’s the time of the year when clubs look towards the home stretch of the season and The Football Sack critiques each club’s progress so far.

Do you agree with our assessments made in the return of our January report cards?

Semester Summary: Victory got off to a very slow start this season and couldn’t buy a win until round seven, mustering up a frustrating four draws and two losses before getting off the mark against Perth Glory.

The absence of marquee trio of Mark Milligan, James Troisi and Kosta Barbarouses on international duties has clearly had an impact an hindered Victory’s ability to perform at their very best early in the campaign.

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Despite some patchy form they did manage to go undefeated from rounds 11-14 helping them work their way up to fourth place on the table.

Areas of Excellence: Victory still boast one of the finest attacks in the league, even though they may not always click together consistently. They have the third most goals scored in the league (23), only behind top-two teams Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets on 38 & 35 respectively.

The duo of Leroy George and Kosta Barbarouses have been highly important on the wing, the latter is starting to find his best form. If Besart Berisha and James Troisi can add more to their solid contributions then Victory will continue to be around the top-four spot on the ladder.

Areas in need of improvement: There needs to be more control in midfield, lead by captain Carl Valeri. Victory have the fourth most passes in the competition (6,857) but passing accuracy is down at 74 per cent, ranked eighth in the league.

They have also conceded the highest number of fouls so far by a long way, their total of 274 is ranked first ahead of Western Sydney Wanderers in second with 255.

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Winning the midfield battle is something Victory must work on and is it possible with the amount of experience offered by Valeri and Milligan.

Argentine Matias Sanchez is one that must step up with limited game-time across 14 A-League appearances in his first season at the club.

New acquisition Terry Antonis could be the spark that Victory needs as he looks to revive his career.

Top students: When you think about who provides creativity for Victory, it’s all down to George.

The Dutch winger isn’t overly quick, but makes up for it with his dazzling dribbling and precision passing. He is the designated free-kick and corner taker with a good knack of delivering the ball to the perfect area that strikers love.

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His importance to Victory is underlined by leading the assists in the A-League, notching up 10 already from 16 games. He’s also up the top in chances created, level in first with Dimitri Petratos at 3.06 per game.

At the other end of the park, Williams has showed form that elevates him towards Socceroos contention. The former Glory man has been a rock in defence, providing Victory with strong tackling and vital interceptions, but has a nice passing range to help start an attack from deep. Williams has certainly made a great impact to replace Alan Baro at centre-back.

Class clown: When Kenny Athiu took up the offer to join Victory on loan it looked like a dream move at the time following an incredible season for Heidelberg United in the 2017 NPL season.

What has transpired since then has been a disaster for a man that looked destined to take the next step in the A-League. Clearly that step is a giant one with Athiu making just a single substitute appearance this season.

He can’t even get much of a look in on the bench let alone the starting line-up, raising questions about whether more NPL players can actually make their mark at the professional level.

Grade: B

Outlook: It’s fair to say that Victory aren’t performing at their absolute best, however they should be in the mix for the finals series.

They’ve managed to defeat Newcastle and Melbourne City who won against Victory earlier in the season and have an opportunity to get one back over Sydney FC in the coming weeks.

The AFC Champions League group stage will kick into gear soon, providing Victory with even more pressure to perform. It’s been important for Victory to get as high up the table as they can considering the poor start.

They’ll have around a month to go before the challenge comes of more fixtures that will start to pile up.

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Liam Watson is covering Melbourne Victory this season while completing Media and Communications at La Trobe University.