Byline Banter: Giving up the ghost

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Well that was a waste of a weekend; the more things change, the more things stay the same. It’s as you were on the Hyundai A-League ladder after round seven with Perth Glory marching on as heroes and Western Sydney Wanders dawdling on as zeros.

Yeah, yeah, there is more to football than results. Well you’re half right about that, but you can’t get the job done with good intentions. Byline Banter lets you know if your team is really in it this season or if they’re going to see out the season smiling and nodding, with an assist to some words that start with B!

Busted
Western Sydney Wanderers cannot win the league this year, that’s the cold hard reality the RBB needs to face right now. Not if they’re going to be continuing on as they are right now. The Wanderers had more than enough chances to put away a desperate but improved Newcastle Jets last weekend. Mind you the improvements were at the pointy end of the field for the Jets and the defence – particularly early on – looked as frail as ever leaving Tony Popovic the more disappointed manager. For the last couple of weeks Popovic has been shushing terms like “crisis” and “panic” but the reality is that Wanderers are in trouble.

Western Sydney have had some remarkable success for a club so young. But their achilles heel this season and last season to an extent is their lack of goals. So far this season they’ve managed just five goals (only Central Coast Mariners have fewer with four), compared to nine at this point last season. But their eventual tally last season wasn’t brilliant either with 34 goals in the A-League, less than both Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Heart which finished 9th and 10th respectively.  

Now not scoring 45 goals a season doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t do well, the Wanderers are testament to that. But if that’s the case you’ve got to be able to grind out victories and while they’ve proven in the past they can take away an opponents will to live, until they can remember how to do that they’re out of it this season. 

Honourable mentions
– Mike Mulvey’s tenure at the Brisbane Roar. Thanks for the title but see you later, harsh to sack him this early.

Buried
So far this season the Mariners have been more anonymous than a university student in a shout. They’ve been nestled in mid-table doing enough to scrape on by without too much criticism, but their time has also come.

Last Sunday the Marniners slumped to their third straight defeat at home; the first time this has occurred since the 2009/10 A-League season. But what’s more worrying is the current culture and moral around Bluetongue Stadium. Skipper John Hutchinson’s reaction to being substituted clearly indicates that all is not well and Coach Phil Moss may have lost the faith of his squad.

The Mariners looked half-paced at best on Saturday with players failing to track their marks effectively and looking disinterested at certain points. Adelaide’s first goal was a deplorable effort in defending by Zachary Anderson and Storm Roux with the concept of marking seeming to slip their mind entirely. And despite four different players getting booked the team seems to be afraid to put a foot in and challenge. Perhaps they need to go back to school and learn The Hokey Pokey, remember you put your right leg in and shake it all about.

If management think the solution to their slow start is to let Moss go they need to do it sooner rather than later to give their new guy a chance to get set before making a run at the finals.

Honourable mentions
– Marcos Flores must have been buried under the new turf at Hunter Stadium. One start for the Jets and one goal, where has he been all year?

Brewing
Melbourne City on the other hand are a team that are building and close to the brink of announcing themselves as a competitive chance for the title this season.

Much of the shakedown in their match against Sydney FC last weekend was about Marc Janko and the fact that Sydney are still undefeated this season. And justifiably so as they’re playing attractive football, but City were more than in the match and looked like the better squad in the closing stages; even before Milos Dimitrijevic’s dismissal.

Now that City have settled into post-Villa life the squad has started to play as a unit; as opposed to the all-or-nothing kick it to David plan. Strikers Mate Dugandzic and David Williams have started to look more dangerous and more importantly are now off the mark for the season. Aaron Ramsay was the most impressive player on the park last Saturday night, including Janko. His combination with Erik Paartalu in the midfield has potential to be one of the best in the league and will be strengthened with the return of Massimo Murdocca from injury.

No doubt many observers will disagree with this summation, and to be fair the time has come for City to make their move. Their run of fixtures in the near future is relatively kind and begins in Wellington this weekend against the Phoenix. They then welcome struggling Brisbane Roar to the Etihad and the following weekend have to trip to face the cellar dwelling Wanderers.

If the squad has any heart it’s time show it.

Honourable mentions
– Sydney has been split this week with the second Sydney derby scheduled for Saturday. Sydney FC soaring and Western Sydney boring, something has to give and expect some explosions on the pitch.

Bemusement – Observation of the week
Bet you’ve all forgotten about Robert Koren haven’t you? City boss John van’t Schip is hoping to have the former Slovenian captain back sometime next month. Look for him to add more quality in the midfield and cement City’s place in the top six.

Get involved with the observation of the week by tweeting what catches your eye to @TheFootballSack and using #bylinebanter.

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