Byline Banter: No more excuses

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Round four is now in the books and it’s time to stop treating some of these teams with kid gloves. Byline Banter knocks some of them out, tells some of them “you’re wearing ‘em down”, and psych’s you up for round five using words that start with B!

Brilliance
Congratulations to the Western Sydney Wanderers, champions of Asia. But they’ve had enough accolades for now. Hopefully they’ve finished sending Snapchats of the trophy and refocused their attention on the A-League, because their domestic efforts need some work. Bottom of the ladder, albeit with a couple of games-in-hand on most of the other teams, is not where Wanderers are expected to be.

While the Wanderers have been competitive in all their matches this season, they’ve looked like a team that was about to go on holiday. Their bodies were in Parramatta, but their minds were in Saudi Arabia. Alright, it’s not the Maldives but that’s expensive and a holiday is a holiday. Irrespective of if you consider the ACL trophy a reasonable justification for being last, and for the record it is, the time for excuses will be over when they step onto the pitch in Wellington on Friday night.

There is certainly no need to panic yet, the Wanderers are a classy outfit with more than enough talent to push out of trouble in just a few weeks. But they now need to get on with it. They’re 10 points behind the three leaders and would the ACL be enough to impress the RBB if they fail to make the finals? Probably not.

Honourable mentions
– Ante Covic, enough said.
– Patrick Kisnorbo’s header for City

Blank
It’s not just Western Sydney that needs to reignite their season. Brisbane Roar and Newcastle Jets are also in desperate need of a win; however, they get to press the reset button this week and go back to square one with their first home games of the season this weekend.

It’s been an odd start to the season for the Roar who are currently sitting second from bottom. With Besart Berisha hightailing it in the off-season, many pundits suggested that we would see a far different Brisbane outfit to the one A-League fans have become accustom to. But much to the annoyance of the opposing team’s fans, the Orangemen have lost none of their ability in the middle of the park; they’re just in desperate need of some flair up front. Wait a second, that was Berisha’s job. Unfortunately for Henrique, it looks like he’s going to be the one expected to take up the slack.

Where to begin with the Jets? They’ve had a long first four rounds; Central Coast, to Melbourne, to Wellington, to Perth, and now back home. But at the end of the day, they’re professional athletes and travel is not an excuse. They’ve got the attitude of weekend hackers; kick the ball to someone else and my job is done. Against Perth, they looked like a team that had tried nothing and were all out of ideas. They’ll return to Hunter Stadium with a completely resurfaced pitch, hopefully with inbuilt channels because the Jets don’t seem to know what they are. Please give the fans something to cheer about this weekend, boys.

Honourable mentions
– The tally in the column marked “0-0 draws fans have had to suffer through this year”.
– The look on Al-Shamrani’s face when he gets a significant ban for being a complete bell-end.

Breakthrough
Where is it going to come from now for Melbourne City? So long David Villa, so long chances on goal. The Spaniard had a hand in just about every goal scoring opportunity last week against Adelaide and that’s not counting his runs that Adelaide did competently deal with.

Damien Duff is still looking the goods and a class above the rest, so City manager John van’t Schip may need to think about moving him more centrally. It’s true that most of his career he’s been a wide player, but he was a wide player running at the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool. He could have a far greater influence on the game coming out of the midfield or dropping from number 10 and getting the ball.

What about the City strikers David Williams and Mate Dugandzic? Both are yet to get off the mark this season and with Villa now exiting, more attention will be placed on their performances. With new signing Josh Kennedy unavailable until the start of January, they’re both going to have to start finding the back of the net soon, or else it will be too late when he does get here.

Honourable mentions
– Adelaide United. They have been consistently getting better each season, but now they’ve emerged as serious title contenders.
– Wanderers getting Asia to take note of Australian football.

Benign
Alright, time to look at some positives now, because Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory are doing well. Only the diehards would have mentioned them as possible title contenders at the start of the season, but both teams have settled into the season well and are steadily improving.

Many were throwing the Nix about as favourites for the wooden spoon this year, but they’re not having a bar of that and six points is not a bad tally at this stage of the season. They were well in the match against the Victory on the weekend following their demolition of the Jets, not afraid to move the ball around and on another night may have got something out of the match. Their resolve will again be tested over the next couple of weeks as they have a visit from the Wanderers this weekend and a tough road trip to Adelaide after that.

Glory have so far racked up nine points from four games, with their only defeat at the hands of Adelaide. They did what was required in the lacklustre match against the Jets last weekend, a team needs to be able to grind out victories if they want to be there come business time. This weekend against the Mariners would start a run of four matches where they don’t have to face a squad above them on the ladder. They need to get out in that sunshine and make as much hay as possible because the new year brings a schedule of Victory, Adelaide, Victory and Sydney FC.

Honourable mentions
– Central Coast get once last chance to impress this weekend before everyone starts throwing books at them.

Bemusement – Observation of the week
How about those seagulls at the Victory vs Phoenix match? The only thing out there more annoying was Shaun Evans. Perhaps he should have followed the bird’s lead and stood on one leg for sympathy. Maybe the fans wouldn’t have booed him so much.

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