Byline Banter: #out

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Round six has been completed and that means we’ve now reached the quarter mark of the 2014/15 Hyundai A-League season. The time for the “it’s only early” excuse is now well and truly over and it’s about this time that A-League fans start calling for coaches’ heads.

So who’s safe and who’s only minutes away from their name being accompanied with  #out – Byline Banter lets you know using some words that start with B!

Belated
It looks like the Brisbane Roar are back; their commanding win over the Jets has signaled to the rest of the A-League that they aren’t giving up on their title defense just yet. In truth, the Newcastle Jets were woeful but we’ll come to that in a minute. Like the last person to get to the house party, the Roar are now looking to smash some shots to catch up to the rest of the group.

They can take plenty confidence from their performance last weekend because the Roar were equally as good as the Jets were bad. Just one week earlier, the champions looked in serious trouble after being convincingly trounced 3-1 by Melbourne City, which was facing its own criticisms, capped off by the embarrassing on-field domestic between Shane Steffanuto and Jamie Young.

But there was no rift on Friday night as the Roar tore through the Jets and embarrassed them in front of their home fans. The Roar were clinical and more reminiscent of the team that has become the benchmark for A-League over the past few seasons. However, their new-found confidence will face a big test this weekend as they have an away trip to face Melbourne Victory.

Honourable mentions
– Central Coast’s equaliser – only the Jets and Western Sydney Wanderers are saving them from harsh criticism at the moment.
– Andrew Redmayne finally now looks like a competent keeper – he was one of the biggest problems for the Heart last year.

Bitter
There is always an extra buzz surrounding a match when two title contenders face each other. That was certainly the case when Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory took to the park last weekend. Massive matches don’t always live up to the hype but that was certainly not the case last Saturday night with fans treated to well fought contest.

Indeed draws are boring and more anticlimactic than Nicholas Cage movies, but sometimes they’re the right result. The draw showed just how close these two teams are in terms of quality, particularly between the sticks with Victory’s Nathan Coe and FC’s Vedran Janjetovic keeping both teams in the match.

But realistically, that’s the type of game you need to be able to win if you’re going to take out the title. You know it’s true.

Honourable mentions
– Malick Mane allegedly swearing at his teammates after being subbed off in Central Coast’s game last week. When you’re struggling for results, the last thing you need is a new guy with a big mouth.
– Nix fans leaving Coopers Stadium looked like they were sucking on lemons as Sergio Cirio secured victory with the last play of the game.

Broken
The Newcastle Jets are in all sorts of trouble; their performance last weekend was nothing less than deplorable. Club hero Joel Griffiths admitted that it was the worst performance he has ever been a part of and the fans agreed by booing them from the pitch in their 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the Roar. Truth be told, the performance was even worse than the scoreline suggests with the Roar tallying 24 shots compared to Newcastle’s woeful effort of three.

So what’s the solution? Coach Phil Stubbins has no choice now but to play Marcos Flores regardless of his condition. The Jets looked completely uninspired, lazy and inept going forward. Stubbins realised his error of choosing Billy Celeski, Zenon Caravella and Ben Kantarovski in the midfield sometime during the first half, but they looked even worse when he changed to a 4-4-2 formation. Wide men Joel Griffiths and David Carney had barely any impact on the game and video footage needs to be reviewed to see if Edson Montano was even on the field. Though it’s not fair to blame the striker as the service provided to him was non-existent.

If the Newcastle boss wants to stick with his current 4-3-3 formation, he needs to have Flores playing in behind Montano with Celeski and Kantarovski playing as defensive midfielders. Jeronimo Neumann needs to be playing on the left flank with Carney going to left back in place of Sam Gallagher or dropping to the bench.

After the chorus of criticism leveled at the Newcastle gaffer last weekend, he must make changes or the booing is only going to get louder.

Honourable mentions
– The heart of every Australian who turns on a Socceroos match. They just don’t look like they know how to win.
– Marc Marino’s face.

Behold – Looking ahead to this weekend’s action
Perth Glory are continuing as leaders after keeping the Wanderers on the bottom of the table. The Glory will face the Wellington Phoenix this weekend who are now at an awkward tipping point. The Phoenix need to put in a good performance this weekend against the Glory as they face City and the Jets following the match in Perth. If they can keep their confidence and beat both those squads, they’ll have a firm footing in the play-off zone.

The Wanderers welcome the embattled Jets to Parramatta Stadium this week, though there is no analysis needed for this match. Wanderers have to win or else people will be drawing a line through their name as title contenders and the Jets need a win to restore their pride and the hope of their fans.

The remaining fixtures are Victory taking on the Roar, Adelaide going to the Central Coast and Sydney FC heading to Melbourne to face City. Victory, Roar and Adelaide are all focused on getting to top of the pile – a victory for any of these clubs, coupled with a loss to Perth, would see them jump to the top of the ladder. If for some reason they all win, it will be Adelaide looking the goods. Central Coast and City, on the other hand, are simply looking to get some points to stay out of the dogfight at the bottom.

Bemusement – Observation of the week
How much of the off-season did A-League coaches spend working on free kicks? That’s two weeks in a row a Glory cracker has got them the win. Scott Jamieson this week, Nebosja Marinkovic last week – is that the difference between winning and being everybody else?

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

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