Byline Banter: 6’s & 7’s

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Plenty of great football played last weekend, and yeah there was plenty of rubbish too but at least we didn’t have to suffer through any nil all draws so that’s got to be worth celebrating.

Like some of the defensive work last weekend Byline Banter is all over the shop. Should we have six teams in the play-offs? Why can’t the Jets hold a lead? What can you look forward to this weekend? All these questions and more will be answered using words that start with B!

Bridge

The 2014/15 A-League season now more than ever is a case of the haves vs the have nots; teams that have all the points and teams that have none of the points. A significant gap has opened between the Wellington Phoenix on 16 points in fifth place and Brisbane Roar on ten points in sixth place.

But consider the teams fighting for the last play-off position. Do they really deserve to be there come the business end of the season?

Last year’s grand finalists Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers haven’t been close to the form shown last season and while the Roar are starting to find something that resembles form the Club World Cup has provided yet another distraction for the Wanderers.

The ragged Jets remain winless this season and the Central Coast Mariners haven’t claimed three points since Round 1. As for Melbourne City, they’re about as consistent as your great grandmother’s bowel movements.

Should more than half the teams in the competition reach the finals? Because let’s be honest, at this point none of them deserve to be there.

Honourable mentions

  • Wellington Phoenix’s away form. The Kiwi outfit finally look like they’ve found a way to bridge the gap between winning at home and winning on the road
  • Obviously one couldn’t be built between Malick Mané and the Mariners with the Senegalese striker off to Sweden

Broken

So far this season the Jets have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on five occasions, most recently conceding three goals in five minutes to blow their lead and lose out 3-1 to the Wellington Phoenix a fortnight ago. And while they were in much of their match against the Glory last weekend the Novocastrians remain winless and just one point off the foot of the A-League ladder. But what’s the problem with the Jets, why are they having such a tough time grafting out a victory?

It’s thanks in the main to a mixture of fear and a lack of cohesion at the back. The 2007/08 Champions have forgotten how to win and it’s seriously hampering their progress this campaign

When the Jets do manage to take the lead two things happens. Firstly, all concept of attacking football goes out the window and they shut-up-shop, irrespective of how long is left in the match. The wide players tuck in closer to the midfield leaving Edson Montano isolated and with no players running through to support the striker when he holds the ball up.

Montano’s continual loss of the ball – which may be why he sat out against Perth – leaves the Jets more desperate and focus shifts to the long ball. When they get a goal they have to push for a second.

Parking the bus to see out the victory is fine but you have to be good at it and the Jets are not. This kind of tactic requires a high level of team dynamics and familiarity, unfortunately Newcastle lack both.

For past few weeks Phil Stubbins has settled with Adrian Madaschi and Kew Jaliens in the centre of defence and Scott Neville is their first and only choice at right back but the puzzle of left back seems to remain unsolved with some weeks the Gaffer going with Sam Gallagher and other weeks Sam Galloway.

Stubbins needs to pick a Sam and stick with him if they’re to develop any cohesion at the back.

Honourable mentions

  • Graham Arnold’s chair if the Phoenix get the better of them this weekend
  • Brisbane Roar will be if Henrique isn’t fit for the next match, he’s been responsible for the revival

Behold – looking ahead to this weekend’s action

Friday night’s match between the Jets and Adelaide United is set to be a classic with the gradually – very gradually – improving Jets looking to get their first win against the Reds who are coming off a poor performance against Roar last weekend.

The match commemorates the Jets’ 10-year anniversary and the team will be hoping to score their first three points in front of a big crowd whereas Adelaide are looking to keep in touch with Glory who are now five points better off.

Saturday’s fixtures kick off with the Melbourne Derby and with the Roar spectating this weekend a victory to City would seem them leapfrog Brisbane back into sixth position and that all important final play-off spot.

Victory are coming off a 3-3 draw with Sydney FC and will be looking to make an example of the Sky Blues and get back to winning form.

Following that match Glory will welcome the Mariners to nib Stadium and if the Victory are successful against City, Perth will need at least a draw to stay in top spot. As for the Mariners they are in serious trouble and are now only four points off the bottom and, to put it in greater perspective, if they fail to win and the Jets claim three points they will be equal.

Recent off-field distractions surrounding match locations certainly aren’t helping Central Coast but regardless of where the goals are they need to start finding them.

The final match of the round sees Sydney FC face Wellington Phoenix at Allianz Stadium on Sunday afternoon. It’s fair to say that the Phoenix have been the surprise packet so far this season with many people touting them as possible wooden spoon contenders and victory over FC would see them leapfrog Sydney on the ladder. Bet you feel stupid now.

However Sydney are also desperate for the three points to close the gap that is opening between themselves and the top three. It may have gone unnoticed to many but Graham Arnold’s men have slumped to just one win in their last six matches leaving them eight points behind Perth.

Bemusement – observation of the week

What do FC Luzern, Zulte Waregem, FC Utrecht and Fortuna Dusseldorf have in common, apart from the fact you’ve never heard of them? They all have a representative in the 46-man Asian Cup squad which is more than what can be said about the Jets and the Mariners.

P.S. In the time it took you to read this column the Jets would have conceded five goals.

Get involved with the observation of the week by tweeting what catches your eye to @TheFootballSack

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