Having been away overseas for the first three weeks of the season last night provided me with my first opportunity to see the “newish looking” Melbourne Victory in action. The number of beverages that were consumed before and during the game precludes me from providing any detailed tactical analysis of the game and despite the result I was relatively pleased with what I saw.
Posts Tagged ‘archie thompson’
As 2011 draws to its conclusion it’s time again to take a look at the year that was for the Melbourne Victory. It was a year full on drama with an extended off-season break providing plenty of talking points off the pitch whilst the action on the field hasn’t quite hit the high notes that everyone was hoping for at its beginning.
High point of the Year
Both on an off the pitch there has been very few highs as far the Victory are concerned but during the extended off season the launch of the Melbourne Victory kit by adidas and it’s accompanying launch video was one of my high points of the season. It’s just a pity that what has happened on the pitch hasn’t quite matched it.
Low point of the Year
Going out of the finals in the first week for the first ever time was a fairly low point but nothing matches the handling of the dismissal of Ernie Merrick after one ACL match. New chairman Anthony di Pietro’s handling of the whole scenario was nothing short of unprofessional and as I wrote as such at the time for Australian FourFourTwo: “Sacking a manager is a difficult thing but when you announce such a decision how about showing some conviction in the action that you are taking. You looked about convincing as me trying to pass myself off as a football player.”
Game of the Year
Whilst it may not have been exactly pretty the 2-2 draw against Brisbane Roar with only nine men has to be my match of the year. Never have I been at a game where the crowd has got so behind the team as they frustrated the then unbeaten Roar like no team had done before. It was one of those games that should have kick started the season but unfortunately it wasn’t to be as we have spluttered on.
Goal of the Year
There hasn’t been too many highlights in this department this year but it would have to be a toss up between Archie Thompson’s second goal for Brisbane Roar earlier this season or Diogo Ferreira’s almost perfect volley against Wellington Phoenix a couple of weeks ago. However for pure individual brilliance it has to be Thompson’s effort as he not only bamboozled the defender but also former team mate Michael Theoklitos to give Melbourne Victory a 2-1 lead with only ten men.
Signing of the Year
This is pretty much a no contest as nothing comes close to the signing of Harry Kewell. While he is yet to deliver on the pitch Kewell has well and truly delivered off the pitch with two crowds of around 40,000 for our first two home games generating plenty of publicity.
Coaching decision of the Year
2011 definitely wasn’t a year of game changing coaching decisions but whoever was responsible for the signing of Ante Covic on the eve of the first game of the season has to get some credit. Time and time again the giant keeper has come to the rescue of the team and without him we would be a much worse position that we already are at the moment.
Best favour from an opposition player
There hasn’t been too many of these this year but Brett Emerton’s penalty in the first match of the season that was saved by Ante Covic has to be this best favour from an opposition player for the year. If we had a lost that one we probably would have been in a slightly worse position than we already are at the moment.
It was with some irony that Melbourne Victory’s first home win of the season coincided with the first home game of the season that I was unable to attend due to a clash with a Grand Final that my futsal team* was playing.
Whilst it was a win that came at the end of probably the most tumultuous weeks in the short history of Melbourne Victory one must remember that this a win against a side sitting bottom of the ladder and with the worst defensive record in the league. It was also a game where the Victory when cruising at 2-0 up endeavoured to do their best to actually lose the game. First up, veteran Rodrigo Vargas decided he wanted an early shower with a two-footed challenge on the half-way line with a little over thirty minutes gone on the clock. To say Vargas should have known better is a massive understatement with the incident giving Gold Coast United the incentive to claw their way back into the game. This was followed by a rather soft penalty (it was a penalty just the Victory’s first two goals were penalties) on the stroke of half time which gave Gold Coast some much need momentum going into the second half.
Shortly after the break some lax defending saw Gold Coast equalise and you could almost hear the collective groan coming from AAMI Park in my lounge room as fans watched the team again throw away another two goal lead. Fortunately for the Victory they had come up against a team that quite clearly doesn’t know how to win and even with all of Miron Bleiberg’s so-called tactical genius couldn’t find that all important third goal against a Victory side that had gone to rabble following Vargas’ sending off. It seemed as if the home side suddenly realised that opponents didn’t have both the manpower or the will to actually win the game as both Carlos Hernandez and Archie Thompson rolled back the years (to be fair to Thompson, he’s been in outstanding form all season) and created a number of chances before the two combined for the winner in the 79th minute. Who would have thought that Hernandez could out jump three opponents.
Whilst one win doesn’t a title challenge make one pleasing aspect was the form of Billy Celeski, who looked more than the player of three seasons ago rather than the shadow of a player that existed since his return from a knee reconstruction. Whilst Ernie Merrick might have turned him into one of the best defensive midfielders of that title winning season, it seemed on a Sunday that Celeski relished a more attacking role, one that he was more accustomed to before arriving in our fair town. The result was a much more confident display than we have seen in at least one and a half seasons or maybe it just taken him that long to get over what was a quite a serious knee injury.
Next up is a clash with the Newcastle Jets, a team against which the Victory notoriously struggle against especially on their home turf. If Durakovic has indeed turned the season around then next week is surely a true test as to whether that is really the case.
* - for the record my futsal team lost the Grand Final 7-6 in extra time.
The title pretty much says it all and I’m not just talking about the performance against Adelaide. It also applies to their performance against the Wellington Phoenix on the preceding Wednesday as well. Never have I seen the Victory play such ordinary football in consecutive matches.
And the common denominator in both matches was Melbourne’s inability to get control in the all important midfield battle. This meant the defensive was always under constant pressure and the strikers weren’t getting enough of the ball. The Victory always plays well when they get can serious amount of midfield possession but both Adelaide and Wellington didn’t allow this to happen and when they did get possession it was often coughed up too quickly. Chief amongst the culprits was Billy Celeski, who hasn’t looked the player that he was before his knee construction. Whilst he hasn’t suffered the recurring injuries of both Thompson and Kemp, his form has definitely suffered and it would wise for Merrick to give him a couple of weeks break.
That all being said the Victory have certainly missed the presence of both Kruse and Thompson in attack with the combination of Danny Allsopp and Ricardinho yet to hit its straps as one would expect and maybe we as fans are expecting too much. Let’s hope they can both find some form against Sydney this weekend because another loss could spell disaster with teams like Melbourne Heart, Wellington Phoenix and Newcastle Jets all breathing down our neck for a finals position. What was looking like a comfortable finals finish a couple of matches ago has all of a sudden looked a tad precarious. What is of concern is those losses weren’t valiant losses, they were terrible, ugly losses and that more importantly needs to be rectified.
In my last post I stated that I our two matches over the Christmas/New Year period would surely define our season and went as far as to say that two wins would be perfect and the team duly delivered. Those two wins against both Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners made it four wins in a row and seven games unbeaten for the Victory. With a match tonight against the Wellington Phoenix there is every opportunity to make it five in a row.
With Robbie Kruse being absent for the next month with the Socceroos Asian Cup squad and Archie Thompson still out through injury it will be interesting to see if we contain our recent scoring record. The striking responsibilities now lie with Ricardinho and the returning Danny Allsopp, a combination that has yet to see pitch time together and fans will be hoping that they can gel quickly as the Victory look to maintain their recent momentum. It will be key in the team’s charge to a higher ladder position.
With 2010 coming to an end I have taken the opportunity to undertake my annual review in my latest piece for Australian FourFourTwo, which you can read here. Let’s hope 2011 is a better one for Victory fans than the previous one.
Something extremely rare happened on Saturday night, rare in the fact that up until the final whistle blew, us Victory fans had yet to see a consecutive win so far this season.
Two-thirds into the season and we are finally seeing some consistency in the performances from the team of the blue half of town. Unfortunate as it was to draw against the Roar two weeks ago, the performance has certainly appeared to provide the necessary impetus in the following two matches that give us fans some hope of a decent finals campaign.
However, just as it seems that the “two steps forward, three steps back” nature of our season might have come to an end, injuries to the recently returned Thompson and Kemp might kill off any momentum that may have been building. It has been no coincidence that the consistency that we crave has come when those two have been on the pitch.The return of Kemp has forced Merrick to do away with the somewhat disastrous idea of trying to fit the triumvirate of Muscat, Vargas and Leijer into a back four. With Kemp again forced back to the treatment table, how Merrick reacts will also be paramount. If he returns to the setup at the back that we saw before the return of Kemp, then it is obvious lessons haven’t been learnt.
A number of weeks back, in one of my pieces for Australian FouFourTwo I called for Marvin Angulo to get regular game time in order to see whether he could contribute effectively to the team. Merrick seems to have heeded my advice, with the slight Costa Rican starting the last five matches and finally showing on the pitch what everyone has been raving about on the training ground. His tireless running and his link between the back and front thirds has now made him a certain starter for the remainder of the season. He has impressed so much that he has appeared to have attracted the attention of teams in the MLS.
In all the hubbub surrounding the return of Thompson and the free-scoring ways of Robbie Kruse, many have forgotten that Ricardinho is still around and his return on Saturday night in the context of things it will be crucial how quickly he fits back into the team and can feed off the confidence of those around him.
Our next two encounters against the Jets and the Mariners will surely define the direction in which we will be heading in 2011, particularly when it comes to the month of February. Two wins would be perfect, two draws would be okay, two losses would be disastrous. What it will be though is season defining.
Whilst it was all well and good that Melbourne kept its fourth clean sheet in a row, what was more concerning that it was the third game in a row in which the team failed to find the back of the net. One key factor in the failure of Carlos Hernandez to find the back of the net so far this season, something that he managed to do thirteen times last season.
Whilst critics and fans alike like to assume it is because he is carrying extra weight in my opinion it down to having to carry the weight of expectation of a season like the last one, especially in the continued absence of Archie Thompson. In my latest blog for Australian FourFourTwo I take those critics and fans to task, especially those who constantly question is weight and fitness.
As for the game itself, it was pretty riveting 0-0 draw. However that being said, I can’t actually remember either of the keepers having to make any crucial saves, especially Michael Petkovic. With the absence of Brebner through injury it was pleasing to see Merrick give Marvin Angulo given a full ninety minutes in which to strut his stuff. And the Costa Rican midfielder didn’t let him down, playing his best game so far for the club. If he gets regular game time, his confidence will grow and hopefully take some of that pressure of his fellow countryman.
On a slightly different note, I have also started contributing to Sam Kelly’s excellent blog about Argentinian football, Hasta El Gol Siempre in his weekly segment entitled Argentine’s Abroad. Whilst the Victory doesn’t contain any Argentinians I will be updating the readers of Hasta El Gol Siempre on the weekly exploits of Adelaide United’s Marcos Flores and Central Coast Mariners’ Patricio Perez.
So it was with little fanfare that Melbourne Victory announced that Ricardo Weslei de Campelo, otherwise known as Ricardinho would be the club’s twenty-third and final signing as well as being the striker we desperately need at the moment.
However, what was surprising about the whole announcement was that the Victory also announced that their new signing would also be their international marquee for the next two seasons. With very little information to be found apart from the odd YouTube clip and a very limited Wikipedia page about our new striker, it is hardly the stuff that inspires the need to be made our international marquee. Whilst not denying it could be a stroke of genius on behalf of Messrs Cole and Merrick, I hardly think that Ricardinho fits the bill as an international marquee. Players such as Fowler, Yorke and Juninho are all worthy of international marquee status, but not our Ricardinho, not yet anyway.
To the player himself, he has been nicknamed ‘King of the Dribble’ and if the above YouTube clip (around the 35 second mark) from his recent stint in the K-League is anything to go by then it seems a fair assessment. He is also seems to be of a similar mould to our other marquee, Archie Thompson and Merrick has definitely shown his hand in the type of striker that he likes. Let’s hope that when Thompson returns from injury that both of them can work in tandem.
Many fans and observers of Melbourne Victory have made the comment that the team needs more of a target man to add a bit of variety. What they forget is that the role target man has never really worked for the Victory, with the inability of both Ney Fabiano and the ill-fated Nik Mrdja to get on the scoresheet and fit into Merrick’s system as prime examples.
It will be interesting to see how quickly Ricardinho finds his feet in the A-League and it looks like Merrick and Co. will be easing him into things as there is talk of him not being available for another two weeks and with him not having kicked a ball in three months it seems a wise thing to do. Here’s hoping he is a success and he causes me to end my self-imposed ban on buying a new Victory shirt.
So in the end three wins from three games in six games proved too much for the Melbourne Victory on Friday night. A combination of injuries before the game (Thompson) and during the game (Kruse) made what was going to be a difficult task anyway and much more difficult especially when there was no out-and-out striker to replace them in the squad or on the bench.
Leading up to the game, we were hoping for the free-flowing football of our last encounter at Skilled Park at it looked like we were going to get it with the opening ten minutes a feast of end-to-end football. However former Victory player, Steve Pantelidis put paid to that with his cowardly hit on Robbie Kruse. From then on, the game particularly in the first half degenerated into a slug fest with Kevin Muscat exacting his revenge with an elbow to Jason Culina’s face. Both players will come under investigation, its just a matter of how many weeks they get.
In the end, Gold Coast’s weight of possession told in the second half with a spectacular goal from Zenon Caravella capping it off. As for Melbourne, not having a recognised striker out there on the pitch resulted in very few chances being created as both Hernandez’s and Angulo’s creativity was stifled by their requirement to play as out and out strikers. Even though Nathan Elasi is not having his contract renewed at the end of the season surely it would be worthwhile having him on the bench in lieu of youngster, Aziz Behich.
Any loss of Muscat will probably effect the Victory more than the loss of Pantelidis will do for the Gold Coast as the two teams compete with Sydney for the Premier’s Plate and the automatic ACL qualification. It sure makes for an interesting finish to the season, much like last season and hopefully it will be the same result.
For more of my thoughts on the game and my ponderings as to why Robbie Kruse always seem to be the target for attention, check out my latest 442 blog.