So who would have thought that it would take twenty-one matches for someone to realise the key to Melbourne Victory’s success would be a functional midfield. Who would have thought? How much do they pay these people?
Way back in October not long after the season had started even I could see that the problem with the Victory’s lack of early season success was down to a massive hole in midfield. That hole resulted in a disconnection between the attacking members of the team and those mainly tasked with doing defensive duties. Up until the weekend under Jim Magilton’s reign we had seen that gaping hole still there which resulted in countless long balls hoofed up to our five foot nothing forwards only to be cleared predictably by their opponents. In the derby it resulted in Kristian Sarkies having so much time on the ball that he was actually able to hit a pass to a teammate and not an opposition player. It resulted in some of the most dire football that I have even seen from the Victory, even worse than some of the crap dished up in our first season.1
So disheartened by the derby performance last week I was about to write a diatribe on why Magilton wasn’t the man for the Melbourne Victory job in the long term but time constraints and suitable lack of inspiration and swear words meant that I only wrote about one hundred words before Friday night’s kickoff. In many ways I am glad that I didn’t write that diatribe because Friday night’s performance gave me a glimmer of hope that I thought may have already been killed off. In light of that I will reserve my judgement on the Northern Irishman (or Scotsman if you read Australia’s most popular newspaper as voted by themselves) until the end of season.
So what was actually different from the previous twenty matches that allowed the team to play what appeared to be a functional and vaguely entertaining brand of football with a midfield that actually worked against the Central Coast Mariners. Well after some pretty dire football in the last couple of weeks Magilton actually decided to do something different. Recent loan signing Mark Milligan was moved to the centre of midfield from the centre of defence, a change brought about mostly by the recent signing (to the end of the season I think) of Spanish defender Ubay Luzardo, played his first game in the blue and white on Friday night. Paired with Milligan was Jimmy Jeggo (whose very name conjures up images of millions of swooning Korean girls - don’t google that by the way), who picked up his first ever start. This midfield combination was in stark contrast to the previous combination of Broxham and Brebner as it was more mobile and could actual provide that much need link between defence and attack. In other words it provided some fluidity to the Melbourne midfield. Up ahead from right to left were Marco Rojas, Carlos Hernandez (who made a much needed return to the starting XI) and Harry Kewell. These three played behind Archie Thompson, who reprised his role as the lone striker. Some may have called it a 4-4-1-1 formation but I prefer to call it a 4-2-3-1 formation as illustrated below. But no matter what you call it, the main thing was that it actually worked.
So there you have it a functional midfield which gave us a team that played liked a team and not a collection of individuals and instantly things look a bit better on the pitch. Let’s hope that continues this week against Brisbane Roar and we don’t again resort to old habits.