Tag Archives: Columns

Graham Arnold and the Ajax of Australia

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In a weekend where the big news was Sydney putting an end to Brisbane’s mammoth unbeaten run the action was kicked off by the quietly achieving Central Coast Mariners. The Gosford-based club finished runner up by eight points last season and took the Roar all the way in the Grand Final, at one point 2-0 up before losing on penalties, and are currently three points behind the Queenslanders after nine games but have somehow managed to avoid the attention of the media despite playing a brand of football that competes very well with the famous ‘Roarcelona’.

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The Trusted Hands of Ricki Herbert

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Under Ricki Herbert the Wellington Phoenix have built a reputation of overachievement and a formidable trip across the Tasman to the Ring of Fire, where they have set records of 24 home games unbeaten between November 2008 and December 2010, and 7 consecutive home wins between December 2010 and October 2011. The away record may not be as strong, but for a side that has to travel between 1,500 and 3,000 miles for each away game that is easily excused. Indeed for such a side, a coach in the mould of Ricki Herbert (organised, whose first priority is not losing) isn’t a terrible appointment. These things, along with his general standing within the New Zealand football community, and the need for stability during the ownership change are the reasons Gareth Morgan and his partners extended his contract recently. It is a decision that should sit well with a Wellington Phoenix support that practically worships the ground he walks on and Australian and New Zealand football associations that view him as one of the most knowledgeable coaches in the region. Here are some of the most significant games in his time as manager of Wellington Phoenix Football Club.

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Archie Thompson – Goal Poacher

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Archie Thompson’s goal against Wellington Phoenix this past weekend was a work of magic, the likes of which we rarely see in the A-League, as he nutmegged Tim Brown and then perfectly placed a curling shot beyond the diving Tony Warner and inside the far post. It was a classically Thompson strike; perfectly weighted touch and then an expertly placed finish. Shane Smeltz may be quickly catching him as the A-League’s all-time leading scorer, but many of Thompson’s 54 goals in 115 Melbourne Victory games have exuded class. Here are five goals that sum him up. They aren’t necessarily his ‘best’ five strikes, but they all scream Archie Thompson and given the fine build-ups to most of them, Ernie Merrick’s Melbourne Victory as well…

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Harry Kewell, Deep-Lying Playmaker?

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Archie Thompson’s public outbursts last week about what he seems to see as a God-given right to lead the line for the Melbourne Victory (to be fair, he is the all-time leading A-League scorer, for the time being), questions can and should be raised about Mehmet Durakovic’s ability to control the egos in his squad and produce effective football, especially after he seemingly gave in to Thompson in the Melbourne derby. It was a big risk that in the end perhaps vindicated Durakovic’s decision to play him out wide previously, but also proved what has been obvious through all three Victory games so far, something is very wrong with their movement while they have the ball. Defensively, the side has been fairly solid and easily kept their Yarra-side rivals scoreless but their attacking woes have Victory fans used to some of the best attacking football in the league calling for the manager’s head already. Some serious work has to be done on the training park, but I think the key factor will be where Durakovic decides to play Harry Kewell.
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Comparing the A-League to MLS in 2002

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The comparison is often made between the A-League and Major League Soccer, and it is usually a fair one. From salary caps, standard of play, and Marquee/Designated Players, the two leagues have more in common with each other than they do with the structures of most other leagues around the world. Yet a comparison of season seven in the A-League with season sixteen in MLS is an unfair one. Each league has had its share of difficulties, but the A-League is half the age of MLS. Rather, it is worth looking back to 2002, MLS’s seventh season, to more accurately ascertain where the A-League stands and where it could grow.

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Has Ange Postecoglou Changed The A-League?

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The 2010/11 Brisbane Roar side were lauded for playing what was quite possibly the most attractive and effective football ever seen in Australia. While those much older than myself can debate the quality of the side in the wider context of Australian football history, what is certain is that Ange Postecoglou and his boys (and many of them were barely old enough to be considered anything else) turned the highly physical and athletic A-League on its head. In a league where even the great Brazilian Juninho was kicked into submission, the Roar dominated with attractive, possession-based football that might have changed the aesthetic face of the Australian game.

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The Timing of Round 1

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The statistic bandied about online and in the papers this week is 79,850, a new opening weekend record for the A-League. Indeed that total is impressive, even considering the 40,351 at the Etihad Stadium for the Harry Kewell-Brett Emerton, er, Melbourne Victory-Sydney FC tie. That figure is up by 28,000 over the 3-3 draw between the same two clubs at Sydney Football Stadium to open the 2010/11 campaign. Yet there is frustration at the draw of just over 13,000 at Suncorp Stadium to see Brisbane Roar defend their double against their foe from the 2011 Grand Final, Central Coast Mariners. With 37,000 fewer supporters in the ground, the overwhelming sea of orange was limited to the weaving pattern on empty seats.

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