Saturday, 8 October 2011

Melbourne Victory 2011-12 Season Preview

Melbourne Victory; for so long, that name inspired trepidation and admiration throughout the A-League. Winning two Championship/Premiership Doubles, regular Finals appearances, the largest fanbase in Australia and huge financial clout will do that for you. Victory were dominant, rampant and unstoppable. Then something changed; Brisbane arrived and dragged the A-League into the modern era with a dynamic philosophy of possession based football. And for the first time, Victory were found wanting. Foundation manager Ernie Merrick was sensationally sacked. Foundation captain Kevin Muscat exited the game ignominiously. Mehmet Durakovic was installed to succeed Merrick and presided over an underwhelming Asian Champions League campaign.

This off-season has seen a host of exits; Kruse to Germany, Dugandzic to Heart, Sukha, Angulo, Berger and Kellaway depart and the retirements of Muscat and Petkovic. The biggest news has been the arrival of Harry Kewell. He scarcely requires an introduction; suffice it to say, the former Leeds, Liverpool and Galatasary attacker is widely acknowledged as the most talented player Australia has ever produced. The rest of Melbourne's arrivals read like a fantasy football list; Solorzano from Brisbane, Cernak from the defunct Fury and Rojas from Wellington, in addition to the trifecta of club stalwarts Hernandez, Allsopp and Thompson. Most observers have said Durakovic's greatest challenge will be accomodating these attacking talents; in PM's view his greatest challenge will be getting the ball to them in the first place. Compared to the forward line, Victory's central midfield and defence look relatively thin.

This may dicatate a predominantly counter-attacking strategy. Traditionally, Victory have employed a counter-attacking style to great effect. This was mostly a case of sticking 7 men behind the ball, and letting Hernandez, Thompson and Allsopp wreack havoc. Expect Melbourne to by-pass the midfield; Victory will probably sit deep and look to break with pace and aggression, instead of dictating play or building up patiently.

This man doesn't need a caption
The largest omission has been the failure to replace Muscat and his distribution. Because of his controversial history and propensity for violent challenges, Muscat has often been dismissed as a talentless thug. Thug he might very well have been; not many players are branded as a 'lowlife' and despised in three countries. But talentless? Don't bet on it; Muscat's role for Victory was roughly analgous to Lucas Neill's for Australia. Muscat was a superb penalty box defender, providing inspirational leadership and organisation in the backline, and was vital in distributing the ball out of the back. Coolen realised as such last season; he instructed his players to press Muscat relentlessly, and Melbourne's attack never got going.

Velaphi and Covic have arrived to compete for custodanship between the sticks. Fabio was a late relacement for Sukha in the leftback position; it's strange that Victory have left recruiting for such a vital role to the last minute. Cernak and Rojas will probably be competing for berths at left and right wing. Durakovic has a decision on his hands on whether to favour the fluid strike partnership of Thompon and Allsopp over Solorzano, a superb lone striker. He may opt to alternate between the two; Solorzano up-front with Cernak and Rojas providing close support from the wings or Thompson and Allsopp paired to lead the line, with Kewell or Hernandez pulling the strings behind.

Danger Men: There are so many attacking threats in this squad; take your pick. But there seems to be a distinct lack of quality, or at least quantity, in midfield and defence. Kewell will be key.


Moss said...

Not a bad write-up. But I think it's clear Thompson will be played as a wide attacker opposite Rojas this season, rather than as the lone striker. Also, Foschini will likely cement that right full-back role rather than the mid-field as Mem has a great deal of admiration for him there (would personally like to see Cernak given a shot at that right full back spot). Ferreira more likely to play as DM rather than at RB. Finally, hopefully Mem comes to his senses and puts Hernandez in a CM role, linking the defence to the attack, in the Xavi role. He has the capability to be our deeplying playmaker which would alter our strategy to one of possession rather than counter attack.

Pass and Move said...

That diagram is meant to convey nominal roles, but yes Thompson is likely to be converted to an inside wide forward.

Hernandez as a deep-lying playmaker is an intriguing proposition. He certainly has the passing aptitude, but I don't think he has the attitude. He seems to need to be in the action, but a deep-lying playmaker is rather anonymous by nature.

Thanks Moss, can I ask how you found out about this site?

Moss said...

Through the roar website, in your comments. Have been looking for a website like this for ages - I am a big fan of zonal marking and can definitely see similarities with yours! Congrats on the great site.
Quite possibly a few of the lads over at would appreciate your input too, just don't spam them with your blog all you'll get banned! If you put it in your sig you should be right though.
Keep up the great work!

Pass and Move said...

Thanks for your support Moss

Yeah ZM was kind of my inspiration. I got in touch with Michael Cox too, and he was very supportive.

Well tell the other MVC lads about PM then. So far Brisbane is winning the Premiers poll on the sidebar.

Thanks again