A-League Preview: Wellington Phoenix

Wellington Phoenix did not kick of their new A-League campaign as they were hoping for, as they lost 1-0 to Melbourne City at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.

However, that should not dampen the spirits of what they are aiming to achieve this season.

Here is my preview of the Wellington Phoenix.

Wellington Phoenix  has one goal this season and that is to play finals football after finishing a sour ninth in the 2015-16 season.

One thing that the Phoenix need to do this season(well in round two) is to make Westpac Stadium(or the Cake Tin as its called by the locals) a fortress to be reckoned with. If they want to move up the ladder they need to make their home ground a fortress before they can win games away from home.

The Phoenix also need to work on there defence. In the off season,they had a major blow to their finals chances by losing Manny Muscat to Melbourne City and former stalwart Ben Sigmund who decided to hang up his A-League boots at the end of last season. Without Muscat and Sigmund their defence is looking fragile.

However, an area that could spark them to finals contention is there attacking threat. They have signed Gui Finkler and Kosta Barbarouses both from Melbourne Victory, which could cause some much needed flair to the Phoenix. Finkler has proved he is a magician with free kicks during his time at  Victory and will fit perfectly not only into the Phoenix line up, but the conditions in Wellington will do Finkler wonders. Barbarouses is a major coup up front, and if he partners up well with Roy Krishna they could well prove vital in front of goal.

For the Phoenix, season 2016-17 is all about improvement and if they don’t have too many injuries in the season there is no reason why they cannot move up the ladder. They have the attacking threat to cause some serious concerns for their rivals. However there defence will still be a talking point that needs addressing.

Prediction: 7th (although I wouldn’t be surprised if they finished higher).

 

 

 

A-League preview: Melbourne City

 

Melbourne City will be not only looking  for a finals place but also to win it all such as the FFA Cup, Premiers Plate and the grand final.

City made grounds last season primarily with their potent attack and were the best A-League attacking side in the competition which, saw them score 63 goals. Last season City was known to score goals from Bruno Fornaroli who patterned up with the assist king Aaron Mooy. City had one of the deadly trios in the league with Mooy, Fornaroli and Harry Novillo however, Mooy and Novillo are no longer there.

It meant Melbourne City had to go shopping in order to find a replacement for Mooy and Novillo .There off season signings may have just about filled that hole, with City signing Luke Brattan, Bruce Kamau and Fernando Brendon. There is one particular signing that is guaranteed to get everyone talking and more importantly to get bums on seats and that is the illustrious signing of Tim Cahill on the guest marquee rule.

City all of a sudden look a stronger team particular in the midfield and  up front. Signing the utility that is Nicolas Colazo should be seen as a  major  coup  not only for City but for the league as well as he can play at left back and also on the wing  improving City’s chances of winning the league.

However, their defence was the major talking point in last seasons quest with City leaking 44 goals. City knew they would have to address this so they signed the utility that is Colazo who can play in the area that City has lacked that is left back and they have also signed Michael Jakobsen from the Danish league and all of a sudden City’s defence looks solid.

Ivan Franjic  missed most of last season through injury which was part of City’s leaky defence. With Franjic returning from injury and joining the first team squad City look to have now have a decent defence and that would take the pressure of goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.

The City Football Group(CFG) and Melbourne City were not afraid to spend big which was much needed ahead of this seasons campaign. City look more powerful up front and seem to have a decent job of replacing Mooy and Novillo. Their defence also looks in better shape than in previous years.

This season is all about exception for City and if they do not win at least one trophy this year it could be seen as a major disappointment.

Prediction: 1st.

 

A-League Preview: Melbourne Victory

It’s October and that means its football season(hooray!). The long wait is over and the A-League is back, which  could be geared up as the best season to date. For the purpose of the A-League I will be conducting a season preview of both Melbourne teams.

Here is my season preview of Melbourne Victory.

After finishing a dissapointing sixth last season Melbourne Victory will be looking to make amends and charge towards the top half of the table in their new campaign.

The Victory kicks off the new  A-League campaign with an away match against Brisbane Roar on Friday night.

The big V has had a busy off season by  playing in the International Champions Cup against  Juventus and then  a friendly against Atletico Madrid, in which they managed to find a win.

They have arguably had more game time than anyone else in the off season and could be a smart move towards the new season.

However, as far transfers go it could dampen Victory’s chances of winning the league.

They said goodbye to two of their most influential players that are, Gui Finkler and Kosta Barbarouses who have both moved to Wellington Phoenix. One area that could hurt Victory in particular is in their  defence, as Mathieu Delpierre  has retired leaving a huge hole in the back part of the pitch. Another absentee is former stalwart Archie Thompson who has parted ways with the club leaving questions about a back up option for Besart Berisha.

However,  Victory always manages to find a way to strengthen their squad and they have done just that by singing the talented  fan favourites   Marco Rojas and James Troisi who will strengthen their attacking options. They have also filled the void that Delpierre has left by capturing the services of Spanish defender Alan Baro.

There is still a huge hole left in the Victory squad though, as they rely too much of Besart Berisha and have not yet found a sustainable back up option for when he does miss games. They also lack a good back up option for goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas.

One thing that Victory are good at though  is producing youth and they have a bunch of it this season. Expect to see more  young guns as Jai Ingham, Nick Ansell, Scott Galloway  will be looking to get more game time.

Having Carl Valeri back in the line up after illness raptured his 2015/16 campaign is a major boost for the team and could provide the missing link.

Melbourne Victory has a good mix of youth and experience in their squad and with a club like Victory success is everything.

Prediction: 4th

Chicago Cubs on track for World Series.

The Chicago Cubs have not a won World series since 1908, but that may change.

On Thursday, the Cubs clinched the National League Central Division despite losing 5-4 to Milwaukee Brewers, but it was all thanks to San Fransisco Giants who defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 6-2 in order for the Cubs to clinch the title.

With the Cubs securing the National League Central Division title it means they have become the first team this season to clinch a title and there first since 2008.

However, in a way it is not really a surprise it was just a matter of when for the Cubs. They have a talented bunch and are proving dividends with the likes of Kris Bryant, Antony Rizzo, who have been a real treat for the team this year.

The Cubs wasted no time this season and it has assured them of a 94(wins)53(loss) record and are on track to beat their record of 97 wins from last season, with a few games to spare before the Major League Baseball Postseason arrives.

However for the Cubs, this season was about expectations and how far they could go rather than the joy ride they had last season.

Last year they made  the National League Wildcard after finishing third in the National League Central in which they defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, which t ensured them of a spot in the National League Division series where they played the St Louis Cardinals defeating them 3-1.

That gave them  a birth in the National League Championship Series and also a real shot of the World Series  where they played the New York Mets. The Cubs  lost that series 4-0 and it meant that the dream run  had come to a close.

When the Cubs made the run to the National League Championship series it took everyone by surprise, not this year though. It was expected of them.

So, the question has to be asked, could this really be the  Cubs year ?

There is no reason why the can’t.

They have become the first team this season to clinch a title ensuring them with plenty of breathing space  before the Postseason. They have the resources in their favour, so there is no reason why they can’t go one step further than they did in 2015.

The sky is the limit for the Cubs.

 

 

 

 

 

The Demons are coming.

 

Confidence is a funny word and can do amazing things when you believe the meaning. `

To sum up this season for the Melbourne Demons faithful the word ‘confidence’ seems about.

Confidence or confident could also describe how they (Melbourne) played against Hawthorn on Saturday at the MCG.

Melbourne, prior to Saturday had not beaten Hawthorn since 2006, and to make matters worse the Hawks had won the last 13 consecutive games against the Demons.

Those stats however, were soon to be ignored by the Melbourne Football Club and by the Demons faithful.

Melbourne 17.8 (110) defeated reigning premiers and league leaders Hawthorn 11.15 (81) at the MCG by 29 points.

It was the win, that most Demons fans had been wanting and one that may have been the best in the last three-four years.

In recent years under Paul Roos’s legacy as Melbourne coach, Melbourne has developed a track record of defeating top class opposition. For example in 2014, against all odds, they defeated Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval ending a 16 game losing streak and likewise last year when they travelled to Simmonds Stadium in Geelong to play Geelong and won for the first time in since 2005.  Again it was a win against the odds.

However, this win in particular against the Hawks was far more special than those against Adelaide and Geelong.

The last time the Demons played the Hawks, in round 11 this year; the Demons matched the Hawks until the final quarter when Hawthorn finally ran away with the win.

The Demons it must be said, are still in a learning curve and on Saturday they may have learnt what to do in order to beat the regaining premiers and even more so what it takes to be a top eight side.

The Demons outmatched Hawthorn at their own game albeit in somewhat different styles of play. The Demons outnumbered the Hawks in score involvements from stoppages 65-21, throw ins 24- 7 and from the bounce 15-2.

Those stats are an indication   of where the Demons are heading as well as being a force to be reckoned with.

Melbourne much to say, looked comfortable playing against the number one ranked side a thing that has been missing for quite some time.

It’s not only the way the Demons are playing at the moment with a certain vigorousness to them, but it’s more so how they are playing the game. The last two years from 2014-2015 it was very much about being defensive and focusing on getting top class midfielders(leading up the 2015 season in particular), whereas this season in 2016 it is all coming together from defenders, midfielders and forwards all linking together.

The Demons have also drafted well in the last few years which is another reason why it is all coming together in season 2016. The Demons have started to learn by picking up highly talented players and developing them into superstars for the club. Such is the case for Christian Petracca and Angus Brayshaw both of which were drafted in 2014. The same also goes for Clayton Oliver and  Sam Wiederman , who in last years draft were both pick 4 and pick 9 respectively.

Oliver has been exceptional this year and Wiederman who made his debut on the weekend against the Hawks also impressed by snagging two goals.

The Demons have also bought in great midfielders to add to their stock of  highly talented midfielders along the likes of Jack Viney, Nathan Jones, Bernie Vince, Angus Brayshaw and Dom Tyson such as acquiring the services of Tomas Bugg from Greater Western Sydney and Ben Kennedy from Collingwood.

For so long the Demons have not played football this freely and they seem to be enjoying taking the game on, which just shows you how much confidence and belief they have in the game plan. The other aspect as to why this is the best season so far for the red and the blue, is that the Demons are enjoying being the physical team  on the park. They are and also hard to break down (another thing that has lacked in the past).

The Demons also now know what to do with the ball and do so with a certain dare to them, sure sometimes during this season they have themselves to blame when playing the ball into dangerous positions but now they know they can get themselves out of trouble, whereas the Demons of old(pre Roos’s era) would just turn it over and not bother getting back into the game.

It’s a great sign for Roos and the Demons that the days of being the so-called ‘easy beats’ are long gone.

Melbourne fans have a right to enjoy this season and this win in particular against Hawthorn.

Finals may not be on the cards this season, but certainly they have a chance to do so next season.

This young and physical team have the world at their feet and they are building towards great things.