Hello A-League fans, it's Monday, so it's time for the good, bad and ugly from Round 20.
Melbourne Victory, square pegs, and round holes
The biggest question surrounding Melbourne Victory upon Marco Rojas' return in January: who misses out in attack? Acting on the logic Rojas was brought in to eventually start and help try to salvage what has been a disappointing -- but foreseeable -- season, someone had to. Even after Victory got "mutual" with Kristijan Dobras. Robbie Kruse is alpha and omega in the team's phases of possession. A visibly checked-out Ola Toivonen is still a better option up front than Kenny Athiu, while Andrew Nabbout arrived at the start of this season with sizeable status. So, that left Elvis Kamsoba, but his performances have not particularly warranted removing him from the starting lineup.
Injuries to Kruse and Storm Roux have momentarily made that decision for interim Victory coach, Carlos Salvachua. In Saturday's 1-1 draw with Newcastle Jets on Saturday, Nabbout was selected as a wing-back in the Spanish coach's 3-4-3, switching at times with Rojas, who was primarily deployed with Kamsoba, on either side of Toivonen up front. Like a number of footballing things regarding Victory this season, it was neither effective or balanced. Saturday night's disjointed performance only served to remind, Nabbout is a player with a highly specific skill set, who needs a highly specific fit in order to function on a football team.
Let's talk about refs, baby
Former NBA player Matt Barnes once said, "violence is never the answer, but sometimes it is." Now, refereeing decisions really are not fun to talk about and no normal person should indulge in the act, but sometimes it is necessary to do so. In Sydney FC's 3-0 win over Central Coast in Gosford on Sunday, the Mariners had an equaliser late in the first half ruled out. Aside from the fact Gianni Stensness' disallowed goal came from a non-existent foul -- after Lewis Miller clumsily put his studs into Sydney's Paulo Retre -- the response from the Mariners was dramatic. The response is conditioned by the fact such instances are regularly not called for fouls, though, and consistency would be welcome.
Speaking of basketball, similarly to moving screens, there has been further implementation of pick-and-roll principles at attacking set pieces in football in recent times. This is borne of the fact referees are either not noticing or calling the obstruction taking place. Generally, that is. Because Kim Eun-sun ultimately obstructed Alex Wilkinson from making a play on the ball, before the ball was even in playing distance, and from an offside position for good measure. However much Sydney were bailed out, following a lacklustre first-half, the decision to rule out Stensness' header was the correct one.
The Tiring Stylings of Brisbane Roar
It was the 27th minute in Saturday's 1-1 draw between Brisbane Roar and Perth Glory, one with predictably laborious tempo. Upon Brisbane winning possession, Aiden O'Neill had space to dribble into, with Ivan Franjic and Neil Kilkenny scrambling. He decided against it, distributing wide to Corey Brown and allowing Perth to return into their defensive shape. The ball went from side to side in a minute of risk-free possession dictated by O'Neill and Jacob Pepper. After his fourth touch of the ball within that minute, O'Neill fired a missile into Scott McDonald, rather than a pass. Without the ball even touching the ground and with Tomi Mrcela on his back, McDonald was handed the unenviable task of bringing that ball under control. Naturally, possession was lost.
Brisbane were able to eventually equalise from a dead ball in the 85th minute, through Macaulay Gillsephey, following Bruno Fornaroli's wonderful solo goal. Yet when deprived of the dead ball and transitional opportunities, the majority of Brisbane's phases of possession walk a very fine line between patience and tedium. What works in their favour, however, is a fitness that allows them to be so consistent with their actions no matter how patient or monotonous they may be. There is a significantly attritional element to how the Roar play their football and in recent weeks, it has borne positive results. How sustainable that is remains to be seen.
Tight at the top
With Perth dropping two points in Redcliffe on Saturday and Melbourne City having the bye this weekend, there is currently a three-way tie for second spot. It could have been four if Adelaide United didn't facilitate chaos against a team that thrives off it in Western Sydney, losing 5-2 on Friday. Although the Wanderers' opening two goals had a sizeable chunk of fortune, this is the trade-off with Gertjan Verbeek's side and the boundless energy they play with. Winning positions are not particularly secure with Adelaide, and Friday made for the third time in five games they had given up a lead. Making for a peculiar but understandable statistic in context, Adelaide are yet to play out a draw this season.
Hours before, Wellington Phoenix deserved their 2-0 win over Western United. Although Panagiotis Kone's injury oddly gave WU more clarity in possession and energy trying to stifle Wellington's early phases of possession via Max Burgess. Particularly relative to the defensive element with Kone -- along with Alessandro Diamanti and Besart Berisha as an attacking triumvirate -- the preceding 30 minutes handed Ufuk Talay's side all-important momentum. Momentum's difficult to wrestle back in football against a competent midfield. As a duo, Matti Steinman and Cameron Devlin have shown this season, they are more than capable of taking control when given that kind of room.
And finally, the AFC Champions League...
The results themselves were not of most concern -- with Perth Glory, Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC all succumbing to defeat in their opening fixtures -- but the nature of the performances were. As an extension to discussions on Sydney FC's 13-point margin atop the A-League, the three-team tie for second and teams taking points off each other domestically, Asian competition tends to underline significant flaws in how Australian teams approach football.
Not exactly a new development for those paying attention!