Monday, February 19, 2007

Photos from the final...

I've made a conscious decision not to write about the final. I'm still too damn happy!

Though perhaps some of the yellows Adelaide copped were a bit harsh given that the refereeing was of it's usual dismal A-League standard. And I think that fourth goal was off-side. Regardless, Adelaide didn't have a chance.

Enjoy the slideshows!

First up, the 'general' show....

And this is a higher-resolution slide show on the magical wintery flare! I can imagine faeries and elves popping out from the cover... wearing navy blue...

See you all next season... meh, perhaps not - I think I'll follow the ACL, and naturally the Asian Cup - you haven't got rid of me yet!!!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The A-League Final: Melbourne vs. Adelaide


I even cheered on Theoklitos this evening! But never fear, it's only temporary. I'll be back to normal by 10pm when I watch the replay.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The "best looking bloke in the A-League" has been found/calculated/whatever!

Well, I’ve finally figured out who’s the “Best Looking Bloke in the A-League” in the A-League… well, kinda...

These are some of the problems that I found along the way:
  1. Not so serious nominations. This lead to the installment of Steve Eagleton as the Newcastle representative.
  2. Lack of participation. This meant that some teams unfairly voted against their player in the end if their participation in the poll was high but the polls of other forums (where their players were) was not so high.
  3. Multiple voting. i.e. Not being able to vote for your player at your forum but voting for your player at another forum.
  4. Stuffing up the Perth poll. I didn’t put Che Bunce as an option, but did put Colosimo. Guess who got the most votes there.
Dealing with these problems wasn’t easy. I decided that problem #3 was completely out of my control, and I figured that if one forum/team did it, then the others would too. In the end, it’s kinda fair…

Problem #2 was fairly evident. As you can see in the spreadsheet below, Melbourne and Sydney forums had the most active participation. And so were giving lots of votes to other teams without really receiving any for theirs (fair enough too, considering the Sydney and Melbourne reps!) The Newcastle forum involved posts urging the boycott of the poll as Eagleton was not an option to them, as I tried to remove any ‘home’ team bias. This works well in a raw data form, because they didn’t end up giving many votes to Eag’s competition.So while I had said on each forum:
I'll cumulate all votes once the polls finish. One vote on one forum = one vote on another forum.
I’ve changed my mind. Muahahahaha! No, it’s only fair. I had an idea that I mentioned in each forum initially, and have modified it. The original idea:
I did consider a percentage modified count, where I'd consider crowd numbers at matches, but as this isn't reflected in the forum participiation I've decided against it.
So I’ve designed a percentage modified count where I’ve considered poll participation numbers!

If you look at the first Excel sheet, above, column J shows the raw number of votes and K, the percentage of votes for each player. Rows 12 and 13 show the number of votes from each forum in a total number and percentage formats. Column M is the product of the percentage vote of each player multiplied by the participation percentage for his ‘home’ forum.

i.e. Greg Owens from Adelaide’s adjustment score is the product of 15.5 (the percentage of votes he got from all forums) and 15.5 (the percentage of votes Adelaide forumites put in compared to all forums.)

This means that Che Bunce automatically came last as I didn’t put a poll up in the New Zealand forum as they weren't all that receptive in the first place. As a result, this also helped out problem #4, because it didn’t matter how many votes Perth may have given him. Making this 'adjusted score' also somewhat rectifies a bit of problem #2 - a vote on another forum increases that forum's participation percentage and consequently the adjusted score for that forum's 'home' player.

However, Colosimo still had votes at Perth. Lucky for me, the Perth participation was so low that he came 2nd-last regardless of if I did or didn’t count his votes from the Perth forum (compare Excel sheets 1, above, and 2, below.) In fact, the adjusted rankings didn’t change at all for any players!

So there are actually two winners for the "best looking bloke award!" One based on raw data, as promised on each of the forums. The other based on the method outlined above. The charts below show the results. A and B include the votes given to Colosimo by the Perth forum, C and D do not. The A and C are the raw data, the B and D shows data from the adjusted score method.

So our winners are...

Our "raw data" winner: Danny Vukovic (what's not to like about a goalkeeper?)
A good player, always switched on, seems to have quite a bit of character.

Oh, and is kinda cute too.

I'll make it known that I voted for him on the MV forum as a bit of a oh I can't decide but the Central Coast have got good taste as they only voted for Wedau and Owens why not give my vote to Danny as he's quite cute kind of vote.

And on when CC nominations were up I selected Alex Wilkinson over Danny. Sorry, couldn't resist putting this picture up - I only just found it! Good defender too - and definitely the cutest A-League captain.

Our "adjusted score" winner: Greg Owens (has a bit of a rash temper when he's playing, but if we're just looking I suppose it doesn't matter that he scored against us. Not that it matters any more.)

You can see that he's not a bad looking sample of an A-League player here on the left...

But Greg, covering up your face isn't going to help us!

And it's really quite difficult to look away when he's got that grin...

Note: all pictures linked to their appropriate homes on the A-League club sites.

P.S. Allsopp looked REALLY good at Fed Square today, but no, the Tards had to pick Vinnie Lia... and where'd he come in the raw data? LAST! Buahahahahahaha! Can't say too much really, he ended up beating Spase in the adjusted score, but I think that has more to do with the high participation rate of MV. Maybe I should have adjusted the participation rate with crowd numbers, so that smaller clubs 'get a chance.'...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Musings on Adelaide vs. Newcastle

Short post for a change!

I was hoping Newcastle would win this match... and then the penalties came around, and I celebrated when Beltrame saved the first time around... and that's when I think I jinxed Newcastle. Sorry!

But really, Newcastle should have thought about their penalties after Beltrame came awfully close to Thompson's. Coveny took the fourth one, chose the same side and elected to place the ball. As everyone knows, Beltrame saved it. Musialik took the fifth (and final) one for Newcastle. Like Coveny, elected to place it to the left of Beltrame...

Two things:
1. Beltrame would have been getting awfully confident on that side.
2. If you're going to take a spot-kick, place it where the keeper won't get it (top corners) or blast it to give it some speed.

In other news, the Mariners now have the best-looking captain. Go Melbourne!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Oh how I hate indecision and assumption in football!

Quite a long post, which I haven't seperated. I suggest you make yourself a nice cup of coffee, and sip while you read! Hmmm... coffee...

Over at A Seat at the A-League, John has written a nice post regarding some discussion on sport and football. While there's nothing in for me to add to this, there was a comment about Ronaldo that triggered a reminder for me - one of my pet hates...

Stupid bookings are easily my number 1 pet hate. Mickey-Mouse passes would come second, and tied, slightly ahead or slightly behind would be indecision and assumption.

Taken from A Seat at the A-League, is the following slab of text, which I've marked with numbers for my purposes.

(1) Malcolm also talked about how people who study a subject deeply and gain extensive practical experience develop an ability to tap into their unconscious to made very fast and accurate decisions. Here he used the example of Ronaldo who will take a striking opportunity instantaneously, without conscious thought, by drawing on all his experience and training. (2) And that if he did think about the shot then someone would have the time to take the ball from him. Or as we often see in the A-League, a player creates a fantastic opportunity, and then takes time to think about his shot and powers it straight to the goalkeeper or wide

Part 1: Assumption, and why it doesn't belong in football

While the way to deal with some situations is it to draw on experience and training, I'd be more inclined to apply the 'without conscious thought' to goalkeepers. While the aim of football is to score goals, the 'keeper is very much an antagonist, trying to stop any goals. Training is needed to ensure technical proficiency; experience is used to read the game to try to anticipate what will happen next. Sometimes the 'guess' is incorrect, and the keeper is wrong-footed. It's vital that the read the game is read sufficiently well to not be wrong-footed, and to not concede a goal. Sometimes a strike can be so good that reflexes are required, and this is when I consider a 'subconscious' event occurs - it's pure instinct. In fact, I'd regard a good keeper as someone who naturally has the instinct to go after the ball however it's been kicked/headed/hand-of-Godded, rather than someone who follows the textbook so closely they don't know what to do when there's a variation.

Ronaldo, on the other hand, is an opportunist. Sure, experience and training both play a vital role in making him the brilliant goal-scorer that he was, but most of his game is played consciously. He has the upper hand on his main opposition (the other team's keeper) because he has more of an idea of what's going to happen. He will spend most of his game time moving into the right positions, making space, 'anticipating' the play that should happen because it's been practised to death at training. What made Ronaldo such a good opportunist is that he knew where he had to be. Sometimes the play would work and a goal would be scored. But sometimes it didn't work - a misguided pass, a defender's interception, whatever. And his role in the team was to finish off those moves.

If you cast your minds back to the World Cup of 2002, in the final Ronaldo scored both goals. Try and remember the first one - it was a shot (from Rivaldo?) that Kahn should have held onto comfortably. Unfortunately Kahn spills it (his first error of the Championship and to do it in the final, I feel for him) and Ronaldo scores from it. Why? Because Ronaldo asked himself, “What if?”* What if Kahn doesn't get it? What if Kahn fumbles it? I should be there. And he was. Kahn fumbled the ball. Goal.

It's not that Ronaldo reacted to Kahn spilling the ball, it's that Ronaldo was already there. And as such I can't say it was 'subconscious.' Heck, even Ronaldo's presence in the area, putting pressure on Kahn to hold onto the ball, taking away time could've had an affect on Kahn. I doubt it considering Kahn's steely nature and experience, but you never know.

In short, Ronaldo did not assume that Kahn would hold onto the ball. No matter how good a keeper is, you can’t assume they’re going to be perfect 100% of the time. Especially if there is an opponent lurking, defenders should support their keeper as much as they expect the keeper to perform and as a result support them. And it’s not just at goal-scoring opportunities. The ball can be won at any time, even when the opponent has the ball at their feet. If the opponent doesn’t know what to do with the ball, or has only decided what to do after he has received it, it gives time and an opportunity for the ball to be won.

Alternately, if you have the ball, make sure you know what to do with it. Don’t be indecisive… which leads onto…

Part 2: Indecision and why it needs to go from football

The difference between most of our A-League players and top-notch players is essentially time. A good player will always have time to do what he wants with the ball. Not because his opponent gives him time, but because he makes the time for himself.

So a good player is very aware – he knows where his opponents are on the field, where his team-mates are, and of course where the ball is. When he doesn’t have the ball, the player should be creating space for himself, or creating space for team-mates by drawing out an opposing player from the area where the ball may be. When a team-mate has the ball, the player should position himself to receive the ball, and he should know what to do with the ball before he receives it. That is to say, when he does not have the ball, the player should have already considered his options in the event the next pass in the team is to him. This gives the player time, because he has to control the ball and can pass immediately or take on a player straight away because he knew what he was going to do. If it’s a pass, he can talk to his target player as the ball is being passed from the initial ball-possessor to our main player, perhaps while to ball is being controlled, and then before the pass is completed the target player knows what is going on, or at least to expect the ball.

The not so good player will receive the ball, control it, and once the ball is under his control will look up and assess the situation. Perhaps he’ll take one or two or three or four more touches on the ball before he decides to do something. With all these touches the opposition is getting closer, and taking away space from the player with the ball. Putting pressure on him to do something. If the pressure’s too great, perhaps the player with the ball misguides his pass, or touches the ball bit too far out of his reach.

Experience is an essential component of ensuring one knows what to do with the ball. Knowing how a defender will try to block you from approaching the goal can be turned into an advantage if you know he will jockey/guide you towards the line. You may figure that by pushing the ball to the outside of play and quickly stepping/rolling** it back in you could effectively throw the opposing defender and give yourself some time to pass the ball off. Speed is important in football – not just physically, but mentally too – which is why I love playing it so much.

And there are some players who I start to swoon over, not because they’re good looking, but because of a play. Whether it was an extraordinary control of the ball (eg. a cushioning and push in a different direction, all in one movement), a good turn (Nicky Carle has a bag of these), or the ultimate way to make-Cecilia-adore-you: the through-ball. Vision and precision. I’m in love.

Hahahaha – seriously, I love passes amongst a team, it’s what makes football enjoyable to watch – even if the game ends up as a scoreless draw. When a through-ball works it’s almost magical – you’ve beaten an opponent (or two), and found your team-mate, ideally put the ball in front of his run so he can maintain speed and if a goal’s scored you have an assist. If he misses you can yell at him! Well, if he skies it or passes it to the keeper, yell at him. A good save or narrow miss is little different. :)

Sorry about the length, but I hope it was mildly educational. For the weekend, best of luck to Newcastle (to win and meet us next week) and to the Victory (to stay injury-free).

Oh yeah, and may Greg Owens be pictured sipping coffee on TV again, and may he not cop any elbows, punches or kicks to his face a cute smile.


*Well, I’d like to think he did.

** You know, you put your foot on top of the ball and then roll it to where-ever you want. In Spanish it’s “Pisar la pelota.” I don’t know if there’s a term for it in English – step on the ball? How about an example (haven't done one of these in a while...):

Riquelme. He loves to step on the ball. He actually loves the ball. i.e. he's a ball hog - a bit to greedy for my liking, but a good example.

As I said, don't like Riquelme - not enough of a team player for my liking. He also played for Boca. Well, at least it wasn't River.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Swoon of the week.

No, not James Robinson, I thought I'd put his picture up for the hell of it.

In all seriousness, swoon of the week and hero of the match goes to Danny Allsopp. Although Greg Owens sipping coffee at the airport looked good on the TV this morning... Anyway, hero of the match and cute to boot too! He singlehandedly put us back in the match by beating a total of 7 players to score the equaliser. He beat 3 Adelaide players with the ball at his feet, decided not to pass to Fred (4) , beat two more Adealaide players (6) with the shot, which also eventually beat Beltrame (7). All class.

In other news, Costanzo had another brilliant match - why can't we sign him? And I'll happily take Beltrame too, but I'll give my man of the match to Costanzo. He's great to watch - plays as if he has all the time in the world, even when under pressure.

*He was incidentally was my first football crush oh so many years ago, based on him winning the golden boot at the U/17 championships - in 1995. I would've been 11 at the time. And over 10 years later, turns out he's a bit of a cutie.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Letter to Newcastle United Jets FC.

Dear Newcastle,

May I bring to your attention a post of mine titled 'Muaha-haha-hahahaha.' It was quite apparent that your teams lacks the skill of time-wasting, especially once you were 2-0 up and needed to kill 20 minutes of game time. Start with those nine tips, and here I give you more.

Tip #1 in the original post was related to throw ins.
...he who takes the throw in should distract himself talking to his team-mates attempting to position them and avoiding the retrieval of the ball.
You could also avoid taking throw ins by turning your backs to the ball that has gone out. There is a better way to describe what I am saying, but I can't find it in English. And so, to Nick Carle and Milton Rodriguez, "Tenes que mudarse de ese lugar. ¡Ahora - afuera!" (Tip #10)

Tip #2 in the related to goalkeepers avoiding the collection of the ball for goal-kicks.
...the 'keeper should waste time by yelling at his defenders about whatever... Then the 'keeper can go get the ball.
Alternately, you can avoid getting the ball altogether. Hear what I said Ante Covic? Too many times the ball would be shot wide and you'd automatically turn in that direction! Slow down, back up and take a few steps the other way, and proceed go around the goal to collect the ball. (Tip #11) You could also grab a drink from your bottle under the goals as you go around, moisten your gloves a bit with the water, wipe them down if you *accidentally* put too much water on. (Tip #12)

I did, however, want to commend your ball-boys for having two balls on the pitch. Quite liked that one, and whether it was intentional or not, the ball-boys deserve a gold star. And some alcohol. In fact, if you really wanted to have fun, you could've had players return both balls to the sidelines, so there was no ball to play with. Ball-boys then become over eager and throw three balls onto the pitch (from seperate ball-boys of course), and the balls must not be directed at players. That way players can waste time collecting the balls and passing them back out to the sidelines (or for a cute touch, hand them over to the ball-boy and ruffle his hair). Or ball-girls. Or ball-kids. Whatever. (Tip #13)

My final timewasting tip is probably the only completely legal one, and perhaps does not fit with my 'timewasting tips.'

When the ball is in play, don't be wasteful. Don't attempt stupid shots that go directly (and quickly) to the oppostion. Don't shoot from range so that Bolton immediately has the ball. Play the ball to your Newcastle team-mates, I know you can as you have the most fluid game in the league. But don't play with Mickey Mouse passes so that the ball never reaches its target/your team-mate, and is consequently easily intercepted. You need to make the opposition win the ball on their own merits, and you need not directly pass the ball to them.

When you're putting in crosses, and they keep going to the 'keeper, change them a bit. The original approach is clearly not working if it happens two times in succession. Don't keep trying it another 50 times. It's still not going to work.

Best of luck next weekend.*

Your biggest Melbourne-supporting and Queensland-following Newcastle fan.

*Luck is only given on the condition that Melbourne win on Sunday night.

The A-League Finals: Newcastle vs Sydney

First things first:

For the first goal, I thought Griffiths was taking too much time and that a defender would close in on him before a shot could be released. Thankfully my fears weren’t realised.

The second goal had two elements to it worth mentioning. First was the cross to the goal-box. For once, the ball was cut in, played low and away from the ‘keeper. Finally. All night the ball had come from the right side of play directly to Bolton. He’s too good a ‘keeper to fumble a ball. The second element was Coveny. He was in the box, only loosely marked and as soon as he saw that Griffiths had a chance to win the ball, Coveny made his way closer to goal. He successfully got goal-side at the moment the ball reached him, and Bolton had no chance. And that, boys and girls, is how you beat a good ‘keeper…

When the match started, and Sydney had a chance with Milligan I thought, here we go again. Last week Newcastle were defensively very poor. They could not combat Sydney’s aerial attack in any way, shape or form. A few minutes in, and it was happening again. What the hell were they working on during the week at training? It was nice to see Sydney playing to win though, compared to the tripe that Merrick came up with last week – if Merrick had been in charge of Sydney for this evening I wouldn’t have been surprised if they would’ve played for a 0-0 draw… zzz…zzz…

And then Milton had a chance. And he snuffed it. That was the moment. And normally he’d have put it in. He did everything right, except the aiming of the shot. Great touch, good timing, he put it over Bolton, and wide of the mark. Aaarrrrggghhh!

Newcastle were starting to get control of the match… and then Brosque went a little cuckoo when he lost the ball cheaply, lost his temper and earned himself a yellow card. Idiot. I’m all for Newcastle winning, but I hate seeing shit football. I hate seeing shit players. And I hate seeing players lose their cool, and do shit things. Some players are reckless, which is also related to losing their tempers. I hate how young players collect yellow cards like trading cards (Adrian Leijer anyone?!?!?). And sometimes they don’t get a card, but the act was still foolish.

When Queensland played, I tended to go on Spase-watch. Hot/cold kind of player, but when he was hot he would play really well, get past players easily enough and put in well-weighted and extremely-well-placed throughballs. And then he’d go and recklessly tackle someone. And then I would scream at him on the TV and want to strangle his neck. Which would be difficult given his lack-of/tendency to slouch. Anyway…

So Brosque lost the plot. And then he mentally lost it. It seemed like that yellow card, along with losing the ball so easily, had become a burden on him - and he lost any confidence he may have had. And as the half progressed, Brosque was out of the game.

Meanwhile, there was some fun to be had at the other end of the pitch. As far as I’m concerned, Talay committed a handball in the box. I thought it should have been a penalty. The second ‘penalty’ I think not. Yes, Griffiths was fouled by Rudan – but outside the box. If you’re in dire straits and you need to foul a player who had broken away from you, you do it outside the box. Rudan tugged Griffiths shirt, enough to hold him back a bit and enough to make Griffiths eventually lose his balance – which happened to occur inside the box. But the incident was outside. No free was given, which was a farce – but it was not a penalty.

Tempers flared between teams, a yellow to Rudan. Play restarts and then Brosque does something silly – trying to be physical to assert his position on the pitch earns him another yellow. ¡Hasta luego Brosque! More tempers flare. Whistle blows for half-time and argument continues as players make their way out to the tunnels. Petrovski decides to get involved, and then attempts to tell Breeze what to do. Breeze is a bit of a prick himself – I hate him, as he’ll override his assistants (which he’s allowed to do – but does this without considering what they have seen) and referee the match to his liking. I think this is why there had been no penalties in the first half. So Petrovski cops a yellow, without having set foot on the park. Buahahahaha!!!!

Second half, and the Newcastle show continues. And the Milton-is-sore-and-having-a-bad-day show continues. There's a free-kick somewhere, taken by Milton that goes straight to Bolton. Frees should either beat the wall (because the 'keeper should be covering the other side of goal - and if this happens, oh well, credit to the kicker) or be a freakishly good kick to the top corner of the goalkeeper's side of the goal (again, credit to the kicker once you've stopped gaping). I've covered setting up a wall somewhere in the past.

Anyway, Griffiths scores - and now it’s all or nothing for Sydney. Carney off, Petrovski on. No complaints from me from a let’s-play-smart/let's-have-a-football-match/game-on pov*. Milton’s finally subbed off for Coveny. Hurrah, no more wasted ops from a c’mon-Newcastle pov. As much as I like Milton, he wasn’t functional out there. Carle finally gets a yellow for hacking his umpteenth player. Great player Carle, but has a tendency to hack. Coveny scores, as all good subs are expected to do (eg. Milton last week), and Newcastle are nearly there. 1 goal to Sydney, and things would have been even.

So what does Butcher do? He takes off the one player who controls the Sydney defence. As I said earlier, “I’m all for Newcastle winning, but I hate seeing shit football.” And this reeked of stupidity. Rudan is Sydney’s leader. Take away the captain’s armband from him and he is still the leader. He holds the defence together, and in corners gives Newcastle headaches with his aerial ability. Taking Rudan off unsettled the defence, and made corners easier to defend for Newcastle. And he puts on Zdrillic and Salley, who I’m not even going to cover here. That, FFA, was a joke!

Pretty much game over now. Fyfe and Milligan decide to join the yellow card parade, 3 nervous minutes of added time and Newcastle are through. Proving that van Egmond is some sort of genius...

However, during the last 20 minutes of play, when Newcastle had taken a 2-0 lead, they needed to waste time. Perhaps what Newcastle should have done wasn't covered in an earlier post of mine, and another time-wasting-tips post might be required…

P.S. Arrrgh, listed in the squad but wasn't on the bench!

*pov = point of view.

Where to vote for the "best looking bloke in the A-League, in Australia, in the world, whatever"

I've got all the polls going now (including Perth!!!), except for New Zealand. My karma's currently -2 there, and I've posted informing them of the finalists, so hopefully my karma will drop down further. Smite me you Kiwis!

Alright, so polls are open until the 16th of February - that's the Friday before the grand final, and only two weeks away. If you want to vote, go to your appropriate forum. To make it easier for you, click on your team's name and I've linked the appropriate thread:

Adelaide, Central Coast, Melbourne, New Zealand, Newcastle, Perth, Queensland and Sydney.

Photos are available via this link. I might put a couple of nicer photos of each player up (if such photos exist) during the week.

A quick note about the finalists for Perth and New Zealand. Colosimo had popped up a couple of times on other team forums, and so he was selected for Perth. For the record, I will not be voting for him.

With New Zealand I had a longer list (Bazeley, Bunce, Emblen, Gao, Hickey, Paston, Richter and Salley). I removed Hickey and Paston as I was the only one who considered them. Bazeley, Emblen, Gao and Richter were removed based on Kiwi commentary. This left Bunce and Salley. As Melbourne's rep isn't the best player in the team, I decided to take this approach to the Kiwis. However, Bunce and Salley are no Vinnie Lia and can actually play. As I thought New Zealand were more competitive with Salley in the team, I denoted him the 'better' player, and so Bunce is the finalist in terms of looks. I will not be voting for him either.

Nor will I be voting for Vince Lia. He's too bad a player for me to seperate his playing ability (or lack of) and looks. Regardless, he doesn't do it for me anyway, and I think his nose is a little too wide for him. But that's just my opinion.

Let the voting begin!

The finalists for the "best looking bloke in the A-League, in Australia, in the world, whatever"

Here are the finalists!Row 1: Adelaide's Greg Owens, Central Coast's Danny Vukovic, Melbourne's Vince Lia, New Zealand's Che Bunce*
Row 2: Newcastle's Steve Eagleton, Perth's Simon Colosimo*, Queensland's Marcus Wedau, Sydney's Ruben Zadkovich.
[Images from each team's A-League website].

I'll post more later, I have some shopping to do right now.
Oh, and Spase Dilevski will be in there too - by default. For the record, Massimo Murdocca got 3 points more than Spase, who actually got none. Which, if you listened to the QR podcasts, is quite amusing.

I'll explain the voting for finalists soon, and I've decided to do a cumulative poll. i.e. One vote on one forum = one vote on another forum. I did consider a percentage modified count, where I'd consider crowd numbers at matches, but as this isn't reflected in the forum participiation I've decided against it.

*Bunce and Colosimo were nominated on other forums, as I couldn't/didn't put polls up on their forums. More on the selection process for these two later.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The A-League Finals: Adelaide vs. Melbourne, part 2

Quite a long post, so I’ve split it into two – what we did, and what we need to do. Start at the other post, linked here!

In the return leg, I hope that Merrick aims for a 2-0 score-line. As I said before, f we get one goal, and Adelaide sneak one back, they're through. So we need a little buffer, just in case. Watt requested a line-up, which is not normally something I do, so I’ll just offer my thoughts and a little diagram. We need a more attacking line-up. (Duh).

On the left we should use Caceres/Alessandro. Now, neither of these have full match fitness, I think they’d only survive about an hour each, so if you use one, you know you’ll have to sub on the other as a replacement. I do tend to prefer Caceres, as he seems to be able to do more with the ball in terms of deployment. Alessandro will go down the line, try to make his man make the first move, ideally beat him and dribble a bit more, perhaps he’ll occasionally pass it in. But his natural game is to do this from the outside (i.e. hook the ball in with the inside of his preferred left foot). Merrick has been trying to get some diversity into his game, especially recently, but Alessandro has found playing the ball from the inside a little difficult and he has not been nearly as effective as he was earlier in the season. Caceres has less trickery up his sleeve, and may only be a marginally better defender (or perhaps, ‘less worse’ would be a better term in this case), but I think he has better vision and his crosses and through-balls are more effective. I’m more inclined to start Alessandro and see how he goes, and then put Caceres on. I think our game is limited these days if Caceres starts, and then we put Alessandro on – he limits our options…

On the right I’d stick to Storey – he can play as a right back that pushes through. He had a great game last week, the kind of game the frustrates me. Why? Because sometimes he seems to be unable to play, but you know that he can as you see glimpses of it every now and then. He kept the quality up for most of the match last week. If he can do it once, he can do it again*. And it’s very frustrating to watch him in his bad patches. I think Brebner is indisposible in the midfield. Nothing against Muscat, but Brebs understands the midfield better, his distribution is superior, and he talks a lot. Not just useless gas-bagging, but if you put the game aside and just watch Brebner for a few minutes even off the ball he’s pretty much our traffic director. So I’d like to see Muscat as our first defender/last midfielder.

So that’s the midfield, in defence I’d play Vargas/Leijer in the middle, Panta on the left (to provide some cover for our defensively poor Caceres or Alessandro) and Storey on the right, venturing forward. I’d play Fred just behind the front two of Allsopp and Thompson. Fred seems to prefer the right side of play, which ties in nicely with Storey (playing in defence means he can’t venture the whole way forward). Allsopp’s a bit of a workhorse, so he’d drop back when necessary to give the midfield numbers. He tends to do this naturally, so you can leave Archie at the top. Another reason to keep Archie up is that he’s slow. On Sunday, there were at least two times when Archie dropped down to help out and tried to transport the ball himself out of danger, but on the two occasions lost the ball cheaply. He’s slow off the ball, and even slower on it. His distribution needs some work (which is probably why he decided to dribble the ball out rather than pass it), and to be honest he’s the kind of player I don’t want anywhere near my goal.

* Well, Covic had a good game once vs. Central Coast, I’m hoping he can do it again vs. Sydney this weekend.

P.S. This picture shows why I will never (and should never) do line marking on the morning of a match. Are we clear?!?

The A-League Finals: Adelaide vs. Melbourne, part 1

Quite a long post, so I’ve split it into two – what we did, and what we need to do.

Where Sydney/Newcastle was a match of two teams who wanted to win, Adelaide vs. Melbourne was a very different affair. I know I’ve written a post on time-wasting, and I’m all for it… but only when some football’s already been played and you either want to hold onto your lead or not continue to be hammered. Melbourne turned up for a draw, and this was evident from kick-off.

In two-legged finals football, the away team should at least aim to score one goal. If things became tight, and draws level after the second match, the away goal is worth double. And thus it is very, very precious. By playing for a score-less draw, Melbourne were walking a fine line. The longer the match goes on, the less time you have to get one back should the other team score. Especially if your players on the park are playing defensive football and you need to make some subs to get the game going again. The new players on the park may take a little time to accustom themselves to the pace (or lack of) in the game, and integrate themselves in the team.

The thing that annoyed me the most about how Melbourne tackled the game, was that they were time-wasting from the start. Although I believe that time-wasting needs to begin before 15 min to go, I think 90 min to go is taking it a bit too far, especially since nothing had yet happened. Further, their time-wasting was evident, and I was getting worried that Theoklitos would pick up a yellow very early in the match. One of the first balls into the box (on his left if I recall), and instead of going over to retrieve it and give himself the option of either kicking it from his hands or kicking it from the floor, and he lets it go out for a goal-kick. Sure, he’d waste time restarting the game, but he could also have gone over to retrieve the ball, collect it with his feet and pick it up when an Adelaide player put pressure on him to do so. Typically this player will then walk away, giving Theo an opportunity to release the ball however he pleased.

Perhaps different goalkeepers work differently. I love kicking it from my hands as I have a box-to-box kick*, whereas my goal-kick has much to be desired**. There was an offside (or other Adelaide infringement) a little later, where Theo placed the ball on the floor, got ready to take the free, and then left it for a team-mate. Theo also took a while with his earlier goal-kicks, but he always seems nervous about them anyway so perhaps there was nothing in that.

I may sound hypocritical given my feelings towards time-wasting, but if you want to play defensive football so that the other team doesn’t score/you don’t concede, the safest way to do this is to not let the other team have the ball. i.e. Keep the ball to yourself, and you don’t let the other team play. I’m not sure how much keepings-off Melbourne do at training (perhaps I should turn up at more of their training sessions), but they do not seem to be able to play a possession-based game. They’ll lose the ball by transporting it too much, going for the long ball, or by simple pressure on the ball (Bridge vs. Vargas, anyone?).

The inability to play possession-based football is reflected statistically, as pointed out by Masterchief (ok, so his name’s Ricky, but he’s Masterchief to me and he’s well ‘ard). The table’s a little deceptive with coaching changes having an effect, but it’s interesting to note Sydney are on top. This is probably due to their defensive football, and that they try to score on a counter-like attack when they see an opportunity. Newcastle play a true-possession game via their midfield, which was locked up for half of their semi-final on the weekend.

From an Adelaide point of view, I’m happy to see Beltrame back in goals. He’s very solid at the back, comfortable with the ball and quite agile for a player of his size. But I’m sure his job is made easier with a defender like Costanzo. Take away the rough side of his play (and he did cop a yellow towards the end of the match), and you’d have one of the best players of football. He’s an excellent reader of the game, and always very very cool. There’s nothing like having a confident (and not over-confident) defender in the team. He can control the game from the back, playing the ball square to full backs for the wingers to attack, or playing the ball into his midfield to attack through the middle. And he’s very good at winning the ball, using his body effectively to block a player so that he can get between the opposition and the ball, and he has very good timing. i.e. when he makes tackles where he commits himself (eg. slide tackles) his timing is impeccable and rarely makes an error. In fact, you’d rarely see him commit in such a manner and young players can learn a lot about how to defend by watching Costanzo. Well, and edited video anyway, take away the nasty fouls that he pulls out every now and then.

From a disciplinary point of view, I was very frustrated by Walsh, who I think should have gotten a yellow as early as the first half with his reckless fouls. And he’d do them continuously, so it was a shame he was never booked. I’m also not happy with Djite. I do think there was some malice involved when he kicked Theo, and Djite effectively got away with it. If I was in Theo’s position, I’d make sure Djite would learn a lesson next time he came near and I had an opportunity to give him a knock. A bit hard to do this during some matches, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to do it (that’s far too silly and I wouldn’t want to get booked), but if there was an opportunity I’d take it. However, I don’t think Theo has my temper, and I doubt that he would seek revenge as I do.

In the return leg, I hope that Merrick aims for a 2-0 score-line. As I said before, f we get one goal, and Adelaide sneak one back, they're through. So we need a little buffer, just in case. Watt requested a line-up, which is not normally something I do, so I’ll just offer my thoughts and a little diagram. We need a more attacking line-up. (Duh).

(continued over here!)

* Hehehe, I even have a couple of assists because of this!
** The ball would always go past my defenders, but if I was having a bad day or had had a tough match I would only occasionally reach half-way…