Anyone who knows me personally knows I'm passionate about the Victory. Even if we cop defeats. Even it's 4 defeats in a row, yielding a mere 2 goals in 5 games *sigh*.
The current A League champions seem to be in a pretty big slump at the moment, and their last match against Perth Glory seemed to be a good indication of where they're at.
Here's a couple of reasons to try and explain why the champions are struggling in a Chelsea-like manner. Luckily we don't have to fight against relegation but still, it's not pretty.
Lack of depth up front
While the Victory currently operate a three man forward line, Besart Berisha has no competition for his position as central striker. The Albanian target man isn't showing quite the same fire in his belly that he had last season, and as he is the only man up front on the pitch, he needs to be setting the pace early on. Unfortunately, Berisha has become what Archie Thompson was just a few seasons ago, our only option in leading the line. His predatory instinct, which has made him such a dangerous marksman, is failing, and if last season he was supposedly fighting niggling injuries all year, this year's "fitter" Berisha isn't doing any good on the pitch. A dose of reality is needed, Berisha is not invincible, and he needs to know that he needs to fight for his spot just as much as anyone else.
Fahid Ben Khalfallah
I'm not blaming our losses solely on Khalfallah, but he has certainly become merely a shadow of the silky smooth player he was last season. He can often spend too much time on the ball and overthink plays, slowing down the rest of the squad and leave chances go begging. In my opinion, he needs a break. Now is the time to be testing Pain and Thompson in his position as FBK is not up to standard right now. With Asian Champions League football just around the corner the Victory are going to need to perform without one of their Visa players, and based on current form it'll be Khalfallah staying at home. As much as I love him as a player and how incredibly he played last year, right now he's not even getting shots on target. Even from barely 5 yards out with no keeper in front of him.
Loss of aggression
The boys haven't been playing the brand of football that made them the relentless side they were in winning the domestic double. The Victory continue to utilize lot of passing as well as the majority of possession, but as my father always says possession counts for nothing if you don't actually take chances. Victory have lost their killer instinct to chase every ball, make a first time pass, take shots from distance or even take on defenders at times. 9 times out of 10 they're looking for another player to provide support, and while that is still a completely useful tactic, none of the players seem to want to take responsibility on themselves to have a crack. Makes for a sad showing for the supporters, who were quite clearly unimpressed throughout the game. As Muscat said so himself, you can feel that little bit of doubt creep into the player's minds in that final third. 2
The Victory's left side seems dead in the water. We've not had a solid left back since Adama Traore left the club, but it hasn't been dismal until now. Galloway is showing good performances for someone his age, but lately Kevin Muscat has favoured Daniel Georgievski in the left back position with Jason Geria on the right. While Georgievski is a fantastic full back, he becomes rather predictable further up the park by having to cut back in on his favoured foot to get past opponents or try and force a cross. A stuttering move like that doesn't help when you're counter attacking.
Speaking of the sides, what's happened to the crossing game that was made famous during the Ange Postecoglou days? There's little unity between any of our front three. Berisha, Khalfallah and Barbarouses seem to be playing their own games, either playing balls too early or too late and don't have the awareness of their teammates' positions.
Carl Valeri/lack of depth in midfield
The skipper's loss has hurt Melbourne much more than they anticipated. His presence is not quite as physically hard hitting as previous captain Mark Milligan, but his composure is what helps Melbourne perform as a cohesive unit. While they've got talented players, the mentality of a leader is fundamental to a championship team, and arguably, no other players have the same sort of commanding presence. Finkler's absence didn't help either, as I would argue he's the only player other than Valeri to have that dominant presence in the middle of the park.
Young gun Jesse Makarounas was given the majority of the creative responsibility against Perth, but that didn't work out as Muscat would've hoped. A change in formation might've worked better, having a 4-4-2 would provide a bit more support in the midfield as well as forcing Berisha to pair up with someone upfront. Valeri's composure and distribution is definitely missed, qualities that other players NEED to pick up in his absence.
I'd love to see Berisha pair up with Thompson, much like the old days with Danny Allsopp. But I'd probably be told to let go of the past. Which leaves me wondering, where do we go then?
Come on boys. Lift up your game, you're better than this. You know it, we know it. Time to wake up and get going again, otherwise we can kiss the chance for back to back titles goodbye.