On the evidence of the last few weeks, you’d be forgiven for thinking there was only one club set to play in the Hyundai A-League this upcoming season.
With Sydney FC and Alessandro Del Piero hogging all the headlines of late, it’s been quite easy to bypass news relating to the other nine A-League clubs as they fine-tune their preparations ahead of the season opener on October 5th.
It’s hard to believe, but having gone four months since watching Besart Berisha’s controversial 94th-minute winner against Perth Glory in last season’s Grand Final, we’re less than three weeks away from returning to live A-League action.
And it’s about time.
While Del Piero’s arrival at Sydney International Airport on Sunday signalled day one in the history of the A-League for some — those being the new converts - life did exist in the A-League in the time before ADP, and from what I can remember, there certainly was some excitement brewing.
Not surprisingly, much of it centred on the new boys of the competition - Western Sydney Wanderers.
Granted, some of the exposure was far from pleasant, but on the whole, from the unveiling of the club’s Flamengo-esque strip to the announcement of its players and home venue, it was met with a wave of interest and immense anticipation.
As one Socceroo snubbed the A-League in favour of the MLS, another - Richard Garcia - returned home to join Melbourne Heart, who was already the subject of immense curiosity with a new John at the helm, John Aloisi.
Questions about who would fill Mohamed Adnan’s visa spot at the Roar and how big an impact Alex Wilkinson’s departure would have on the Mariners continue to be met with great intrigue, while there were hearts in mouths in Newcastle when Nathan Tinkler handed back the Jets’ A-League licence, only to take it back a few weeks later after reconciling his differences with FFA chairman, Frank Lowy.
Amongst all the debates, however, none have been quite as engaging and enthralling as those involving Melbourne Victory, given the turnover of player personnel and coaching staff.
Two-time A-League championship winning coach Ange Postecoglou was brought in to replace Jim Magilton, Harry Kewell’s shoes were quickly filled by international marquee and former Johnny Warren medallist, Marcos Flores, while Mark Milligan was snapped up to help shore up Victory’s leaky defence, which conceded more goals than Gold Coast last season.
Having experienced their annus horribilis, it appears the club has its mojo back - well, on paper anyway.
So, what can we expect from this new look Victory? Excitement and entertainment, that’s for sure.
With the emphasis being on maintaining possession, we can expect Victory to dictate much of the play.
We know they’ll play out from the back and avoid playing the long ball at all costs. Crosses from the wings will be somewhat restricted, and once possession is lost, we can expect relentless harassment in the form of a full press - just like the Roar.
We’re also in for a goal feast in attack, with the likes of goal-machine Archie Thompson and the silky Flores guaranteed to put on a show that’ll be porn for football lovers.
In saying all that, however, expect them not to be perfect. There will be flaws. They won’t be as slick and quick as the Roar. They won’t be as organised. And, quite simply, they won’t be as good.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t be later on in the season once it all clicks.
In any case, it’s a mode of play Victory fans have been yearning for. And with just over a fortnight to go, it’s time to get excited as the entertainment at AAMI Park is about get underway.
The views in this article are purely those of the author, and do not reflect those of FFA or the Hyundai A-League.