Melbourne Victory’s defensive frailties have been discussed in great detail all season – but heading into the knockout game against Perth Glory, it’s more relevant than ever.
Despite their undoubted attacking prowess, problems at the back continue to haunt Ange Postecoglou’s side. Will that end Victory’s season or will their capacity to score goals overcome their weak spots?
No: The Victory can’t cover up the holes
Victory love to push forward, we all know that. We also know that in Archie Thompson, Marco Rojas and Connor Pain they have an attacking triumvirate that might just be the envy of every other club in the league, but in defence, they have more holes than the Titanic, post-iceberg hit of course.
The stats don’t lie. A cursory glance at the ladder shows Melbourne Victory have conceded 45 goals throughout the season, topped only by Sydney FC (51) and Wellington Phoenix (49).
It is in part a by-product of the way they play and some inherited issues in Postecoglou’s squad but the belief is if the opposition score four, Victory will score five. That’s a big risk to place your hopes on in kockout football.
Gaps open up in the middle of the park all too often for Postecoglou’s side, especially when they turn it over pushing high up the park, and without Adama Traore there is a chance their back four lack the speed to cover the fast counter.
Adrian Leijer and Daniel Mullen have forged a decent combination of late, bit neither are particularly fast, and given the way Chris Harold carved them for pace the last time they met Perth, it could spell a shock loss for them in week one.
And if that happens none of it will be on goalkeeper Nathan Coe. He may have turned in a couple of ordinary performances earlier in the season, but he has been making some unbelievable saves late in the season, he has simply been let down by his defence. A defence that has only kept five clean sheets all season.
Yes: Victory can triumph
Strikers win games, defences win championships. A few issues at the back might have cost Victory a shot at the Premier’s Plate but they have just the sort of team that can batter their way to grand final glory.
They might not do it with a clean sheet but that doesn’t matter. As Michael Thwaite has acknowledged, they’ll simply score more than you.
Imagine they go behind to Glory tonight and the clock’s ticking down. What do you think will happen? Ange Postecoglou will simply encourage his intelligent, creative and deadly attacking line-up to go for broke and there aren’t many teams in the A-League that can resist Thompson, Rojas and Flores pulling them apart like a kitten on your favourite jumper.
Ange will sort out the defence next season – but for now, Victory might just be set up as the perfect finals teams. Hold on to your hats!