The Official Isuzu UTE A-League Podcast unpacks an enthralling weekend of Round 6 action.
The Official Isuzu UTE A-League Podcast is back, and available every Monday to review the action from the weekend. Here’s a snapshot of some of the talking points from Round 6, discussed by KEEPUP’s James Dodd, Tom Smithies and David Davutovic.
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Should Fornaroli be on the plane for the Asian Cup?
Six games, seven goals. Bruno Fornaroli is riding high on confidence in Melbourne Victory colours this season, with his most recent Isuzu UTE A-League strike one of the best of his illustrious stint Down Under.
But does his form in navy blue and white call for another opportunity in green and gold?
The 36-year-old earned his first two Socceroos caps in the build-up to the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup; the Uruguayan-born striker’s rise to the national team came out of the blue to the public, but in truth it was a dream he had chased since 2016 when first told by lawyers FIFA’s eligibility rules would not permit Fornaroli to transition into an Australia international.
But after gaining Australian citizenship, a change in FIFA’s eligibility rules paved the way for Fornaroli to become one of the Socceroos’ genuine fairytale stories, debuting against Japan in Sydney in March, 2022.
With his recent purple patch of form, coupled with an injury to recent Socceroos mainstay and Western Sydney Wanderers star Brandon Borrello, there’s an opening in the Socceroos squad that Fornaroli could fill come the AFC Asian Cup in January.
“He absolutely has to be in contention,” said Davutovic.
“I guess there’s a school of thought: does Graham Arnold look to the 2026 World Cup? In terms of picking younger players with a longer-term future with the Socceroos. But under the circumstances, Bruno – although he’s 36 – on current form he has to be considered for the Asian Cup.”
“The only thing I’d say is: he didn’t impress in those two games that he did play (for Australia),” added Smithies. “He found it hard, and international football is difficult.
“The A-League is a transitional league, a player with such smart movement as Fornaroli will find space as the teams go back and forth. But he’s got that ability to do something, to put the ball in the top corner from 30 metres out of the blue.
“Given the Borrello injury, I would be looking at Fornaroli thinking: ‘I’d love to have you on the bench and bring you in, because you won’t be phased by it, you’ll rile the opposition, you’ll put yourself about in a way other teams have done to Australia at times’.
“I’d be voting for him, absolutely.”
Is John Aloisi under pressure at Western United?
After a Round 1 victory, Western United have suffered five consecutive defeats to sit dead last in the Isuzu UTE A-League standings.
But should the drastic form slump translate to pressure on head coach John Aloisi to remain at the helm?
“Yes and no,” said Davutovic when posed the question on the Official Isuzu UTE A-League podcast.
“There’s always pressure on a coach when they’re bottom of the table and had five losses on the trot, so from that point of view there will always be pressure. But the fact that he’s won a title there, the fact they’ve played at so many different venues, there were signings that came in late in the piece… I think all of that stuff must be factored in.
“Of course, Western United will later in the season be moving to the West where they’ll be playing for the longer term. If you look at the trips, and I know John has spoken about it: a trip to Ballarat is important from a community engagement viewpoint, but in some ways it’s almost like an away trip for the players because of the volume of travel that’s associated with it.
“In saying that, they’re all in the excuses bucket, aren’t they? They need to get some wins, other teams need to travel there as well.
“Considering they are on the bottom and they’ve only got three points from six games, it’s quite extraordinary. They absolutely have deserved more. They’ve played some really good football. I think there are some real positives to take out of it. That partnership between Nikita Rukavystya and Noah Botic, will bear fruit in the foreseeable future.”
Western fell to a third consecutive loss at Ballarat venue Mars Stadium on Saturday, with a late Ben Old goal sealing all three points for high-flying Wellington Phoenix.
Aloisi lamented the fact that, despite fixtures at Mars Stadium being listed as “home” fixtures, the travel in and out of Melbourne did at times make those occasions feel like away games for a team in desperate need of a permanent home.
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But Western – who won the Championship under Aloisi in 2021-22 – have been competitive in recent weeks, bouncing back from a 5-0 drubbing in Round 2, but failing to convert a number of promising attacking situations into goals; Western have scored just three goals this season, including three games in which they haven’t scored at all.
But Aloisi is adamant things will turn around – as is Davutovic.
“I think they’re tracking in the right direction, but if you’ve got five losses on the trot and confidence is low, you can fall into that hole and you just can’t get out of it,” Davutovic said.
“They really need to roll their sleeves up and pick up some points over the next few weeks, otherwise, they could be in a hell of a lot of trouble.”
Queensland identity the way for Brisbane as new boss Ross tries to recapture a fanbase
A hungry, enthusiastic team playing exciting, attractive football under a new head coach whose squad is brimming with young locals for the fans to identify with.
What’s there not to like about this new-look Brisbane Roar?
Ross Aloisi took charge of the Roar in the off-season and has since overseen a mini resurgence at the club; he took his team to the final of the Australia Cup in the off-season, and has overseen three wins, two draws and just one defeat in six games to start the 2023-24 Isuzu UTE A-League season.
Aloisi’s squad is built around star Irishman Jay O’Shea. Captain Tom Aldred is the bedrock at the back, another overseas import crucial to Brisbane’s success. Frenchman Florin Berenguer is playing an important role too, and knows what it takes to win it all in the Isuzu UTE A-League having spent a number of trophy-laden years at Melbourne City.
But among the experienced heads are a number of young, local talents helping to inspire Brisbane’s early form. Thomas Waddingham and Henry Hore are prime examples, and regular starters under Aloisi. In Friday night’s draw against Western Sydney, Ryan Brownlie, Louis Zabala and Jez Lofthouse came off the bench to help reinforce the Queensland identity among a Roar squad that Smithies believes can help foster bigger crowds in Brisbane.
“Ross’ comments about the Queensland culture are important, because they lost a lot of that a few years ago,” Smithies said.
“There was a big exodus of good, young players. Henry Hore drifted away from Brisbane when they changed their youth coaches. He ended up in Perth and it didn’t work out, and he was nearly lost to the game a couple of times. Warren Moon made a concerted effort to get him back from the NPL and back into the club, and there are others around him.
“The crowd resonates with them, people feel: ‘it’s one of us, we’re seeing a kid who has come through the ranks’. Henry Hore was born and raised on the Sunshine Coast, it’s where he played most of his football.
“As we build the fanbases of these clubs, it’s very much going to be built on the culture of having players the fans can identify with as one of their own.”