Hyundai A-League mid-season report card

As we head into the second half of a fascinating 2016/17 Season, we assess the progress of each team in the Hyundai A-League.

Sydney FC

Current position: First

W/D/L: 11/3/0

Goals for: 34

Goals against: 7

What’s good? Everything. They are clinical going forward, fight, scrap and battle in defence and work hard for each other. No wonder coach Graham Arnold is talking about his boys being Invincible.

Areas to improve: Central defence. Will need to find a replacement for Matt Jurman – who has moved to Korea – and the injured Seb Ryall. Quick. 

Best performance: versus Perth Glory, Round 11. Despite going behind early in the West they didn’t panic, scoring four unanswered goals to run out convincing 4-1 winners.

Best player: Milos Ninkovic: The Serbian playmaker has been consistently brilliant, an assist maestro while chipping in regularly with goals.  

Besart Berisha and James Troisi celebrate combining for Victory's opener against the Reds in Round 14.

Melbourne Victory

Current position: Second

W/D/L: 9/2/2

Goals for: 32

Goals against: 14

What’s good? Their front-four is now firing on all cylinders. Berisha, Rojas, FBK and Troisi pack plenty of punch and with Austin, Beister and Ingham in reserve, have incredible depth and options in attack. Currently on a five-game winning streak and back to their fabulous best. 

Areas to improve: Central midfield. While they have excellent depth almost all over the park, the centre of the park is probably one area that could be a little thin. Skipper Carl Valeri has been superb and Oliver Bozanic is improving but Muscat may want to add to that area.

Best performance: versus Western Sydney Wanderers, Round 10. A brilliant away performance. Soaked up pressure when they had to and then were deadly in the front third, with Berisha scoring a hat-trick in a 3-0 win at ANZ Stadium.

Best player: Marco Rojas: The “Kiwi Messi” hasn’t missed a beat in his return to the Hyundai A-League, scoring a stack of goals with almost just as many assists.

Ivan Franjic celebrates his goal against the Wanderers with City interim coach Michael Valkanis.

Melbourne City

Current position: Third

W/D/L: 6/5/3

Goals for: 23

Goals against: 18

What’s good? Have one piece of silverware already in the trophy cabinet with their Westfield FFA Cup triumph and well-placed for an assault on the title in the second half of the campaign. Stars like Cahill, Fornaroli, Kilkenny, Brattan and Brandan are delivering big time.

Areas to improve: Defence. Still looking for the right formula at the back, swapping between a back three or four at various times. Have kept just two clean sheets in 14 and will need to keep Jakobsen fit if they are to go all the way.

Best performance: versus Melbourne Victory, Round 2.Made a huge statement of intent by handing their fierce local rivals a 4-1 drubbing, highlighted by Cahill’s incredible 40-metre volley on his Hyundai A-League debut.

Best player: Bruno Fornaroli. With the skipper’s armband this season, the Uruguayan has gone to an even higher level. Struck up a good combination with Cahill and already has 10 goals for the campaign.

Tommy Oar

Brisbane Roar

Current position: Fourth

W/D/L: 5/6/3

Goals for: 18

Goals against: 17

What’s good? Despite another off-season of off-field uncertainty, Roar has again been near the top of the ladder. And this whilst not yet playing anywhere near their best football.

Areas to improve: Attack. Are the lowest scorers of any side currently in the top six with Jamie Maclaren again shouldering plenty of the burden. The Caltex Socceroo could do with some support, although there is uncertainty surrounding his own future at the club, which coach John Aloisi will want to resolve quickly.

Best performance: versus Melbourne City, Round 5. Probably not their prettiest performance but easily their most pleasing and resolute. Worked their socks off and denied the previously free-scoring City a single shot on target, winning 1-0 thanks to Maclaren’s first-half goal.

Best player: Thomas Kristensen. Brought in to fill the huge shoes of Spaniard Corona, the Dane has been excellent in Roar’s midfield and has scored four goals as well. Not bad for a defensive midfielder.

#PERvNEW - Perth Glory is undefeated in their last 14 games against Newcastle Jets in the Hyundai A-League (W12, D2), including a streak of eight straight wins.

Perth Glory

Current position: Fifth

W/D/L: 4/5/5

Goals for: 24

Goals against: 28

What’s good? Possess one of the most talented and physically imposing squads in the league and appear ready to go on one of their now-trademark mid-season surges with the side unbeaten in their last three matches. Johnny Warren Medallist Diego Castro is now fit and starting to find his best form as well which is a huge bonus. 

Areas to improve: Away form. Just one win on the road from seven matches isn’t good enough for a side with title ambitions and a roster as strong as theirs. 

Best performance: versus Melbourne City, Round 3. Inspired by a hat-trick from striker Andy Keogh, Glory produced a beautifully constructed away performance  to beat City – who were coming off their Derby win a week earlier.

Best player: Andy Keogh. The Irishman has again showed he’s one of the premier strikers in the league, with seven goals for the campaign so far. Chipped in with a couple of assists as well while his work-rate means opposition defences never get a moment’s peace.

Jets players celebrate Andrew Hoole's goal in the clash with Wellington on Boxing Day.

Newcastle Jets

Current position: Sixth

W/D/L: 4/4/6

Goals for: 20

Goals against: 24

What’s good? Finally appear to be over their defensive injury crisis and have lost just one of their last five matches. Coach Mark Jones is getting the best out of his exciting crop of youngsters and confidence is building every week. Is this the year they final return to the Finals Series?

Areas to improve: Attack. The Jets are beginning to find the net more regularly over the last month but would have scored even more if they had been a little more composed in the front third. A striker with a proven scoring record is surely on Jones January wishlist, especially with a spot or two no open on the roster.

Best performance: versus Perth Glory, Round 10. It had been more than 11 years – 4033 days to be exact – since the Jets won in Perth but they broke the drought with an incredible performance in a come-from-behind 2-1 win.

Best player: Andrew Nabbout. Has there been a more improved player in the competition than the former Victory winger? Has picked up five man-of-the-match awards from 11 games and has four goals and three assists.

#WSWvMVC - The Wanderers are the only side to have benefitted from more than one own goal so far this Hyundai A-League season (2).

Western Sydney Wanderers

Current position: Seventh

W/D/L: 2/8/4

Goals for: 17

Goals against: 24

What’s good? The Wanderers midfield has matched – and if not bettered – their opponents in almost every single match this season. Dimas, Martinez, Nichols and Jumpei have combined to play some impressive stuff.

Areas to improve: Up front. The Wanderers have suffered from a serious lack of cutting edge in the front third. And it’s killing their hopes of being genuine title contenders. Popovic will need to use the transfer window to fix the problem or it could be a season of missed opportunity.

Best performance: versus Central Coast Mariners, Round 9. The one match this season where everything clicked. Went behind early but hit back almost immediately, before their class took control and the goals flowed in a 4-1 win.

Best player: Nico Martinez. Has been simply breathtaking at times this season with his silky touch and creative flair. A shining light in an inconsistent Wanderers outfit.

Wellington Phoenix players celebrate a goal in their Boxing Day clash with Newcastle Jets.

Wellington Phoenix

Current position: Eight

W/D/L: 3/3/7

Goals for: 14

Goals against: 20

What’s good? The form of Krishna and the mid-season acquisition of Shane Smeltz gives Phoenix’s attack a threatening look. Despite their struggles, still in striking distance of the top six. 

Areas to improve: Home form. Normally one of the toughest road trips in the Hyundai A-League, Wellington has won just two of six matches in front of their home fans. Not good enough if they want to play finals. Buckingham and Greenacre will want to get more from the club’s senior players as well.

Best performance: versus Central Coast Mariners, Round 10. In the week in which coach Ernie Merrick resigned, Phoenix responded in devastating fashion to trounce the Mariners 3-0, with Vince Lia scoring a long-range contender for goal of the season.

Best player: Roy Krishna. The Fijian has been a near lone hand in attack and has scored eight of Wellington’s 14 goals.

Central Coast players celebrate Scott Galloway's goal against Sydney FC in Gosford.

Central Coast Mariners

Current position: Ninth

W/D/L: 2/4/8

Goals for: 16

Goals against: 31

What’s good? Coach Paul Okon has got them playing an eye-catching brand of  football and without any fear. Have been more competitive than last season and youngsters like Buhagiar, Berry, Rose, Pain and Galloway are developing all the time.

Areas to improve: Defence. Still make too many errors and a lack of experience at the back means they are susceptible to leak multiple goals in matches. Have conceded 31 times in just 14 games, the worst defensive record in the competition.

Best performance: versus Perth Glory, Round 8. On a Thursday night in Gosford, goals from Harry Ascroft and Roy O’Donovan was enough for a 2-0 win. It remains the Mariners’ only clean sheet in their last 43 Hyundai A-League matches.

Best player: Trent Buhagiar. This kid is going places as fast as he can run down the wing. Still just 18, Buhagiar is developing into one of the Mariners’ best attacking outlets in what is turning out to be a breakout season for the winger.

#WELvADL - Adelaide United has won six of their last nine Hyundai A-League games against Wellington Phoenix, including a current three-game winning streak.

Adelaide United

Current position: Tenth

W/D/L: 1/4/9

Goals for: 10

Goals against: 25

What’s good? The Reds haven’t been playing like a side three points adrift at the foot of the ladder, suggesting things can change quickly if they can improve in a few areas. Still have time to turn things around…but it’s running out fast.

Areas to improve: Attack. Not surprising considering they have managed a paltry 10 goals for the campaign. Lost the likes of Djite, Sanchez, Goodwin and Kamau in the off-season and haven’t been able to replace their attacking thrust. Maybe a forward player from Asia could be an option, especially with an ACL campaign to come.

Best performance: versus Wellington Phoenix, Round 9. The Reds’ only winning of the campaign so far. Two sublime strikes from Henrique were the difference in the 2-0 triumph at Coopers Stadium.

Best player: Ben Garuccio. Has been excellent at left-back. Never stops trying, gets forward brilliantly and his crossing has been excellent, providing two assists.