Five things we learned from A-League Round 17

National team news, return to form and a governing body’s neglect capped off a rather entertaining round of A-League action, both on and off the pitch.

A-League round 17

John Aloisi (L), Besart Berisha (C) and Graham Arnold (R) Source: AAP

Hey Arnold!

“I have had a conversation. They’ve made contact with me.”

Graham Arnold’s position as Sydney FC head coach has officially come under threat after the former Socceroos assistant recently received a phone call from FFA officials to confirm he's in the running for the head-coaching role.

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“They told me what type of process they’re going to go through,” Arnold said on the eve of his side’s 1-1 draw with the Central Coast Mariners.

“I can’t go into further detail than that but there has been contact made.”

Despite reports linking the vacant Socceroos position to foreign managers such as Roberto Mancini and Marcelo Bielsa, with chief executive David Gallop set to fly to Europe and conduct interviews, Arnold’s potential appointment to many represents the best long-term approach.

And while Sydney FC have repeatedly rejected claims they wouldn't relinquish the 54-year-old unless given compensation, losing him at a time like this would pose a serious threat to their quest for back-to-back titles and Asian Champions League glory.

This news, coupled by an inspired Mariners performance, held the Sky Blues to an uncharacteristic showing at home on Saturday night, in what ironically was Arnold’s 200th game as a head coach.

Though there is no news regarding the FFA’s intention to advance talks in the coming weeks, Arnold’s unknown future now leaves the defending champions in a rather uncomfortable predicament, and yet to formally respond.



FFAvouritism?

Brisbane Roar head coach John Aloisi was less than pleased with the FFA’s decision not to reschedule next weekend’s A-League fixture in light of their midweek continental commitments.

The Roar will face Filipino outfit Ceres-Negros at the Queensland Sport and Athletics Club on Tuesday night, knowing a win will see them travel to China one week later to face Tianjin Quanjian.

With Aloisi’s men likely to advance past Ceres-Negros, next Saturday’s clash away to the Central Coast Mariners leaves the three-time A-League champions in an uncomfortable position and forced to field a weaker eleven as a result.

“The scheduling hasn’t helped but I heard they (FFA) changed it for (Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC),” Aloisi said after his side’s thrilling 3-2 win over Perth Glory.

“That’s good to see, but they haven’t changed it for us.”

Aloisi’s stinging swipe at the game’s governing body is totally understandable, with the Roar’s potentially resurrected domestic campaign back on track following Thursday night’s victory over the Glory.

And despite the FFA’s introduction of a split-round for both Victory and Sydney FC, the league's main markets, it seems they’ve forgotten the nation’s other Champions League representative.



Did you say something?

Besart Berisha endured quite possibly the toughest week of his A-League career to date, but, according to Melbourne Victory’s head coach Kevin Muscat, he knew nothing about it.

“It’s a form of entertainment to go after someone who’s been so successful because we get pleasure out of the demise of someone,” Muscat said after his side’s 3-0 thrashing of the Western Sydney Wanderers.

“He (Berisha) didn’t hit back at his critics tonight, because he wasn’t listening to them.”

Berisha gave Western Sydney’s makeshift defence a torrid time on Friday night, grabbing both a goal and an assist to condemn Josep Gombau’s men to their first defeat of 2018.

The 32-year-old could have had a few more goals to his name on the night if not for some desperate defending, as the Victory earned their largest win of the campaign in stunning fashion.

With Berisha back amongst the goals alongside teammates Kosta Barbarouses and Leroy George, Melbourne Victory’s quest to avenge last season’s grand final defeat looks back on track.



Money well spent

Wellington Phoenix are in the midst of a mid-season resurgence.

The New Zealand club pulled off a remarkable 3-2 upset against the second-placed Newcastle Jets on Saturday night, denying them a club-record fifth consecutive home win in the process.

A pair of errors from returning Jets goalkeeper Jack Duncan set the Nix on their way, before Roy Krishna’s effort put the game beyond reach just past the hour mark.

Though Darije Kalezic’s men remain bottom of the league, their three-match unbeaten run has seen them reduce the gap between sixth-placed Western Sydney to just five points.

Common factor? Nathan Burns and Matija Ljujic, the duo arriving within days of the January transfer window’s opening.

Burns and Ljujic, joining the club from Sanfrecce Hiroshima (Japan) and FK Zalgiris (Lithuania) respectively, are yet to taste defeat when on the pitch at the same time, contributing a total of five goals in just three matches – two of which coming against the Jets.

“I am happy for the boys, for everybody in the club that we performed well today,” Kalezic said after the game. “We played really solid from the beginning.”

The club’s revival will bring good news to the Phoenix faithful, and, so long as their bargain buys take the field, will have them hopeful of back-to-back wins next weekend against Adelaide United.



The stars are aligning

Melbourne City produced their best performance of the season on Sunday night, thumping Adelaide United 5-0 at AAMI Park.

Warren Joyce’s men made light work of the Reds, with rejuvenated marquee Marcin Budzinski bagging a brace alongside new signing Dario Vidosic, before a thunderbolt from Ross McCormack completed the rout.

The Citizens have claimed 10 points from their last 12 on offer – a stretch of form not seen since their blistering start to the campaign last October.

After weeks of intense pressure mounting on staff and personnel – heightened by the visit of City Football Group chief Brian Marwood – it appears City have finally established some rhythm.

McCormack’s record-breaking performances, Budzinksi’s long-awaited emergence and the rise of wonderkid Daniel Arzani, a focal figure against United, represent the key reasons for the club’s return to form.

The five-star performance against Adelaide now sets up a crucial clash with second-placed Newcastle this Thursday, where a win could see City cut the gap to just one point.


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6 min read
Published 22 January 2018 at 12:11pm
By Jonathan Bernard