Five things we learned from A-League Round 19

A Dutchman’s arrival, a finals rehearsal and a club’s potential espionage rounded off a rather interesting weekend of A-League football.

Merrick van Marwijk Aloisi

(Left to right) Ernie Merrick, Bert van Marwijk and John Aloisi Source: Getty Images / AAP

Here Berty, Berty

Bert van Marwijk wasted little time getting his tenure as Socceroos coach underway - attending three A-League matches this past weekend, beginning with Sydney FC’s 4-0 win over Wellington Phoenix on Friday night.

And while Brandon O’Neill and Joshua Brillante are the obvious standouts from the Dutchman’s Sky Blue selection, Sydney coach Graham Arnold believes veteran defender Alex Wilkinson deserves it more.

"I thought Wilkinson was great," Arnold said after the game.

"He’s solid as a rock all the time. I couldn’t be happier.

"He's such a smart player. Whoever plays next to him always plays well. He’s such a good communicator."

With van Marwijk certain to revert Australia’s formation to a back four, competition for a role inside the heart of the defence will be tougher than ever.

"I also said to the boys before the game, the new Socceroos coach is here and he’s probably come with a blank sheet of paper," Arnold said.

"It's your opportunity to impress and get on that blank piece of paper with a great performance."

Wilkinson has not represented his country since 2015 but may find favour with van Marwijk as the 65-year-old attempts to blend youth and experience ahead of tough FIFA World Cup group games against France, Denmark and Peru.

With Trent Sainsbury and Bailey Wright the preferred partnership throughout Ange Postecoglou’s three-at-the-back era, it appears no one’s spot is safe – leaving the door wide open for Wilkinson and the like to earn that coveted call-up.

A-League spygate?

Brisbane Roar reportedly caught the ire of the competition in the lead up to their 2-1 defeat to Melbourne City, after announcing former FFA employee Pedj Radinovic as the club’s new football director.

With former Socceroo Craig Moore removed from the role, Radinovic, who spent six years with the league’s governing body, will step in next month and begin negotiations with several off-contract players.

Radinovic's former role centered on the A-League's salary cap stipulations, which suggests he contains knowledge regarding the contracts of every player league-wide in detail – leaving rivals at a significant disadvantage.

Should the three-time A-League champions decide to clear their squad out at the end of the season, the preconceived knowledge of Radinovic will allow the club to strategically clear up space in order for more calculated offers – beginning with off-contract left-back Corey Brown.

Eager to reap the benefits, Roar coach John Aloisi said: "We have to make sure we build a squad that we believe is going to win it."

"That’s our goal. He’s going to be very important for us, Pedj."

While Moore was criticised for signing experienced talent at the tail end of their careers, the direction the well-respected Radinovic takes the club is sure to be interesting.

Practice makes perfect

Newcastle Jets are on the verge of ending the longest finals drought in A-League history - and their 2-0 win over Melbourne Victory on Saturday sent them one step closer.

Nigel Boogaard and new signing Riley McGree found the back of the net against the Victory as goalkeeper Jack Duncan shrugged off questionable past performances to keep a clean sheet in front of 11,473 fans.

Speaking after the match, Jets coach Ernie Merrick revealed just how significant the result against his former club was.

"We look like we’ll be in the finals now and I said to the boys it’s a bit of a rehearsal," Merrick said.

"The next time we’ll play Victory will be in the finals."

Though the second-placed Jets have lost four games this season, they have been difficult to beat at home – the likely destination for their impending first finals fixture since 2010.

Of the current top six, only Melbourne City have been able to take all three points in the Hunter, and Merrick will no doubt look to keep it that way as his men attempt to dethrone defending champions Sydney FC.

Love is in the air

Marco Kurz could not hide his emotions after Adelaide United came back from a goal down to defeat Perth Glory 2-1 on Saturday night.

"The performance from the boys, they give in every game whatever they have," Kurz said.

"I am very proud about the boys and I love the boys."

Kurz's newfound affection comes with an eye on an upcoming gruelling training regime that will keep the Reds in shape until their next match on February 17.

The win, courtesy of a Dino Djulbic own goal and Nikola Mileusnic finish late in the first half, lifts the 2016 champions up to fourth, six points safe inside the top six.

And though this healthy buffer will offer players some comfort, Kurz refuses to look too far ahead.

"We stay in a good position but we know that we need a lot of points to get to the finals," he said.

"I hope we have the power to the end, to get there in the finals."

While Adelaide’s power is no sure thing, at least there’s plenty of love.

Enough is enough

Central Coast Mariners fans cut a frustrated collective figure on Sunday after their side fell 2-1 at home to Western Sydney Wanderers.

In a first half full of space for both sides to exploit, it was the visitors who leapt to a two-goal lead courtesy of Jaushua Sotirio and Oriol Riera.

And while Peter Skapetis capitalised on the Wanderers’ customary sluggish second-half showing to peg one back for the home side, an equaliser proved elusive in the end as Paul Okon’s men extended their winless run to 10 matches.

Okon's promising start to the season has quickly evaporated down the stretch, with many Mariners fans growing disillusioned with their squad’s effort, or lack thereof, and the board’s seemingly accepting stance on results.

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6 min read
Published 5 February 2018 at 10:11am
By Jonathan Bernard