Arnold doesn’t want to talk about Invincibles

Dom Bossi on Graham Arnold in the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Collectively we’ve got a group of winners that go on the pitch and die to win. They fight for each other, there’s a will on the field to kill for each other and there’s a lot of trust and belief in this team,” Arnold said. “Even when the chips are down a little bit, like last week when Brisbane had one or two good opportunities, you’ve got three or four players putting their body on the line defensively to stop a goal. That shows you the passion and commitment of the team to each other.”

Strong words from a coach clearly high on confidence. It’s interesting to see Arnold attempting to downplay the ‘Invincibles’ tag when he initiated talk of it earlier in the season. As Bossi notes, Sydney’s biggest enemy is now complacency. Although there’s an argument to be had about how much easier opponents have made their pursuit of such a title.

FFA needs to be more representative

Michael Lynch writing in The Age:

Fast forward from 2003, when the Crawford report was released, and its tempting to say ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’ – the more it’s changed, the more it’s stayed the same.

The name has changed – it’s now Football Federation Australia – but critics hold that soccer’s controlling board is still a narrowly focused group with accusations that it does not widely represent the game’s stakeholders.

Crawford advocated a separate entity to run the old NSL to guarantee its independence from the sport’s governing body.

It’s becoming increasingly clear how much of the Crawford Report was and had been ignored. An independent A-League might be the only thing to shake the A-League from it’s self-induced stupor.

They might understand the economics of stadium management, servicing sponsors and cutting a TV deal (and the newly negotiated agreement which nets the game $60 million a year for the next six years might not, when the sports TV landscape shakes out, look like a bad one considering the ratings local soccer generates. But, it sometimes seems,  they don’t always “feel’ the game in the way that lifelong fans do.


Ignoring the very thing that makes football so special…

Derby slur opens the door for wider education

Francis Awaritefe writes in The Guardian:

The controversy has provoked a strong range of opinions on social media. At one end of the spectrum, there were those who thought Bouzanis’ alleged comment was of no consequence, while at the other end, many expressed the view that Football Federation Australia should throw the book at Bouzanis.

Whether we like to admit it or not, discrimination is a fact of life in all spheres of life. This incident is a reflection of society in general. The bigger picture is that some good can come out of this sorry situation, if FFA and Melbourne City show the maturity, courage and authenticity that was missing, for example, in the inadequate manner the AFL handled allegations of racism directed at the Indigenous Australian rules football champion, Adam Goodes.

Credit must go to Melbourne City with how they handled this matter, but also to a lot of the A-League community who brought this to attention. Handling matters in such a way can only assist in the dialogue and shows how football can trigger such healthy discussion.

The incident was a heavy blight on what was a compelling battle between Bouzanis and Berisha, one that raged on for the entirety of the match. It is the kind of battle that adds intrigue and intensity to the A-League that few sports can match (minus the unacceptable comments).

AFL Women’s League Poses a Threat to A-League

David Davutovic in the Herald Sun:

But the mega opening round of the AFL Women’s — headlined by last Friday night’s Ikon Park lockout — would have caught Sydney-centric FFA off-guard.

In a season that the W-League has trod water and been affected by water (a game was called off prematurely when the automated sprinklers turned on), Melbourne City’s dramatic, high-quality win against Canberra United on Sunday night didn’t register on the radar.

Crowds and TV ratings suggest soccer is failing to capitalise on the Tim Cahill shot in the arm, just like 2012-13 when the game failed to exploit the Del Piero (and Shinji Ono and Emile Heskey) effect.

It’s a struggle to understand why their was such an issue with this piece. Davutovic did want we want all journalists to do – he told the truth.
From truth comes real action, real change. It is only with the truth being spoken that the game can truly move forward. The product (football) is good, the story is not. Who are the ones doing the story-telling? The FFA. The national governing body spend too much time pandering to those they think grow the game. Stop trying to sell to the un-sellable, work with those who will actually do it.
Only by doubling-down on it’s uniqueness will the A-League gain the exposure we all so desperately want. Be positive, be patient, and make it so good it can’t be ignored.

Stadia Specific

Michael Huguenin on

There has been a suggestion that FFA will look down on expansion bids that intend to play at oval stadia but the governing body should also start putting pressure on clubs like Sydney, Brisbane Roar and Wellington Phoenix, who are based at venues that are far too large.

The atmosphere at A-League games is arguably the competition’s most successful advertising tool but that is lost when over half the seats are empty.

Sydney have averaged larger crowds than the Wanderers in every year of the latter’s existence but although Wanderland’s atmosphere was universally praised, Allianz Stadium is often criticised.

Whether it’s true the FFA will look down on oval stadia bids or not, Higuenin nails it on the issue of atmosphere – it is one of the A-League’s unique selling points, and should be a focus of the FFA.

Why undermine one of the league’s greatest assets by playing matches at cavernous venues? Smaller boutique stadiums will amplify the atmosphere and attract more people. If some games are tipped to be bigger, they can be moved to larger venues. Sydney, Wellington, Brisbane and the Wanderers (although forced to do so) are shooting themselves in the foot by playing at venues that minimise the impact of their fans.

Needed – a new A-League technical leader

Les Murray, in The World Game:

In those years, during which the Roar won three championships and once went 36 games without defeat, Brisbane provided a brand of technical leadership which inspired all connected with the A-League, including rival teams.

The league lacks that kind of leadership today.

Of course Sydney FC today is a wonderful and efficient team, superbly organised and has a balanced squad with good back-up players for just about every position. With those qualities they will probably win the league and will deserve to do so.

But you couldn’t say that Sydney, unbeaten in 16 games, have brought an innovation in their technical or tactical approach that will revolutionise the league.

Les hits the nail on the head. Despite taking steps forward since the inception of the competition, the league has been quite vanilla in terms of tactical variety, Postecoglou’s teams aside. Arnold’s Sydney is reminiscent of Mourinho’s Chelsea – sturdy, efficient and ruthless on the counter – but this could be said of plenty of teams. It’s nothing that hasn’t seen before.

A true technical leader often doesn’t reap the success that other managers that adopt their techniques do. Murray’s example, Jorge Sampaoli, cannot be brought up without his mentor, Marcelo Bielsa, being mentioned in the same breath. Bielsa failed to win any silerware with the Chilean national side but laid the foundation and footballing identity for his successors Sampaoli and Pizzi, to win consecutive Copa America titles.

But as Les says, let’s see more innovators in the A-League


A new logo for the A-League

The A-League moves to club-specific logos.

It makes sense to do this ahead of entering into next season’s TV deal but this is more of a refresh than an revelatory new design. It definitely gives it a more modern look but it’s worth remembering that a logo forms just one part of an overall brand. Until the FFA zeroes in on that, to sell the unique qualities of the A-League (and there are plenty) rather than trying to please every single sports fans in Australia.