Half-term report card: Melbourne Victory

As we approach the mid-point of season nine of the Hyundai A-League, we take a look at how the teams are progressing.

Melbourne Victory lost the best coach in the land when Ange Postecoglou took the Socceroos job.

Just two rounds had been played when it was announced that Postecoglou had been offered and accepted the highest office in Australian football.

A 0-0 draw in the opening round Melbourne derby and a 2-2 draw with Adelaide United had been Victory's offerings, until they brought it together for Postecoglou's farewell match against Brisbane Roar.

James Troisi scored the only goal of that match as over 21,000 fans turned out to farewell Postecoglou.

Then-assistant Kevin Muscat was ideally placed to take over the reigns and he was soon installed as Head Coach, with the experienced Jean-Paul de Marigny drafted in as his assistant.

Muscat's senior coaching career started well with a 3-2 win at home to Wellington Phoenix and at the half-way point of season nine, Melbourne Victory sit fourth.

They head the mid-table cluster, sitting one point being Central Coast Mariners, level with Sydney FC and one point ahead of Newcastle Jets.

With seven goals, James Troisi heads the field for goals in the A-League this season. He is in irresistible form and is making a major play at being on the plane to Brazil in June.

Victory's captain, Mark Milligan, has been a mainstay in their midfield and he has developed a long way from the centre half he used to be. His intelligent use of possession, coupled with his strength in the tackle and his eye for goal, mark him out as one of the league's leading lights.

Behind him though, it has been a rougher ride for their Chilean import, Pablo Contreras. He came to Victory with undoubted pedigree, having played in the Champions League while at Monaco, as well as making over 100 appearances for both Celta Vigo in Spain and PAOK in Greece.

He has struggled with the pace of the A-League though, and has given away two penalties and has been given four yellow cards in ten matches so far. He also served a two-match ban for an off-the-ball incident in the Melbourne derby.

In attack, Troisi has been the stand-out, but flashes of form from Archie Thompson (when fit), Mitch Nicholls, Kosta Barbourouses and their super-sub Gui Finkler make Victory a potent attacking outfit.

Muscat will hope that their 3-0 defeat to Brisbane Roar last weekend was only a blip as he looks to knit together a side in his own image.

STAR MAN: James Troisi

Troisi joined Victory on a season long loan from Serie A side Atalanta, who he joined after making nearly 100 appearances in the Turkish league for both Genclerbirligi and Kayserispor.

The youngster has flourished in Postecoglou's and now Muscat's system, where he plays as a number 10 in a striker-less formation.

With only nine caps for the Socceroos, Troisi returned home to put himself in the frame for the World Cup and seven goals in 13 appearances has well and truly done that.

He has picked up the goal-scoring slack in the absence of the injured Thompson and looks to be one of the real home-based gems that Postecoglou could call upon.

COACH'S REPORT: Kevin Muscat

It is always a tough ask to swap the tracksuit for the shirt and tie, but Muscat has made an decent transition from assistant to boss.

Promoting the former Victory defender to the top job has allowed Muscat to continue to implement the teachings of Postecoglou and the players clearly enjoy the system.

Results have been mixed (four wins, four losses and two draws) and he has a tough road ahead if Victory decide to sell Nichols, but keeping a demotivated player may be a sterner test of Muscat's man-management skills.

Nichols was replaced at half time as Victory went down to Roar and that result will be playing on Muscat's mind, as Victory enter the second half of the season.


The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not reflect those of Football Federation Australia.