Half-term report card: Western Sydney Wanderers

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

It was always going be difficult to follow the fairytale of the Western Sydney Wanderers' inaugural season.

And, to that degree, they have done a very good job of consolidating their spectacular debut year.

It is a well told story that after struggling to even score a goal in their opening few matches, they went on to win the Premiership and make the Grand Final.

Wanderers' first-yearn foundation was in defence: club captain Michael Beauchamp, Nikolai Topor-Stanley and their evergreen goalkeeper, Ante Covic.

The trio remain, though Beauchamp is rarely sighted these days, with new signing Matthew Sprianovic preferred instead.

They have replaced fan favourite Dino Kresinger, with hotshot striker Tomi Juric, who has scored four times, despite missing five games in a row with injury.

But their attitude and their ethos remains the same and whilst others have faltered around them, they sit second, albeit seven points in arrears of Brisbane Roar.

They sit ahead of both Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne Victory, who have both gone through the trauma of a mid-season coaching change. Heading into the Sydney Derby, Wanderers are four points clear of their cross-town rivals.

Wanderers' miserly defence has again served them well. In 13 matches, they have conceded just 11 goals and Covic has kept six clean sheets.

Their relative inconsistency lies in their attack. With just 15 goals scored in 13 games, it is obvious that they are over reliant on Juric, who has scored four times in seven matches. More tellingly, Wanderers looked toothless in the five matches that he was absent.

Only the hyper-negative would suggest that Wanderers are unable to repeat their Premiership win and with the second half of the season upon them, they are well placed to make an impression in their second season.

STAR MAN: Tomi Juric

The big number 9 was signed from Adelaide United in the off-season and his arrival facilitated the departure of the much loved Dino Kresinger, whose cult like status was only embellished by his back-flick goal in the semi final last year.

Juric is an altogether different prospect. Big and strong with a deadly eye in front of goal, Juric's ability to hold the ball up provides Wanderers with a valuable outlet that they often use when under pressure.

Juric appears exempt from Popovic's constant rotation, though he is probably influenced by how flat Wanderers seemed in front of goal during Juric's injured enforced absence.

Four goals in seven matches has some pundits calling for Juric to be on the plane to Brazil. If he maintains his scoring rate, he will give Ange Postecoglous something to think about.

COACH'S REPORT: Tony Popovic

Popovic's arrival on the scene last season saw him mentioned in dispatches when the Socceroos top job became available.

After cutting his teeth at Sydney FC and Crystal Palace, Popovic's biggest challenge is keeping Wanderers towards the top of the pile, amidst the expectation created by their first season success and their burgeoning fan-base.

He has rotated his side constantly and his treatment of Beauchamp proves that nobody is exempt. The regular changes keep the players on their toes, but on the flipside it is difficult to create a settled starting side.

Popovic's astute signing of Spiranovic has paid dividends with the defender usurping Beauchamp, whilst his use of substitutes has often been wise, particularly in the way he uses Labinot Haliti and Brendon Santalab.

He will hope that their sluggish start to the season is behind them and they can make a full-scale tilt at the Premiership as the season enters its second half.

MARK: B+

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