Heart to welcome the New Year
Melbourne Heart has hit rock bottom, they can’t possibly go anywhere else but up in 2013.
It mightn-t be time for celebration in the Melbourne Heart camp, but you get the sense all involved with the club would have been popping those champagne corks with extra gusto on New Year-s Eve as a disappointing 2012 is shoved out the door in the hope a fresh year accessorised with a change in fortune waltzes through.
While the club scraped into the 2011/12 A-League finals series by holding onto sixth place, you can count on one hand the amount of times Heart fans have walked out of AAMI Park with three points in the bag.
Its horrible start to 2012 could not have been in starker contrast to the manner in which it finished 2011 — in second place thanks to a five-match winning streak, which culminated in a 4-0 rout against Sydney FC. Coincidentally, that win in Sydney remains Heart-s last on the road in over a year. The 3-1 loss to Adelaide United at AAMI Park after the New Year break sent the club to the canvas, and in some respects, it-s only managed to get to its feet on the odd occasion since then. It-s fair to say that loss set the tone for what was to come for Heart in 2012.
A-League newcomers Western Sydney Wanderers have already won more games in their first 13 matches this season than Heart has in all of 2012, claiming maximum points on six occasions compared to Heart-s five wins from 27 outings.
Heart concluded the second half of the 2011/12 season with only two wins from 14 games, and it-s apparent that John Aloisi has struggled to rid his squad of the same vein of form with only three wins from 13 rounds thus far this campaign.
Not surprisingly, Heart-s on-field performances in 2012 have generated many unanswered questions. Against Melbourne Victory on both occasions this season, Heart was brilliant tactically. More recently against Wellington Phoenix, their performance was criminal, losing the game 3-2 after racing to a 2-0 lead.
Those two games illustrate the issues that have plagued Melbourne Heart-s annus horribilis: an inability to kill off teams despite creating its fair share of chances, and a propensity to concede second half goals.
Of the 19 goals Melbourne Heart has conceded this season, 15 of those have been scored in the second half — 10 of which were in the seven matches it has lost.
Adding further woes for the Heart-s brains trust is the number of times it has relinquished the lead. On the six occasions Heart has scored first this season, only three times has it closed out the game to secure full points.
As if relinquishing a lead isn-t bad enough, both Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix have come from two goals down after being stunned early on by Heart. Newcastle clawed its way back to 3-3 to claim a share of the points, and in Wellington-s case, it went on to win the game outright. The problem isn-t isolated to the current campaign, either, as Sydney FC were also able to snare two second half goals to tie the match at 2-2 having gone 2-0 down inside 36 minutes.
Had Heart been able to kill off the Jets and the Phoenix (not once, but twice) this season, they would be sitting pretty in fifth position on 19 points instead of propping up the table some 15 points behind league leaders Central Coast Mariners.
For Aloisi and co., the issues must be as puzzling as Hayden Foxe-s matchday attire. Heart has demonstrated its ability to stand toe-to-toe with the competition-s elite, however at times it appears as though it-s the creator of its own problems.
Aloisi certainly has his work cut out to inject belief and confidence back into his team — and himself — after demoralising back-to-back losses.
As he hoists his champagne flute aloft to welcome in the New Year, he-d do well to look above and acknowledge the challenge that awaits. Looking anywhere else — below, behind, sideways — serves little purpose: Heart has hit rock bottom, it can-t go anywhere else but up.