Keeping them out: who will boast the meanest defences of the Hyundai A-League 2018/19 Season?

The objective of football is to score more goals than the opposition, but it helps when you’ve got a defence that can help keep them out.

Sydney demonstrated just how important this is last season, conceding at a rate of under a goal a game on their way to a consecutive Premiership win.

In fact, the top three sides in the league last season boasted the three tightest defences.

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This season will be no different, and there are plenty of teams in the competition who look set to have another tight year at the back.

We’ve picked four sides who will feature some of the league’s meanest defences in 2018/19.

Melbourne City

City largely flew under the radar last season, but things at the back were as solid as they have ever been and it’s an incredible platform from which to build upon in 2018/19.  

The sky blue half of Melbourne conceded just 35 goals last season, the second tightest defence in the league. City made the fewest clearances in the competition, suggesting a desire from Warren Joyce to play things out from the back.

It helps when the ball is won often in the midfield too: Luke Brattan led the competition last year for tackles, making 102.

Recruitment from Melbourne City hasn’t been headline-grabbing as one may expect, but it’s been remarkable all the same. They’ve shored up an already strong defence with the likes of goalkeeper Mark Birighitti and centre-back Curtis Good.

Throw in the versatile Richie De Laet, an English Premier League winner, who can play anywhere along the backline and Melbourne will be a force to be reckoned with this season.

Bart Schenkeveld; Massimo Maccarone
Bart Schenkeveld is a rock at the back for City.

Newcastle Jets

It was the attack which stole headlines for the Jets in their run to the Hyundai A-League 2017/18 Grand Final, but their defence quietly did a solid job in getting them there.

They had the third tightest defence in the league with just 39 goals conceded, and with the height of captain Nigel Boogaard and defensive partner Nikolai Topor-Stanley alongside him, they averaged 19 aerial wins per game – the second highest in the league.

Newcastle were worst in the league for tackles made, but that’s perhaps indicative of how good the whole side was in preventing opposition players from entering into areas where tackles needed to be made.

This time around and things are fairly similar at the back for Newcastle. The only loss out of last year’s backline has been Jack Duncan, and there’s a ready-made replacement already in Newcastle in the form of Glen Moss.

With the fight for the left-back spot set to push the likes of Ivan Vujica and Johnny Koutroumbis to their limits, expect a tight Newcastle Jets side this season.

Nikolai Topor-Stanley
A defensive match made in heaven: Topor-Stanley and Boogaard.

Perth Glory

Last season, Perth conceded a mountain of goals. The second worst in the league in fact: 50 in their 27 league matches.

Individually though, things weren’t so bad. They averaged a league-high 14.3 interceptions per match, made a bucketload of tackles with 19.3 per match on average (the third best in the league) and were second in the league for clearances.

This season it’s a new-look Perth though, led from the technical area by former Australia hardman Tony Popovic, and the signings look very promising.

Matthew Spiranovic, Ivan Franjic, Jason Davidson and Tomislav Mrcela have all joined the Glory this season and will no doubt lead a defensive revolution at the club.

With Spiranovic, Franjic, and Davidson making up three-quarters of the back four which won the Asian Cup for Australia back in 2015, it’s an experienced and cluey back Perth four this season. Can it gel?

Davidson and Spiranovic
Davidson (left) and Spiranovic (right) will be important for Perth this season.

Sydney FC

The Sky Blues waltzed to the Hyundai A-League 2017/18 Premiership, and part of the reason they did that was their incredible defensive record.

They conceded the least goals (25) of any team in the league, the least shots (292) and shots on target (86). It’s when you look at the individual statistics that you can start to draw conclusions about Sydney’s game, though.

Midfield marshals Brandon O’Neill and Josh Brillante were 2nd and 4th respectively for tackles made in the league last season, while Sydney as a whole were the worst for interceptions made.

From this, it’s clear that the two men in the midfield did their job so well that opposition sides were struggling to make it through the lines, let alone create chances.

There have been two big outs for Sydney this season though: coach Graham Arnold, who was replaced by deputy Steve Corica, and Dutch hard man Jordy Bujis, who too has been replaced by a fellow Dutchman in Jop van der Linden.

The core of the team is still there though, and with Rhyan Grant set to take to the pitch this season after spending last season sidelined with an ACL injury things are looking good for Sydney at the back this season.

Brandon O'Neill, Josh Brillante
O'Neill (left) and Brillante (centre) help Sydney defend higher up the pitch.