The Lowdown: Strength in stability

Four teams remain in the run for the Hyundai A-League premiership and it seems stability has played an important role in getting them there

AFW Columnist David Lowe gives his views on why the four teams in the finals are there.

It-s finals time, a time for hope, dreams and visualising your team-s captain holding aloft the most treasured and shiny dunny seat in Australia. Well, that is if your team finished in the top four. For others it-s a time of reflection, re-assessment and occasionally blood-letting.

News filtered through on the weekend of Sydney FC‘s “mutual termination agreement” with coach John Kosmina, following a player arrival and departure roundabout that has been cranking at top speed for months. Interestingly those clubs with the least amount of activity in the ‘ins and outs- column at the end of last season, are probably the four teams that will contest the A-League finals series. Is there a lesson in there somewhere?

Certainly premiers Melbourne have a very familiar look to the side that finished just outside the top four in season 2007/08. Adelaide retained much of last season-s squad which finished sixth, but have added strength in key and identified areas. Their long and successful ACL campaign has given coach Aurelio Vidmar a chance to evaluate his entire squad and settle on his best combination. Just as Paul Reid, Sash Ognenovski and Cristiano have proved to be vital recruits for Adelaide, as have Charlie Miller and Sergio Van Dijk for Queensland. Other than Farina-s two main imports his side has a stability and continuity of personnel, particularly in the starting 11.

Mariners have a reputation as one of the more stable clubs in the A-League, and coach Lawrie McKinna brought in only Dylan Macallister, to cover the departure of John Aloisi, and Adrian Caceres to add some creativity. Other than that a familiar core has done another consistent job for the club.

In contrast, the number of players used by Sydney this season and the turbo-charged revolving door at defending champions Newcastle allows you to draw your own conclusions on the value of stability in your playing roster.

So who of the consistent clubs will carry away the title?

History dictates that a top two finish is almost crucial to grand final success. Given the improved overall record of home teams throughout the entire league, you-d imagine the home advantage to be enjoyed by Melbourne and Adelaide might prove vital.

Remember one of those two is 100 per cent sure of hosting the grand final, and for the other statistics and probability weigh heavily in their favour for progression. I believe Queensland are capable of winning from third position, but a lot must go right. However, I doubt Mariners, minus Jedinak, can overcome Queensland and then win consecutive away games in Adelaide and Melbourne, or vice versa.

Remember season two? Everyone will tell you Melbourne thumped Adelaide 6-0 to win the title. What they forget is Adelaide went within 90 seconds of hosting the grand final, and that a Newcastle side (superior in my eyes to the one that won the title the following year) came from seventh position to get with in a penalty shoot-out of a grand final showdown with Victory.

It-s likely the winner of the major semi-final will triumph on February 28, but while it-s going to be very difficult for the others, it-s not impossible.