Mid-season report

Already a third of the way through the seventh Hyundai A-League season, it’s time to reflect on the performances of every team.

Already a third of the way through the seventh Hyundai A-League season, it-s time to reflect on the performances of every team, starting at the bottom of the table:

Gold Coast United, 6/10 Only five points from 27 paints a picture of a disastrous start to the season, but it is not quite as bad as the table suggests.

Apart from Saturday night's insipid display in Perth, performances, in the main, have been decent, and United have pushed most of the teams they've met, including Brisbane, Sydney and the Melbourne Victory, all on the road.

Between rounds four and eight United lost all four games by a one goal margin.

While they have been steady in midfield, where Paul Beekmans and Peter Jungschlager have impressed, and been vibrant in attack through the directness of Maceo Rigters and subtlety of James Brown, they've often been let down by poor defensive organisation and discipline.

To my mind, Miron Bleiberg panicked a touch by bringing in Jonas Salley, not recognising that his team were travelling well at the time, particularly in midfield.

What Bleiberg has really struggled to do is tighten things up defensively, and while he might point to missing Dino Djulbic, he was on the record in the pre-season claiming Ante Rozic would fill the void.

Now the pressure is on Bleiberg to find the answers.

Adelaide United, 4.5 The biggest disappointment so far, the Reds were acclaimed in the pre-season as one of the favourites to push the Brisbane Roar.

The season so far had been nothing short of a disaster, with the injuries to key men, Sergio van Dijk and Dario Vidosic, only compounding the problems.

Rini Coolen, under pressure to get it right, made a mountain of changes in the off season, all, it was said, designed to turn United from the counter-attacking side he took over to one that controls games through sustained possession.

They have looked anything but a polished unit, and the biggest indictment on the manager is the fact the team looked far better last season, before he re-shaped it.

His preference for using Spase Dilevski and Evgeniy Levchenko in midfield, and Zenon Caravella on the right, has been exposed, while Andy Slory-s early retirement suggests Coolen hasn-t quite man-managed the situation.

Coolen, like a few other managers, has a massive job to turn things around, but the signs aren-t looking good, with too many in the squad under-performing and cracks appearing here and there.

Wellington Phoenix, 6.5 Short of funds and depth, Ricki Herbert continues to mould a competitive unit, reflected by the fact all four of their losses have been by one goal, and their goal difference is only minus one (-1), better than four other teams.

But what the 'Nix really lack is enough quality, with so much creative responsibility resting with Paul Ifill.

New recruits Dani Sanchez and Alex Smith have shown good signs, on and off, but they were brought in on a budget to do a job rather than win games.

Like Gold Coast, Wellington lack that absolute finishing quality in the No.9 role. That is in no way a negative reflection on either Chris Greenacre or Dylan Macallister, both of whom have worked the house down for their respective clubs.

Greenacre, it is suggested, would be happy to step into retirement, but such is the state of Wellington's budget, and team spirit, that he was only too happy to step in and fill the void until such a man can be located.

With all the pre-season off field turmoil involving their former owner, this always threatened to be a tough season for the 'Nix, but, as always, they are hanging about, and, if Ifill, Leo Bertos and Tim Brown can conjure up the requisite quality, then the top six isn't beyond them.

Melbourne Victory, 5.5 Hitherto the Victory's season has been defined by the off field drama and speculation surrounding the competency of manager Mehmet Durakovic.

For all the club's off-season recruitment and quality added to the forward line, it has been Durakovic's battle to control things, on and off the pitch, that has made for the most compelling viewing.

Keeping everyone happy, and satisfying the Victory's demanding fans, was always likely to be the rookie manager's biggest test, and so it has proved.

From the seemingly ever-present drama that surrounds Harry Kewell to the ongoing isolation of Jean Carlos Solorzano, there's barely been a quiet moment.

With so many individual agendas at stake, from the playing squad through to the dugout and the board-room, and even those that surround the club, moulding a united squad has proved just about impossible.

In that sense, Durakovic has done well to hang in there, getting a result here or there to help ease the pressure. Helping him has been the form of Archie Thompson, a constant menace for opponents.

Whether Durakovic has enough experience and know-how to produce more consistency from the squad looks questionable, but if he continues show the same dogged characteristics that typified his playing career, you just know he'll be scrapping all the way.

Melbourne Heart, 6 It took the moving of Matt Thompson from the centre of defence to an advanced role in either midfield or the front line to ignite the Heart's season.

They are now one of the League's form teams, having won three of their past four games after picking up only three points from the opening five weeks.

What Thompson has provided is some penetration from behind, to complement the ongoing impressive work of Mate Dugandzic on the right side of attack.

Elsewhere, Aziz Behich continues to catch the eye at left back, while Fred, when available, had shown he still has a bit to offer. Meanwhile, Jonathan Germano has shown he has more to his game than simply holding the midfield.

Ahead of them, John van 't Schip has eased young striker Eli Babalj into the mix, and watching if he can develop him over the rest of the campaign should make for fascinating viewing.

Perth Glory, 5.5

A great start to the season, featuring three wins on the spin, was somewhat undone by Ian Ferguson's tinkering with the starting XI.

After setting the league alight in the opening round, Brazilian Andrezinho was soon found warming the bench, often for far too long, with the more industrious Adam Hughes preferred in the midfield.

Results went down-hill as a major supply line to Billy Mehmet and Shane Smeltz was switched off and the play became ponderous and predictable.

It was no coincidence that, in the win over Gold Coast on the weekend, Andrezinho was back in the XI, and having an influence.

Right now he seems Ferguson's most creative outlet, but if he can get bits and pieces from the likes of Mile Sterjovski and Liam Miller, then the top six isn't beyond the Glory, especially with Smeltz at the pointy end.

The pressure is right on Ferguson to get things right.

Newcastle Jets, 6.5 Strong at home, poor on the road; it-s been a tale of two Jets, with four wins from five at Ausgrid Stadium (the only loss coming against Brisbane) and a solitary point from four away games.

The contrast couldn-t be starker. At home, playing in front of bumper gates after a successful off-season member drive, the Jets have looked energetic, pressing high and driving forward. Away they have often looked ponderous.

Given the change of manager from Branko Culina to Gay van Egmond, via Craig Deans, the fact Newcastle sit fourth is a great achievement, but it shouldn-t gloss over some of the problems van Egmond needs to address.

In central midfield, for example, he has more graft than invention, while he has to find a consistent partner for Nikolai Topor-Stanley in the heart of defence. Tiago Calavano has disappointed, to date.

Meanwhile, up top, he is still seeking a reliable number nine, with the club-s decision to sign Francis Jeffers a questionable one given his lack of football.

Fortunately Jeremy Brockie has been terrific, with Ryan Griffiths serviceable on the other flank, but the Jets need more right across the pitch.

Sydney FC, 7 In the off-season, Vietzslav Lavicka went about trying to fix the many ills of last season, and the early conclusion is that he has only solved a fraction of the problems.

Sydney FC are a far better unit, but the reality is they still have some way to go to be a genuine title threat.

Things have certainly stiffened up at the back, with Pascal Bosschaart adding much composure, but they continue to be inconsistent, with Michael Beauchamp and Jamie Coyne, in particular, guilty of a few mistakes.

Meanwhile, the midfield has looked good only in patches, most often when on the front foot.

This is when Lavicka's side have been at their best, controlling the back half of games through their fitness and determination. Little doubt the experience of Nicky Carle, Brett Emerton and Karol Kisel has helped here.

However, Sydney have had more problems when they've taken a passive approach, particularly early in games, often looking slow when they sit and counter.

Against Brisbane, on the weekend, they were aggressive from the start, pressing high, smothering their opponents and controlling proceedings. It's this type of initiative they need over the next 18 weeks.

Central Coast Mariners, 8 Struggling without Alex Wilkinson, unable to find a partner for Matt Simon and trying a couple options at No.10, the Mariners had a slow start to the campaign.

In many ways it was the perfect start for a manager keen to hose down the pre-season expectation.

Sneaking about as others were lauded or loathed, the pieces started falling into place, with Wilkinson returning, Bernie Ibini impressing and Mustafa Amini exploding back into his work the past fortnight.

The Mariners have shown, over the past six rounds, where they accumulated 16 from 18 points, that they again look the real deal, the most likely to challenge the Roar's position.

The next two weeks, an F3 derby and another grand final replay, loom as a pivotal gauge of exactly where the Mariners sit.

What the team has demonstrated is a highly effective physicality, most evident at set pieces, where they pose an ever-present threat through the likes of Patrick Zwaanswijk, Matt Simon and Rostyn Griffiths.

But they are also extremely well organised, and, in Ibini and Amini, have front third quality to complement the physicality.

Worryingly for their opponents, in recent weeks they've got their fullbacks, Pedj Bojic and Josh Rose, connected.

The fact they have been able to do all this with the uncertainty surrounding the club's financial future, is a testament to Arnold's man-management and the united culture at the club.

Brisbane Roar, 9.5 Ange Postecoglou went on the record ahead of the season, claiming we hadn't yet seen the best from his team, despite losing such key figures as Matt McKay, Solorzano and Kosta Barbarouses.

It was a big call, but has been backed on the field, with the Roar just about perfect as they extended their unbeaten run to an Australian all-sports record 36 games.

Once again, Postecoglou's eye for a player and man-management has come to the fore, with the likes of Besart Berisha and Matt Jurman slotting seamlessly into his first XI.

Berisha, always looking to make a penetrating off-the-ball run to the near post or between defenders, is relishing the service from Thomas Broich.

Others, like Issey Nakajima-Farran and Mohamed Adnan, are been handled adroitly, while the manager continues to build game-time for the likes of Luke Brattan and James Meyer.

What has made the Roar-s performances even more meritorious this season is the fact that opponents are devising strong plans against them, evidenced by the work of Sydney FC, Gold Coast, Melbourne Victory and Newcastle Jets earlier in the season.

Apart from Sunday evening at Kogarah, the Roar have inevitably found a solution, sticking to their principles all along.