Is Victory's depth a myth?

Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat seems unwilling to rotate his squad despite their recent troubles, which raises serious questions about the Big V's depth.

Friday night's 3-3 draw against Central Coast Mariners was another worrying sign for the reigning Hyundai A-League champions, as Tony Walmsley's Gosford-based outfit blitzed Victory on the counter-attack in the first half.

While Muscat's men surged back after the interval to claim a point at Geelong's Simonds Stadium, their first-half performance made it clear they remain far from their best.

Victory have notched just one win in their past seven A-League games, claiming five points from a possible 21.

Heading into the 2015-16 season, the arrivals of Danny Vukovic and Oliver Bozanic had many pundits marvelling at the apparent overall strength of Victory's squad.

But Muscat's preference to select the same core players every week indicates their depth may be a myth.

Kevin Muscat felt his side deserved something from their 2-1 loss to Melbourne City.

The likes of Connor Pain, Jesse Makarounas and Dylan Murnane have failed to prove their worth at A-League level after a number of seasons in Melbourne.

Apart from marquee striker Besart Berisha and captain Carl Valeri, who remains sidelined with an illness affecting his balance, there is hardly a player in Muscat's preferred starting XI that can justify their position after 14 rounds.

Despite the struggles of Fahid Ben Khalfallah, Gui Finkler and Bozanic - amongst others - no fringe player has been able to force their way into the starting line-up.

Before the season, Muscat would have planned to use the above XI as much as possible, with 'Mr Fix-It' Leigh Broxham slotting into defence or midfield depending on the opponent or any absentees.

Veteran striker Archie Thompson would have been Victory's super-sub.

Archie Thompson

The long-term fitness issues of Thompson, Valeri and central defender Nick Ansell have undoubtedly hurt Victory but they have also underlined how top heavy Muscat's squad is.

Apart from Thomas Deng and Rashid Mahazi, none of Muscat's second-tier players have made a consistent impact this season.

Muscat must take some blame for this - he seems unwilling to make a tough call by dropping a senior player, which must be infuriating for the rest of the squad.

But to be fair to Victory's coach, the performances of his younger brigade have generally failed to impress.

The chief culprits have been Pain, Makarounas and Murnane, who have all been around the senior squad since 2012-13, but have yet to fully convince in the A-League.

Pain has managed just three goals and two assists in 49 league matches for Victory and the 22-year-old Olyroos winger's decision making in the attacking third leaves a lot to be desired.

Makarounas has long been regarded as one of the A-League's 'Next Big Things' but after six seasons with Perth Glory and Victory - and just three assists in 33 matches, the 21-year-old needs to make a step-up fast.

Murnane still looks out of his depth against the best wingers in Australia; Fabio Ferreira gave him the run around in Geelong.

All three of Pain, Makarounas and Murnane may go on to have decent A-League careers - age is on their side - but Muscat's reluctance to promote them above senior players this term indicates a lack of trust.

Melbourne Victory

Yes, Victory have lost five players to Olyroos duty but only one - Geria - can genuinely be considered a starter.

Scott Galloway is seemingly out of favour - the full-back has yet to play an A-League match this campaign - while centre-back Giancarlo Gallifuoco has only played three games, with Deng and Pain completing the quintet.

To spark Victory out of their slump, it is vital Muscat identifies some new options within his squad.

Perhaps it is time for the 42-year-old to move past his regular reserves and put his faith in National Youth League products, such as George Howard, Joey Katebian, Calum Goulding and Stefan Nigro?