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Fitness Test: Who Will Hit The Ground Running As The A-League Returns?


Cruelly cut short with the season entering its business end several months ago, the Australian A-League is set to restart for an exhilarating final month of action with 27 regular season games set to be played across the span of just 28 days. With a hectic schedule, which teams and players have shown a previous ability to perform under such short turnarounds? 

By: Shane Miles

The new jam-packed A-League schedule has changed the nature of the competition, with an exhilarating but exhausting final month of action seeing 27 regular season games set to be played across the span of just 28 days. The current suite of 11 A-League teams will now be faced with the proposition of playing several games within the span of just a few days on multiple occasions on their run to the post-season. It is not an entirely new situation for some teams, with most having had previous experience with short turnarounds in the A-League as well as mixing up their domestic campaigns with midweek stints in the AFC Champions League.

The congested fixture schedule will see teams forced to play with quick turnarounds in between matches. So historically speaking, how have different A-League sides fared after a short break?

A-League Team Records On Short (<5 days) vs. Long (5+ days) Turnarounds

TeamGames <5 DaysWin Rate <5 DaysGames 5+ daysWin Rate 5+ daysDifference
Wellington Phoenix3551.4%30832.8%+18.6%
Gold Coast United1442.9%7433.8%+9.1%
Newcastle Jets3540.0%35732.5%+7.5%
Central Coast Mariners3336.4%36632.0%+4.4%
Brisbane Roar FC3444.1%36742.5%+1.6%
Melbourne Victory3345.5%36945.3%+0.2%
Western United FC--2040%-
Perth Glory3435.3%35437.9%-2.6%
Sydney FC2540.0%37248.4%-8.4%
Adelaide United2532.0%37540.8%-8.8%
North Queensland Fury911.1%4822.9%-11.8%
New Zealand Knights20.0%4015.0%-15.0%
Melbourne City FC2119.0%25738.5%-19.5%
Western Sydney Wanderers FC1717.6%20038.0%-20.4%

Overall, only one team in the history of the competition has won more games than not when they have had to play with fewer than five days of preparation. The Wellington Phoenix are that squad, having won 51.4% of the 35 games they have played with such little turnaround time in their tenure in the A-League. Not only is it the highest win rate of any team in such fixtures, but it represents the biggest improvement from their win rate on the opposite end of the spectrum of any team. The Wellington side have a win rate of just 32.8% from the 308 games they have played with five days or more to prepare – a difference of nearly 19 percentage points.

To put that into perspective, the next most improved active team in the A-League is the Newcastle Jets who have won 40% of games with fewer than five days turnaround but just 32.5% of games with a turnaround of five days or more.

The resilience earned from having a more intense away-day routine than many other clubs in the competition has turned into reward in recent times for the Wellington Phoenix, when they have been under the pump in quick-turnaround games. The club have won 10 of their last 14 A-League games when they have had to turnaround in four days or fewer, suffering just three defeats in that period (D1).

Sydney FC recruit Kosta Barbarouses could become one of the most important buys in recent seasons if his short-turnaround experience is able to come to the fore in the coming weeks. The experienced playmaker has found the back of the net a total of 11 times in situations where he’s had fewer than five days preparation between A-League appearances – more than any other player has managed across the history of the competition.

Indeed, Barbarouses became just the 5th player in A-League history to score a hat-trick in a game where he had fewer than five days turnaround when he found the back of the net three times against the Brisbane Roar in Round 15, 2018/19.

No other active player in the competition can brag having achieved this feat, though current Brisbane Roar manager Robbie Fowler is among Barbarouses’ peers in this regard. Fowler scored a trio of goals against Melbourne Victory whilst playing for Perth Glory in the 2010/11 season and has scored a total of seven goals in games where he has faced a turnaround of fewer than five days.

At the other end of the pitch, the pressure of a turning round quickly for a goalkeeper cannot be forgotten. Across the years, no goalkeeper has managed to keep a clean sheet on more occasions when playing with a turnaround of five days or fewer than Glen Moss, who only this year retired from the competition.

Legacy goalkeepers make up the remainder of the top four in this regard, with Mat Ryan (7), Ben Kennedy (7), and Clint Bolton (6) all featuring. Among currently active goalkeepers in the A-League it is the experienced Liam Reddy who could prove the difference. The journeyman keeper has managed to keep five clean sheets when playing with a short turnaround in the A-League.

The release of the A-League draw means that clubs are now aware of just how tough a schedule they in for. Sydney duo Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers FC will each face in a turnaround of fewer than five days on three occasions over the 28-day period covering the remainder of the regular season fixtures for the 2019/20 A-League campaign – more than any other clubs. Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix – who will deal with the added burden of playing their ‘home’ games thousands of kilometres from their actual homes – will be the next busiest with two <5 turnarounds each.

Brisbane Roar FC, Melbourne City FC and Melbourne Victory have all avoided a single turnaround of less than five days for the remainder of the season. For Melbourne City FC (23) and Brisbane Roar FC (22) this could simply be attributed to the fact that they have completed more of their regular season fixtures than most other teams already, though Melbourne Victory should consider themselves dealt a favourable month of preparations.

It all comes down to a sprint to the finish line for the 11 A-League clubs in the 2019/20 season, with all but one team still able to grasp an all-important play-off berth.