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Why This A-League Season Might Be The Best Yet

 

An off-season of just 119 days is coming to an end for the Australian A-League as the competition enters what is poised to be one of the most exciting iterations in its history. A return to more familiar territories, fresh faces across the competition, and a brand-new team in the Macarthur Bulls mean that there is plenty to dissect with just days left until the season kicks off.

By: Shane Miles

Teams Tested by Rapid Schedule

One of the defining characteristics of the second leg of the 2019/20 A-League season was the continuous pace of the competition with at least one game being played almost every day for a month. It’s a fixture list we’ll have to familiarise ourselves with given that the upcoming 2020/21 season is set to feature a similar continuous schedule.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the two most decorated teams in A-League history in terms of Championships and Premierships that stand atop the table on win rate on weekdays. Sydney FC (50%) and Melbourne Victory (46%) are head and shoulders above the rest of the pack.

The last five seasons have seen the emergency of fellow Victoria outfit Melbourne City FC as a weekday specialist, with City picking up wins in 28 of their 59 games in that span.

The Wellington Phoenix – who’s next weekday game will be their 100th weekday game in the competition – have struggled in recent seasons, picking up wins in just one in four of their games not on a weekend. Only the Central Coast Mariners (20%) rank lower than the New Zealand team in this category.

Brisbane Roar FC have been playing for the weekend better than any other club in the short term. They are currently undefeated in their last six A-League games played on a weekday (W4, D2) which is the longest active streak of any team.

The season is set to kick off on December 28th this year, right in the middle of the festive season. The period between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day has been most fruitful for Melbourne Victory, who’ve picked up six wins and three draws in that time. No currently active team is undefeated here, though.

A-League in the Holidays (26/12 – 31/12):

TeamPWDLWin%
Melbourne Victory1063160%
Adelaide United1792653%
Gold Coast United422050%
New Zealand Knights211050%
Sydney FC1472550%
Brisbane Roar FC1463543%
Wellington Phoenix1253442%
Melbourne City FC522140$
Central Coast Mariners1973937%
Perth Glory1334623%
Newcastle Jets120390%
Western Sydney Wanderers FC30210%
Western United FC10010%

Among teams yet to snag a win during the most festive part of the season, it’s the Newcastle Jets who are the only foundation club among them. The Jets have lost nine and drawn three games in that span and will this year face the Central Coast Mariners on New Year’s Eve. It will be the third time they’ve played on the final day of the year and the first since 2011; they’ve earned a draw and a loss from their previous two.

You Must Be New Here

A-League expansion continues for the second straight season with Macarthur FC set to become the fifth team based in New South Wales in the competition.

Perhaps counterintuitively, being a newcomer in the A-League has spelt success rather than faltering steps for the majority. Western United FC’s first foray in 2019/20 saw them participate in the finals in their inaugural year after picking up 39 competition points from 26 games while the remarkable achievements of Western Sydney Wanderers FC and their table-topping maiden campaign will forever be part of the competition’s lore.

A-League Teams – First Seasons:

ClubSeasonPWDLPtsW%Pts/Game
Western Sydney Wanderers FC2012/132718365767%2.1
Adelaide United2005/062113444362%2.0
Sydney FC2005/062110653648%1.7
Gold Coast United2009/102713594448%1.6
Central Coast Mariners2005/06218853238%1.5
Western United FC2019/2026123113946%1.5
Newcastle Jets2005/06219483143%1.5
Perth Glory2005/06218582938%1.4
Brisbane Roar2005/06217772833%1.3
Melbourne Victory2005/06217592633%1.2
North Queensland Fury2009/102788113230%1.2
Melbourne City FC2011/1230811113527%1.2
Wellington Phoenix2007/082155112024%1.0
New Zealand Knights2005/0621131765%0.3

All but two teams in A-League history have picked up at least one point-per-game in their inaugural season in the competition. Only New Zealand duo the Knights (0.3) and Phoenix (0.95) have failed to reach that mark.

Given the expertise than has been recruited into the ranks at Macarthur FC it’s likely that we will see this streak of hot starts for A-League newcomers continue in the 2020/21 season.

Youth at the Forefront

The 2019/20 campaign saw a return to reliance on youth among almost all squads in the A-League, with only two clubs delegating a lower percentage of their total minutes played to players under 23 years of age on the day than in the season prior.

Only Central Coast were more reliant on their under-23 contingent than Adelaide United who allotted nearly one third of their total minutes to players of such youth. It was a significant increase on their 2018/19 percentage of just 13%.

Sydney FC gave just 10% of their total minutes on the pitch to players under 23 years of age on the day which was the lowest of any team in the competition but still an increase on the measly seven percent of the 2018/19 season prior.

The two Victoria clubs of Melbourne Victory and Western United FC were the only outfits to not see a single one of their goals scored in the 2019/20 come from a player who was under 23 years of age on the day. Again it was Adelaide United who shone with their youth, scoring 43% of their total goals via the boots of those under 23 years old. This came in large part to the antics of Riley McGree who scored 10 goals as a player under 23 years of age – more than twice as many as any other player (George Blackwood – 4).

The storylines come thick and fast in what is promising to be one of the most pivotal A-League seasons in the competition’s 16-year history.


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