Is the A-League top six already set with half a season remaining?
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Is the A-League top six already set with half a season remaining?

Barely halfway through the A-League season, the FFA has a problem.

It's not concerns over attendances or television ratings, which have been a constant source of worry these last few seasons.

It's the league table and the way the competition is shaping up.

Perth Glory are clear at the top of the A-League table.

Perth Glory are clear at the top of the A-League table.Credit:AAP

As we go into the third week of January in a home and away season that concludes in late April, all bar Melbourne City and Central Coast (who meet in Gosford on Tuesday night) will have played 13 of their 27 matches.

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But unless things change radically in the second half of the campaign, the top six and the finals places look close to already being determined. If that is the case, then nearly half the competition will have little to play for in the second half of the season.

This potential stagnation will add further weight to the arguments of those calling for the establishment of a second division and the introduction of promotion and relegation as a means of ensuring interest in the league is maintained right through the season - at both ends of the table.

The establishment of the new Western Melbourne club next season and South West Sydney the following year is designed to increase interest and heighten competition. Certainly more derby matches will draw bigger crowds and gain more media focus, but it is imperative that the new clubs hit the ground running when they kick off so that genuine competition throughout the league is sustained.

That looks a bit of a pipe dream at the moment although in the FFA's favour is the fact that the race to finish higher up the ladder to secure a home final is likely to go down to the wire, maintaining interest at least at that end of the table.

Perth Glory (who had 29 points before their late finishing Sunday night game against struggling Western Sydney Wanderers) are leading the charge, while the two Melbourne teams, Sydney and surprise package Wellington look set to join them in this season's playoffs. Adelaide also look to have an excellent chance.

Last season's grand finalists Newcastle have not caught fire this campaign and are well adrift of the top six.

Wellington have been a surprise success story this season.

Wellington have been a surprise success story this season.Credit:AAP

Coach Ernie Merrick admits that the task is growing more difficult as each week goes on.

''There's no doubt that the gap is getting bigger. We are shooting ourselves in the foot, playing so well ... we are just not scoring enough goals [but] we have got a good enough squad to beat anyone,'' he lamented after their loss to Melbourne Victory on Saturday night.

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Still, if there is to be a revival in the second half of the season it is likely to come from the Jets.

The hapless Central Coast have still to win a game this season. Western Sydney are treading water and the move to a permanent new home ground next season can't come quick enough.

Brisbane, who lost 1-0 to Melbourne City on Friday night, are feisty but in a holding pattern, being managed by caretaker coach Darren Davies after John Aloisi parted company with them in December.

Victory last season showed that a top-three finish is not necessary to win the title - they became the first club to take the championship after finishing fourth on the end of season table.

But that doesn't mean lower finishes will become the new normal; winning a semi-final and grand final on the road is extremely difficult, and until it is done again they must be regarded as the exception that proves the rule.

Glory, revitalised under new coach Tony Popovic, will be desperate to confirm their position as top dogs. The West Australians have not hosted a grand final in more than 15 years, since they were big guns in the old NSL.

A big occasion in WA could be just the thing to reinvigorate support for the Glory who were, back in the old days, the best supported club in the league.

And of course end of season positions will have a big say in determining who qualifies for the three Australian positions for the Asian Champions League, so there is plenty for those at the sharp end to focus on.

But it's likely to be a long hot summer where the beach might look more tempting for fans of the strugglers.

Michael Lynch, The Age's expert on soccer, has had extensive experience of high level journalism in the UK and Australia. Michael has covered the Socceroos through Asia, Europe and South America in their past three World Cup campaigns. He has also reported on Grands Prix and top class motor sport from Asia and Europe. He has won several national media awards for both sports and industry journalism.

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