"A-League analysis" by Brett Taylor (Technology and Information Officer Melbourne Heart FC)
January 2, 2014
Firstly I would like to thank Gerard for inviting me to write for his blog. Like him, I'm a new addition to the Melbourne Heart football department this season. The two of us have formed a good partnership because I can answer all Gerard's questions about the players and teams in the A-League and he can share with me his many stories and lessons from football clubs around the world.
I think the A-League is an excellent place for Gerard to continue his global football journey. It's a unique league where coaches can really see which factors contribute to success or failure. I'll explain why.
In most European leagues, the ladder correlates strongly with the wage spend of each club, so much is decided before a ball is kicked. Some teams know for sure they'll be competing for the title because they have the best players, while others might take a more conservative approach to make sure they don't end up in the bottom three.
In contrast, the A-League has a salary cap, which means that all ten clubs must spend a similar amount of money on player wages. There is no relegation, so the same clubs compete each year. Every club has a short history with some good times and some tough times. We've seen many times that clubs can go from the very bottom to the very top within one season (and vice versa!). Every club has the same ambition, to win the Championship, and it's a realisitic goal for everyone.
For those reasons, it's a very pure competition. It's like a science experiment for football because each club has similar resources to achieve the same goal, so we can see in a controlled environment how different approaches succeed or fail over time.
A successful team is a beautiful combination of many factors, like a delicious meal. What makes a good meal? The ability of the chef? The standard of the kitchen? The quality of the utensils?
In the A-League we can ask the same questions of football. Firstly, the most important variable is the quality of the ingredients, or the players. Here the quality of players is more or less the same at each club. That isolates the other factors and we can think about what else makes the biggest difference. Is it coaches? Facilities? Support staff? How important is it to have your best XI on the pitch? How crucial is fitness? How big a factor is confidence? How important is luck?
The A-League also has a fascinating mixture of tactical styles. Some teams press high, others sit off. Some counter-attack, some keep the ball. Some play out from the back at all costs, others go long. Some adapt to the opposition, some play the same every week. It's a great league in which to study how different styles compare over a season and clash on the pitch.
It's an excellent learning environment and a place where success, like a delicious dish, is extremely rewarding.