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  • Writer's pictureCaydn Foley

Failing to convert: Melbourne Victory's all too familiar issue

Melbourne Victory’s undefeated streak was broken last Saturday night in a 1-0 loss to Macarthur. While it was an impressive run of 15 matches, a different story quickly presents itself when you look under the hood and observe nine draws and only four clean sheets.

Tony Popovic was largely unimpressed with his side's performance against Macarthur last week. (Image: Melbourne Victory Instagram)


Melbourne Victory were sloppy in the first half despite having more of the ball and more chances on goal; their crosses into the box from their wingers were often misplaced or not at a great height for Bruno Fornaroli to attack.


Most of Victory's chances have been created through cutbacks and crosses, mainly down the right side through former Socceroo Daniel Arzani, who is second in the league for big chances created, only behind Sydney FC star Joe Lolley.


When asked what needs to change for Victory to improve at closing out games, manager Tony Popovic felt that their whole system needs to be reviewed.


“We have to look at everything, we are getting in front of goal and missing opportunities. Whether the players are anxious, we have to be a bit more decisive in our opportunities and, you know, they had one and took it. If we always scored every opportunity then the score-lines would be very different,” he said.


“But I'm more concerned today that the first half wasn't good. It's the first time this year I felt the first half was a poor performance from us. We created the chances in the second half, we dominated, and we got control of the game. But you need that decisive goal, and I'm not talking about the penalty.


"Of course, we would love for Bruno [Fornaroli] to have scored that, but we had a lot of opportunities in the game where the finish wasn't quite precise enough, not decisive enough. That's an area we have got to do better but we have got to try and get a clean sheet as well.”


The difference between Arzani and Lolley is that the Englishman's chances are being converted at a higher rate than the Australian's. A contributing factor to that statistic may potentially be that Lolley has more clinical finishers on his side than Arzani does.


It is no secret that Melbourne Victory have almost solely relied on Fornaroli’s elite finishing ability. Still, as demonstrated in their loss against Macarthur, if Fornaroli has an off day, Victory does not have a second clinical goalscorer who can step up to share the load.

Daniel Arzani is currently second in the league for big chances created. (Image: Harley Appezzato)


Currently, Melbourne Victory’s second-highest scorer is Zinedine Machach. Nonetheless, the Frenchman is not the type of player who can be a 10-goal-a-season contributor as he is more an attacking midfielder who uses his physicality as a method to open up space for players around him to have opportunities on goal.


Melbourne Victory would have been hoping before the season began that their wingers, Arzani, Nishan Velupillay, and Ben Folami, would have had more contributions to their goal tally. Yet none of those players have stepped up consistently enough to ease Fornaroli's burden.

 

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Another issue Victory face is their lack of a creative midfield orchestrator. When looking at the other teams currently sitting in the top six, it becomes clear that each of them has one player in the midfield whose sole role is to create chances by making incisive passes to break down low-block defences.

For instance, the Central Coast Mariners currently sit second on the table and have Josh Nisbet. The midfielder has taken up a more creative role exceptionally well following the departure of Marco Tulio and now leads the league in assists and creates, on average, two chances per game.


Another example is Sydney FC’s Anthony Caceres, who admittedly had a slow start to the season but, in recent weeks, has started finding some of his best form. Caceres' resurgence has been a critical reason why Sydney has been able to turn their season around and climb back into the top six.


Melbourne Victory's most used midfield trio glaringly lacks a player who fits that profile.


Ryan Teague is an outstanding defensive midfielder who is elite at building up play from deep and winning back possession. But he is not a player who will consistently create big chances for Victory’s attacking unit. Jake Brimmer does have an incisive pass in his locker but not at a consistent level; however, when Victory has a set piece in their attacking half, Brimmer is highly talented in dead-ball situations, and more often than not, he will create something special for his team.


Zinedine Machach's aforementioned strengths are complimentary to Victory's attacking players, but he is not the direct creator Victory are lacking.

Zinedine Machach is a powerful, complimentary midfielder, not a primary creator who can break down low-block defences. (Image: Harley Appezzato)


Looking ahead, Melbourne Victory will be facing cross-town rivals Melbourne City in the second Melbourne Derby of the season. This game could represent a perfect opportunity for Victory to get back into some form in front of a packed house and against a struggling City side who are coming off a shocking 5-1 defeat at the hands of Brisbane Roar.


Popovic spoke last week about the derby and said that he is expecting a reaction after the disappointing performance against Macarthur.


“We need a reaction. It's our first defeat of the season, so we've done okay. We've had a good season so far; undefeated in 15 games. It's something that I'm sure will be in the history books, so everyone should be proud of that," Popovic shared.


"Now we've got to start it again, put this defeat behind us. We've got to acknowledge it. We've got to address it and make sure that our performance is better. We shouldn't need a derby to play well, so we need to get a good reaction next week, get the performance right, and that'll give us a chance in the derby to win.”


We should expect a fast start from Popovic's side in the derby. Should that start lead to several chances, Victory cannot solely rely on their league-leading talisman - whose availability is up in the air - to convert the dominance and set the tone for three points.


Every contender needs a Fornaroli but it also needs a strong supporting cast. Certain personnel need to step up into the vacant roles of secondary goalscorer and chief creator, or Popovic needs to find that within his squad. Either way, it is essential in Victory regaining their form and continuing to prove their worth as a championship threat this season.


All statistics sourced from FotMob.



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