You couldn’t have written a better start to the season for Melbourne Victory.
Top 3 in the league after 9 games and a second FFA Cup title in the trophy cabinet. It seemed that the ‘old’ Victory was back.
However, three losses in a row have Victory sitting just inside the top 6 and a shell of what they were a matter of weeks ago.
Is this just a cup hangover, or is this the start of something bad at Melbourne Victory?
What has changed in three weeks?
It has been bizarre to see the drastic shift in results from this seemingly very good Melbourne Victory side. During the early portion of the season, they looked near unstoppable. Losing only one game in the first 3 months of the season and being crowned FFA Cup champions for the second time.
However, three losses on the bounce have left many Victory fans either confused or worried about the worst-case scenario.
It looked like they had finally escaped the hole they were in and were making a return to where they belonged. Only for them to be shot back down to reality in a matter of days.
All three losses have come against sides who, at the time of the match, were below Victory on the ladder. Including a 1-0 loss to the Wellington Phoenix who they had beaten 4-1 11 days before, A 2-1 loss to a very inconsistent Newcastle Jets side, and a 2-0 loss away to the Western Sydney Wanderers.
To understand whether this poor run of results has been incredibly unlucky or a long time coming, you need to look back at their form before their FFA Cup triumph.
In all their A-League matches, Victory had higher expected goals (xg) than their opponents in five of their eight games. While that stat potentially shows that they were dominant in most of their games. In two of those matches, they led in that department by at most, 0.06 xg. This slim margin shows that their perceived advantage, might not be as big as it seems.
As well as this, in the matches that ended as a draw, the opposition had more xg on two of the three occasions.
This translates into Victory’s most recent matches. With the game against Newcastle being 1.54xg each. And the match against Wellington was 1.04 to 1.02 in favour of the home side.
What this shows is that Victory’s early-season dominance could be attributed to them being ruthlessly efficient in front of goal. While their opposition lacked that same attribute. This potential luck that Victory had at the start of the season has seemed to have run out.
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Putting luck to one side, there has been a drastic personnel change that might have affected Victory more than people would’ve thought.
Melbourne Victory is undefeated when Rai Marchan is on the pitch. In the four matches, Marchan has played the full 90 minutes, Victory has taken 10 points from 12.
His sending off against Perth Glory came when the scores were still at 0-0 and his horrific injury in the Big Blue came when the scores were deadlocked at 1-1.
The only time Victory was behind when Marchan was on the pitch was seven minutes in the Melbourne Derby. The four-times Victory have lost a game this season, Marchan was not on the pitch
His return could potentially be the catalyst for change at the Victory. He can dictate the tempo and allow the likes of Jake Brimmer and Josh Brillante to thrive in less restrictive roles.
Other injuries and suspensions haven’t allowed Victory to play at their full strength. With Leigh Broxham and Birkan Kirdar both featuring prevalently in the midfield double pivot, despite both not being first-choice players.
Is this a cup hangover?
A hangover doesn’t normally last three matches.
Melbourne Victory has had time to recalibrate and refresh themselves for their title push. While three games in seven games don’t help that, they have enough quality to be able to stem that flow and get back to that early season form.
It will be interesting to see how coach Tony Popovic can get this side back to where they were at the start of the season. He broke his cup final duck, now it’s his job to push on and get that A-League final monkey off his back.
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