28/05/2024

Melbourne Victory has had its best start to the A-League Men season since 2006/07. (Photo: Melbourne Victory)

Melbourne Victory's 2021/22 A-League Men season is showing very similar signs to its 2006/07 championship side.

How does a side that finished bottom of the league only a year prior, start its following campaign two wins from two and have done so by a clean sheet?

That’s a question that Melbourne Victory fans would be asking themselves but wouldn’t be too overly concerned about how, following their team’s 3-0 win on Sunday afternoon to Brisbane Roar.

Melbourne Victory’s start to the 2021/22 A-League Men season is its best since 2006/07, showing promising signs that Tony Popovic’s new army in the blue, white and silver may just be a championship side.

Back in 2006/07 though, it was a side and league much different to now.

The A-League was made up of eight sides, and Queensland Roar and New Zealand Knights were in the competition.

For Victory, Ernie Merrick was head coach, with Kevin Muscat as captain and Archie Thompson his side’s leading goal scorer. Victory was also looking for redemption on their seventh-place finish from the season before.

The way the 2021/22 season as played out for Victory so far is a case of deja vu to 2006/07, where this season they look to make up for a horrid bottom of the table finish in 2020/21.

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Victory this season playing a number of new players who have never played together can also correlate to the 2006/07 side that had only spent one season in the A-League together prior.

In 2006/07, Victory had seven new players come in for the seven they lost. During this year’s transfer period, 12 Victory players departed.

Looking at the score lines, Victory defeated Adelaide United and Sydney FC by 2-0 and 3-2 respectively in the first two rounds of 2006/07, making their 1-0 and 3-0 to Western United and Brisbane Roar respectively a better start by both clean sheet and goal difference (three in 2006/07, four this season).

But just how does 2021/22 Melbourne Victory attempt to finish this season like they did in 2006/07?

For those needing the reminder, Victory finished holders of the double premiership and championship, with their grand final win also securing them a spot in the AFC Champions League.

Speaking at the post-match press conference, Popovic said that he’s expecting more signs of improvement from his side and would need to do more to remain in the mix atop of the ladder.

“We obviously want it to get better and we’ll keep working hard on trying to get it better each week and hopefully there’s more signs of improvement next week when we play Perth,” he said.

“We’ll keep pushing to improve every day and there’s no limit. Let’s see how far it takes us.

“At the moment it’s good we can see that we improved from last week to this week, we’ll work hard again to do the same in the FFA Cup and obviously against Perth at home, we’ll try and keep growing. No one gives you the points.

“It’s not easy and we’ll work very hard to try and continue on the run of improvement. If that happens then we feel we have a chance to win another game next week.”

Popovic coaches his sides to play for clean sheets, and that he has been able to do.

Down front, Marco Rojas – who was one of the best afield against the Roar – Robbie Kruse, Chris Ikonomidis, Jake Brimmer and Nick D’Agostino are shaping to be one of Victory’s best forward combinations.

Against Brisbane, minus Ikonomidis, the group made scoring look easy once settled into the game, making the most of their opportunities.

Although having 15 scoring shots, six of which were on target, Brisbane simply could not convert any of the chances.

Rojas was the difference in each of Victory’s goals, with the 30-year-old involved in all three of his side’s conversions, and the man who created the scoring opportunity for D’Agostino and Ben Folami’s goals.

Struggling with injuries since transferring back to Victory in 2019/20, Rojas managed 16 games across his first two seasons. Now looking his fittest since arriving, Rojas’ performance particularly against the Roar proves his position among the new-look forward line formed by Popovic.

By all means, Rojas is not the difference that will see Melbourne Victory this season replicate the one had in 2006/07. He is though playing in a side who looks hungrier than ever to return Victory back to the championship days.

But when you’re creating as many successful chances as Rojas did, in a side that last year scored the third most lowest goals for, and conceded the most goals, it’s hard to look past him as being one of the key elements to Victory’s potential success this season.

Time will only tell, with football proving time and time again that you cannot determine a season’s outcome in just its first few rounds.

Victory will be tested by playing Perth at home this Sunday after narrowly beating the Glory 5-4 on Wednesday in the FFA Cup, before heading away in round four to face Adelaide United which almost caused an early season upset against reigning champions Melbourne City, coming back to draw 2-2 on Saturday.

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