Welcome back for 2016! We hope you’ve had an enjoyable festive season and a successful few rounds in Fantasy A-League.
If this is your first time reading: in each edition of the Fantasy A-League Focus we take a look at some of the key issues emerging in the A-League and analyse their implications for fantasy coaches.
International matches typically cause major headaches for Fantasy A-League coaches due to the unavailability of key players through national team duty. Although there are no senior international games being played until March, the Australian under-23 team will be playing in the AFC Championships this month (with the aim of Olympic qualification through this competition).
This tournament runs from the 12th to the 30th of January, meaning that depending on their progress the Australian players could be unavailable for their A-League clubs from Rounds 14 to 17. Australia play their group stage games on the 14th, 17th and 20th, so we can say with absolute certainty the players will not be available for Round 15 while they could still miss 16 even with early elimination.
Based on social media posts such as this one it appears coach Aurelio Vidmar has called the players into camp early, so they will also miss Round 14.
Should they progress to the quarter finals (held on the 22nd and 23rd) we can rule them out of playing in Round 16, while qualification for the semis will rule them out of Round 17, as although these games are played on the 26th (Round 17 begins on the 29th) they will have to play again regardless of success or defeat, as there is a 3rd place play-off held on the 29th.
The A-League players called up to the squad are:
Brisbane Roar: James Donachie, Jamie Maclaren, Brandon Borrello
Central Coast Mariners: Paul Izzo
Melbourne City: Stefan Mauk
Melbourne Victory: Scott Galloway, Giancarlo Gallifuoco, Jason Geria, Thomas Deng, Connor Pain
Sydney FC: Alex Gersbach, Andrew Hoole, Brandon O’Neill
January Transfer Window Opens
Another potential headache for Fantasy A-League coaches (because we can’t get enough of them) is the opening of the transfer window on January 5th.
***update*** The Malik / Williams swap appears to have fallen through.
While none of those moves are likely to impact on any fantasy decisions, the bigger worry is whether fantasy superstar Aaron Mooy will still be an A-League player by the end of the window. He missed the weekend’s 2-2 draw with Sydney FC through ‘general soreness’ (Ivan Franjic and Erik Paartalu were also late withdrawals for City) sparking speculation he could be on the way out of Melbourne. Obviously it would be silly to trade him out until we hear something concrete, but the sooner any speculation is put to bed the better for fantasy coaches.
Another player rumoured to be on the move is Central Coast midfielder Anthony Caceres, who is allegedly out of favour at the Mariners along with Nick Fitzgerald, Anthony Kalik, Glen Trifiro and Matt Sim. Transfer or not, it seems wise to move any of these players on should you own them.
In addition to players leaving the A-League or switching clubs, teams could be adding reinforcements for their push towards the finals. Pay close attention to the news and social media for the latest updates on transfers, this information could pay off in your own push for (Fantasy) A-League glory.
- The Newcastle Jets have now gone 5 games without a goal, and have scored only once in their last 7 outings. They aren’t creating many clear chances either – they have only managed 26 shots on target (SoT) this season (2 per game), the worst of any A-League team by some margin. Indeed, the 9th ranked team for SoT is Wellington, who have had almost twice as many as the dour Jets (51). Given that typically 1 in 3 or 4 shots on target results in a goal (the league as a whole is currently converting 29.9% of SoT into goals) don’t expect the Jets to start banging them in any time soon, unless there is a radical shift in their style of play. This also means their opponents’ defenders are relatively safe fantasy picks on any given week.
- The Jets face Sydney FC this week, who are the league leaders when it comes to Shots on Target allowed – just 29 (2.2 per game). Currently Sydney are conceding from SoT more frequently than any other team; 41.4% of SoT they have allowed have been goals – the next worst team in this respect is Central Coast, conceding from 37% of SoT allowed. So they have been somewhat unlucky / made some poor defensive errors (e.g. Jacques Faty giving away two late penalties in consecutive rounds) and it is fair to expect the number of goals conceded to decrease, unless of course they start allowing more SoT.
- At the other end of the park, Sydney have slumped horribly after managing many shots on target in the early rounds. They currently sit equal 3rd last for SoT (57, with Perth and the Mariners) – and this is despite hitting the target 8 times against City. Graham Arnold needs to add some firepower to his line-up during the January window as it is clear he cannot rely on veterans Shane Smeltz and Matt Simon for goals (1 goal / 5 SoT and 2 goals / 3 SoT this season respectively) or youngster George Blackwood (yet to score / 6 SoT), while Alex Brosque (5 goals / 12 SoT) has struggled with injuries for the last month.
- Bruno Fornaroli can’t stop hitting the target or scoring – he now has 11 goals in 13 games, and has 25 SoT – that’s 6 more SoT than the next best player, Jamie Maclaren. He’s also highly durable, having played 90 minutes in every game this season. You simply must have him, and don’t even contemplate trading him out even if City do lose Mooy.
- With Maclaren set to miss at least one game and possibly as many as four, coaches will be hoping that Roy Krishna (18 SoT) can recover from his rolled ankle in time to play this round – he’s the next best forward option after Fornaroli and Maclaren, while most probably already have Besart Berisha (17 SoT). Alternative options include Alex Brosque (should he overcome his injury issues) and Harry Novillo (12 SoT), while Fabio Ferreira is now fit enough to start – he marked his return to the starting XI with a (penalty) goal from 2 SoT and 3 bonus points for Man of the Match honours. Be wary of his injury prone-ness, however.
- Unsurprisingly, Melbourne City currently lead the league in SoT with 76 (5.8 per game), 12 more than 2nd best Melbourne Victory and 16 more than 3rd best Adelaide. They are however converting SoTs into goals at an above average rate (42.1%), while both Victory (25%) and Adelaide (16.7% – worst in the league) are below average. Given these rates tend to move toward the mean over a season, expect City’s scoring to dip while Victory’s will rise slightly and Adelaide’s significantly – assuming they all continue to hit the target at their current frequency.
- While the beneficiaries of extra goals at Victory are obvious, at Adelaide it’s a little more difficult to pick who might start scoring more often. Currently the only Reds player in double figures for SoT is Craig Goodwin (13), a player who frustrates fantasy coaches as much as he elates them thanks erratic point scoring. This is due to his tendency to be shifted to different positions or even benched – though he hasn’t yet found himself starting on the sidelines under Guillermo Amor. With Adelaide facing Perth, the Mariners and the Jets in the next 4 rounds he may be worth a short-term punt, however. In the forward line, Adelaide’s options appear far less promising – Bruce Djite leads their frontmen in SoT with 8, while Sergio Cirio so far has managed just 1 goal from 7 SoT and 1 assist this season – in the last campaign he had 7 goals (from 24 SoT) and 11 assists, and in 2013/14 he scored 8 and had 3 assists; perhaps a big 2nd half of the season is ahead.
- The Reds’ improvement has also seen them tighten up at the other end of the park – they are now ranked 4th for SoT allowed (53), and have conceded only 3 times in their last 7 games (5 clean sheets). Of their next 6 games, 5 are against teams who rank in the bottom 5 for SoT – the Jets, the Mariners (twice), Sydney and Perth. The other game is away against Brisbane, who will be missing Maclaren and Borrello (ranked #1 and equal #2 at the club for SoT) if the Olyroos advance beyond the group stage. Seems like a good opportunity to pick up an Adelaide defender. If you opt for Jordan Elsey, be wary that he currently sits on 4 yellow cards, 1 off a suspension. He also has the return to fitness of Iacopo La Rocca to worry about, though on current form it would be stiff indeed for Amor to drop him.
Team shots on target and shots on target allowed statistics via Opta / A-League match centre. Player shots on target via Fox Sports Fantasy A-League. The author has complied the team statistics for the season in total, and he is solely responsible for any inaccuracies or errors.