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.
The Front Three
It’s fair to say that if you don’t have Bruno Fornaroli in your team then you probably won’t be winning any accolades in Fantasy A-League this season. Fornaroli is second only to teammate Aaron Mooy in points scored overall, and leads all forwards – indeed, he’s 36 points ahead of his nearest competitor, Besart Berisha. Fornaroli also leads the league in shots on target (36 – that’s 7 more than the second-best, Berisha) and plays for the team leading the league in shots on target. In other words, those goals are not likely to dry up any time soon, so don’t even think about trading him out of your team.
The bigger conundrum is who to include alongside him. We recommend playing a front three, if possible – generally speaking, in fantasy football it is best to maximise the number of attackers you have on the field.
Despite his massive price tag of $351k, Fornaroli’s cross-town rival Besart Berisha must be considered. Berisha (14) is second behind Fornaroli (17) in goals scored in addition to shots on target and points overall for forwards. In the last 9 games, Berisha has scored 8 goals from 20 shots on target and been held scoreless only twice in that run – so, like Fornaroli, it is fair to expect Berisha to keep up the scoring.
Jamie Maclaren should be high on your watchlist also. Since returning from the unsuccessful Olyroos campaign, the Brisbane Roar forward has netted 4 times in 3 games, making it 5 in 4 if we include the win over Perth prior to his departure. He’s also hit the target 9 times in those 4 games, and priced at $85k cheaper than Berisha he is close to being a must-have regardless of your budget.
If you can afford a front three of Fornaroli, Berisha and Maclaren then that is likely to be the optimum forward line you could field. However, there are other options to consider if you don’t have the cash or just want to try something different to break away from the pack.
Kosta Barbarouses has been in decent form of late, albeit not of the goalscoring kind. In his last 7 starts – and despite only scoring 2 goals – Barbarouses has averaged a return of 10.4 points. However, his form has waned in the last 4 games, still nonetheless averaging 7 points per game. This is not the time to make a move on him though, and if you have him it is advisable to trade him to another forward option as Barbarouses is suspended for this round due to yellow card accumulation.
Harry Novillo is the 3rd City player to have behind Mooy and Fornaroli – he’s not as prolific or as stable in point scoring as his teammates, but he nonetheless has 5 goals in his last 6 games. This has come from only 7 shots on target though, and his last two returns of 4 and 3 points may have coaches contemplating a trade. City do face the Mariners this week, however – only City themselves have allowed their opponents more shots on target (118) than the Mariners (108) this season, followed by Wellington (4th most shots on target allowed). So if you are thinking about moving Novillo on, maybe give him one more chance to prove himself.
Mark Bridge is also in decent form at the moment, scoring 4 goals in his last 4 games and averaging 9 points per game in that time – though this includes a low score of 2 against Melbourne Victory in Round 18. He’s also quite cheap for a good forward option, priced at $243k. After being hammered at home by Wellington, expect some sort of response in the derby this weekend – especially considering that the Wanderers have already been defeated twice by the currently shaky Sky Blues this season.
Perhaps the most unlikely form forward at the moment is Milos Trifunovic, a man playing for the worst offensive side in the league. While the Jets are only averaging 2.3 shots on target per game this season (Wellington, the 2nd worst team in this statistic, average 4 per game), they have improved their attacking output in recent weeks. In their last 5 games the Jets have averaged 3.6 shots on target, hitting the target 6 times against both Melbourne City and Wellington. Trifunovic has scored 5 goals in that run from 7 shots on target – that’s 1 goal more than he managed in his first 13 games. While neither a prolific or destructive player, he is on penalty duties, which helps immensely – 3 of those goals have come from the spot. With matches against Wellington and Central Coast in their next two games, perhaps it’s time to consider a cheeky punt on Milos T.
We’ll bet that the 6 coaches who traded out Blake Powell last week are kicking themselves, with the Wellington forward coming from nowhere to score 4 goals against Western Sydney. While Powell has hardly been prolific of late – 2 goals in his previous 6 games before Sunday, both against Central Coast – he will no doubt now come under renewed consideration from fantasy coaches after that outburst. The Nix were struggling and in need of a spark – can Powell repeat the trick and be that spark? It is unlikely he – or anyone in the league – will again score 4 goals in a game (and from only 4 shots on target at that) but he has the opportunity to increase his tally in the next two rounds against the defensively suspect Jets and Melbourne City. He’s also super cheap at only $146k, so if the risk does pay off you have plenty of cash to beef up the rest of your team. But it is a massive risk.
Finally – and speaking of teams needing a spark – Sydney FC’s Alex Brosque returned from injury on Saturday against Perth. Prior to his latest layoff Brosque was in quite good form, scoring 4 goals in 5 games from 6 shots on target. Sydney need something up front to get their season back on track, and while he didn’t have the best game last round he’ll nonetheless be thrilled to have got through 90 minutes for the first time since Round 8. Perhaps he’s just about ready to spring another ambush on the Wanderers in the derby this week.
Cheapie Defender Carnage
The cheapie defender ranks have taken a few hits in recent weeks, so let’s try and get some solid picks sorted out here. Daniel Bowles has been a star this season, filling in at centre back for the Roar, however after consecutive hammerings he was jettisoned from the line-up for James Donachie, who is $40k more expensive than Bowles. Likewise, veteran Shane Stefanutto has been ousted by Corey Brown. However, Brown’s catastrophic defending on Friday night may see him lose the spot back to Stefanutto next week. The safe pick at Roar now is Jack Hingert, who has held down the right back spot for the entire season. Unfortunately he’s priced at $150k, meaning that if you are still trying to offload Bowles (or another cheapie) you may need to look at freeing up some cash elsewhere in your team.
The injury and then departure of Osama Malik to Melbourne City has opened up a spot in defence for Adelaide, with Jordan Elsey ($122k) and Iacopo La Rocca ($117k) vying for it. Elsey initially claimed the spot while La Rocca was also injured and performed admirably, however since La Rocca’s return to fitness Elsey has been shifted to right back (where he is far less accomplished) to accommodate his teammate and then had a poor outing in the Asian Champions League qualifier. La Rocca is currently suspended until Round 22 (though the Reds will attempt to appeal the suspension this week) so Elsey should be safe to keep until then, but the evidence we have so far suggests La Rocca is likely to claim the spot when he returns, and Michael Marrone should continue as the Reds’ first choice right back also – leaving Elsey without a spot.
Perth provide us with some solid cheapies who seem locked into the XI – Marc Warren ($106k) has performed competently, while teammate Alex Grant has starred since being sent off against Adelaide in Round 14, scoring against the Jets on his return from suspension and then taking man of the match honours (and 3 bonus points) against Wellington in Round 18. Both are well worth considering if you don’t already own them, as is Shane Lowry at $150k if you have a little more cash to splash.
The Mariners may be terrible at defending but they do give us two cheap options to fill our bench with. Jake McGing ($102k) was briefly dropped but since seems to have reclaimed his spot in the XI, making him once again a viable option as a low-priced substitute. Jacob Poscoliero is a little safer at $115k, but you aren’t getting much value for that extra $13k besides security for a player to likely be your 5th choice defender. Likewise, best to avoid Storm Roux ($145k) and Michael Neill ($142k) as you won’t be getting many points out of them.
Scott Galloway ($137k) has emerged in the last couple of weeks after not playing a single minute for Victory this season. He currently stands as a cheap link into Victory’s defence, but given the number of options Victory have his job security will always be in question, making him a risky pick. Also, Victory haven’t kept a clean sheet in either of those two games.
The Jets aren’t fantastic defensively but if you’ve read through all of the above and are still in search of options, Jason Hoffman ($129k) and Daniel Mullen ($136k) are both clearly in the Jets’ best XI, while Nick Cowburn ($125k) has been starting or getting regular minutes of late. Lachlan Jackson ($104k) sadly seems to have lost his spot in the XI and may have to be traded out if you are running low on playing defenders.
Wellington’s Dylan Fox has started the last 3 games for the Nix and is only priced at $104k – like the Mariners and Jets, the Nix are a terrible defensive team but he’s another candidate for the ‘bench filler who can play if desperately needed’ role. Tom Doyle ($120k) has also found a spot in the XI recently, but (as in Sunday’s game) Merrick is sometimes inclined to sub him out at half time.
The Wanderers provided us with a solid option in Alberto Aguilar ($154k), however he is suspended until Round 21. Furthermore, his replacement Jonathan Aspro(potamitis) was sent off against Wellington, burning all 20 coaches who brought him in last week. Aguilar should be okay to get once he returns, but for now look to someone else if you are short on defenders.
Team shots on target and shots on target allowed statistics via Opta / A-League match centre, then compiled by the author. Player shots on target via Fox Sports Fantasy A-League.