The Run Home
In this edition of the Fantasy A-League Focus we look at the remaining games for each club, and analyse what the fixtures likely mean for the team’s top fantasy prospects.
Adelaide United (1st)
Remaining fixtures: City (H), Wanderers (a), Mariners (H), Sydney (a), City (a)
Adelaide’s incredible turnaround reached its zenith on the weekend, with the Reds claiming top spot after a 4-0 hammering of Wellington. They are currently 14 games undefeated in the league after failing to win any of their first 8 matches.
Their defence has been key to this revival. In the first 8 games Adelaide copped 17 goals – in the 14 since, they’ve allowed just 8. Clean sheets have been at a premium in recent rounds for most teams. Prior to Round 22, there had been only 8 in the last 35 games; 4 of these were kept by the Reds, and they added another on the weekend.
However, before trading in any United defenders for the last 5 rounds there are some concerns to address. The fixtures aren’t easy, with only the home game against the hapless Mariners likely to produce a clean sheet – though the trip to struggling Sydney may also. Adelaide have two games against City, the league’s top scorers and producer of shots on target, while the Wanderers away is also likely to provide a thorough examination of both Adelaide’s defence and their Premiership credentials. Though Adelaide are one of only two teams to hold the Wanderers scoreless this season, and the only to do so at Parramatta.
The other issue is that, besides the durable Dylan McGowan ($182k) or Michael Marrone ($160k), it’s hard to pin down a certainty in the Reds’ defence. Tarek Elrich ($241k) is probably too expensive to squeeze into your team, and according to the Adelaide Advertiser on Monday he’s expected to miss the upcoming round with injury.
The two cheap options, Jordan Elsey ($128k) and Iacopo La Rocca ($115k), are left to battle it out for the last spot in the back 4 – and a spot in your fantasy side. Elsey appears to be the incumbent, with the young centre back keeping his position on the weekend despite La Rocca’s return from suspension. Interestingly when Elrich was forced to come off against Wellington, instead of the expected move of shifting Craig Goodwin (more on him in a moment) to left back, coach Amor put Elsey out wide & La Rocca in at centre back. It will be interesting to see if both men again line up for the Reds on Friday night or if this was a one-off. The other scenario that could see both men start is if Amor opts to have La Rocca replace the young and inexperienced George Mells in midfield. Mells is covering for Isaias, who is out for at least another 3 weeks. Fortunately the Reds play on Friday night, so if you can wait until the team sheets are revealed you will have all the information you need to make the right move (if any).
In midfield, there are two standouts for the Reds – Craig Goodwin ($267k) and Stefan Mauk ($174k). This season Goodwin has established himself as a key member of the attack, highlighted by Amor’s reluctance to move him to left back on Saturday. He is the Reds’ top fantasy point scorer and has been vital to their turnaround – since Round 12, Goodwin has scored under 7 points in just 2 of 9 games, averaging 9 points per game. Be wary however that he is not likely to produce goals on current form, hitting the target twice in his last five games. Also make sure when the team sheets are revealed that Amor hasn’t moved him to left back to cover Elrich.
Mauk is potentially the solution to the #4 spot in your midfield. He has been hugely productive since the switch to Adelaide, averaging 7.4 points per game over his last 5 – including 2 goals (from 3 shots on target), an assist and 5 bonus points. There is some small threat that he could be benched for Mells, though that is unlikely on current form. If you still have Mitch Austin as your fourth midfielder, strongly consider freeing up the cash to make a move for Mauk.
Brisbane Roar (3rd)
Remaining fixtures: Victory (H), City (a), Sydney (H), Newcastle (H), Victory (a)
After copping 9 goals in two rounds, the Roar reignited their title hopes with a 3-2 win over fellow contenders Western Sydney. They can also take some comfort from the fact that, while difficult matches await, three of their last five games are at home, where they have been defeated only once (by Adelaide, and without Maclaren).
Unlike Adelaide, Brisbane’s defence has not been a crucial part of their success. Since Round 7 the Roar have kept only 3 clean sheets: twice against the Mariners and one against a short-handed Wellington.
Instead it is the attack where Brisbane have excelled. They have been held scoreless just 4 times, and two of those games were with Maclaren missing. Only City have scored more goals than the Roar.
The message is clear to fantasy coaches: if you don’t have Jamie Maclaren ($275k), you need to get him. Since Round 13 he has averaged 12.3 points per game, with 5 of 7 scores in double figures. This includes 8 goals from 14 shots on target – indeed, he has hit the target at least once in all but 3 rounds this season.
Otherwise, there’s not a lot of value in the Roar. Corona ($248k) is too inconsistent with his scoring to be a true fantasy prospect (as you’d expect from someone playing deep in midfield), while Thomas Broich ($317k) simply isn’t worth his high price tag anymore.
Cheapie defender Daniel Bowles ($120k) was helpful earlier in the season before losing his spot to James Donachie ($163k), though he is currently back in the starting XI due to a knee injury to Donachie. It isn’t clear how long Donachie is expected to be out for, as it was initially reported he would only miss the game against Adelaide. Hopefully we will hear an update when the squads are released for this round to help any fantasy coaches make a call on Bowles. Jack Hingert ($145k) is the safe choice in the Roar defence if you can spare the extra $25k. Jamie Young ($168k) has lost his spot to Michael Theo ($264k) – if he is able to reclaim it, strongly consider getting him to free up cash as he’s even cheaper than Paul Izzo. Theo is in doubt for this round, however Young would need to permanently regain the spot to be of use to us.
Central Coast Mariners (10th)
Remaining fixtures: Perth (a), Sydney (H), Adelaide (a), Wanderers (a), Newcastle (H)
The Mariners have been a disaster. After beating Perth in Round 1, they have only defeated Wellington home and away and drawn with them, the Jets and the Victory (a game in which they led 3-0). Every other game has ended in a loss and they are yet to keep a clean sheet. Looking at their remaining fixtures, it’s hard to see them collecting more than a point or two to close out the season.
After hitting the target fairly regularly in the early rounds, the Mariners have fallen off terribly and now only the Jets are below them in terms of shots on target produced. In fact they have had only 4 shots on target in the last 4 games, scoring from 3 of them. The return of Roy O’Donovan from suspension didn’t help on the weekend, where they didn’t hit the target at all against Victory.
Besides cheapie options like Paul Izzo ($183k) and Mitch Austin ($135k) there really isn’t anything on offer at the Mariners. To add to the pain, Austin has been struggling with injury of late and came off after 35 minutes on Sunday. A switch to Mauk could and should be on the cards if you can afford it.
Fabio Ferreira ($261k) has struggled to produce anything near his best this season, and with clearer and far more reliable forward options out there he’s not worth considering. Luis Garcia ($185k) has been poor since his initial flurry, and even at that seemingly low price you likely won’t get much out of him.
Unless you are desperate to free up cash with cheapies, give the Mariners a miss.
Melbourne City (4th)
Remaining fixtures: Adelaide (a), Brisbane (H), Wellington (H), Perth (a), Adelaide (H)
City have been touted for much of the season as a title contender or even the favourite; however due to their porous defence (Saturday’s clean sheet against Sydney was only their second of the season) they are 4 points adrift of Adelaide with 5 games to go. They do have the opportunity to make up this difference by beating the Reds home and away, and they can make up the 3 points they trail Brisbane by beating them as well. Easier said than done, but City are definitely still in the race for the Premiers’ Plate.
A lot of their success is due to three players – Bruno Fornaroli ($285k), Aaron Mooy (382k) and Harry Novillo ($269k). Simply put, don’t bother considering anyone else from City. Their next highest scorer after Novillo (123 points) is Erik Paartalu with 81, and he is no longer with the club – having last played in Round 17.
Fornaroli may have made some fantasy coaches nervous by failing to score in Rounds 21 and 22, but he bounced back in style with a hat trick against Sydney. You simply have to have him. Likewise Mooy – you can probably write your season off if you don’t already have him. He (241) and Fornaroli (213) are the only two players to have scored over 200 points this season. The next best is Mitch Nichols on 167.
Novillo is the only one you can afford to miss, as a strike force of Fornaroli, Maclaren and Berisha is probably the way to go if you can afford them all. If you can’t, then Novillo comes into considerations. He is somewhat inconsistent, with scores of 7, 4, 3 and 6 in his last 4 games – though he scored 17 in the game prior. He also has failed to get a shot on target in his last 2 games; in the 7 previous to that, he’d only failed to hit the target once. He is capable of racking up big scores but he may find it tough to produce them given City have some difficult fixtures remaining.
Melbourne Victory (5th)
Remaining fixtures: Brisbane (a), Newcastle (H), Wanderers (H), Wellington (a), Brisbane (H)
The Victory looked favourites at the start of the season to sweep all before them again, however since winning the FFA Cup that hasn’t happened. While not the dominant force they were last season, Muscat’s men are nonetheless in touching distance of the top and do provide us with some fantasy options.
Victory’s remaining fixtures aren’t terrible – the Jets and Wellington games would be earmarked for 6 points, and while they do face Brisbane twice and the Wanderers, they will do so on their own turf in two of those games.
If you can afford Besart Berisha ($350k), you should strongly consider getting him. While he has been overshadowed by Fornaroli this season, he’s still managed 15 goals. Coaches may have been concerned after 3 goalless rounds – including 2 where he failed to hit the target at all – however he bounced back with a goal against the Mariners this week. No one relishes crunch games like Berisha, and there are several ahead for the Victory. He could well be about to come into his element. And though there are fears he could be rested due to Victory’s fixture pile-up, if he’s fit to play he will play – he’s too much of a competitor.
If you can’t afford Berisha or simply don’t think he’s worth the money, Victory do provide another forward option in Kosta Barbarouses ($278k). Since Round 13 he has been a reliable scorer of points, averaging 10.5 per game. He is capable of both scoring (5 goals from 21 shots on target – this suggests he could score more) and creating (9 assists from 40 shot assists). He is currently suspended, so coaches will need to wait until Round 24 before considering him. His inclusion in Victory’s ACL squad could also see him rested against the likes of Newcastle and Wellington.
Another forward option at Victory, Fahid Ben Khalfallah ($286k) has seemingly under-performed this season. However, his exclusion from the ACL campaign perhaps has sparked something in him. In the last four rounds he’s produced scores of 8, 3, 8 and 10, including 2 goals (from 6 shots on target) and an assist (from 5 shot assists). There is no fear of him being rested and with the Victory machine about to gear up for another crack at silverware, it might be time to consider a punt on FBK.
Gui Finkler ($313k) hasn’t had a great season in fantasy – like Broich, he seems to have fallen well below the value his price tag would suggest. Though he too has been excluded from the ACL squad (again!) there are better options to look at in midfield – he is capable still of big points hauls, but they are too infrequent – his last 9 games have produced a 13 and a 12, but also scores of 2, 2, 3, 3, 3 and 4. Far too frustrating for that price.
In defence, your best bet is cheapie Scott Galloway ($138k) – he has started every game since playing for the first time this season in Round 18. Victory’s defence isn’t spectacular, but they have kept 6 clean sheets this season and could do so against both Newcastle and Wellington.
Newcastle Jets (8th)
Remaining fixtures: Wanderers (H), Victory (a), Perth (H), Brisbane (a), Mariners (a)
Despite an ordinary season overall, the Jets have shown some solid signs in recent weeks. They still sit comfortably last in terms of shots on target (53 – that’s 29 less than the 9th ranked Mariners) but they have scored 12 goals in their last 8 games (from 27 shots on target), coming after a run of 6 games where they failed to score at all. There have been 4 wins in that period too.
However, their remaining fixtures are quite difficult and a run to the finals is unlikely. Only against the Mariners would they be expected to take the 3 points, and they could struggle to earn any points from their other games.
Due to being poor at both ends of the park for most of the season, the Jets haven’t really given fantasy coaches much to think about. The departure of David Carney hasn’t helped either.
Even their cheapie defenders aren’t decent value. Jason Hoffman ($133k) is probably the best option and he still seems overpriced. Up front, Milos Trifunovic ($219k) is the Jets’ top point scorer, but the points (and goals) have dried up in recent weeks after a promising little burst from Rounds 15-19. There could be some value in Morten Nordstrand ($180k) but at this stage of the season you would have to be pretty desperate to take a punt on him, especially with the premium options firing. Newcastle’s tough fixtures surely won’t help either.
Perth Glory (6th)
Remaining fixtures: Mariners (H), Wellington (a), Newcastle (a), City (H), Sydney (a)
The Glory have recovered from a poor start to become a finals contender – and, looking at their upcoming fixtures, it seems likely they will take their place in the Golden Toilet Seat Playoffs.
Undoubtedly the star of the revival has been Diego Castro ($284k). Castro arrived with big expectations, however he initially failed to live up to them; in his first 9 games, he scored just once (against a then hapless Adelaide) and his highest points return was 7, with an average of 3.5 points per game. He has since exploded, averaging 10.8 points per game from Rounds 10 (the second game – he played twice in that round) to 22 (and that includes a score of 1 where he played only 15 minutes). He is essential, especially with Perth’s relatively comfortable remaining fixtures.
Chris Harold ($203k) has been something of a surprise packet, and vital to Perth’s turnaround. From Rounds 15-20, he scored 6 goals in 6 games (though from only 8 shots on target). Despite the goals he has not been a huge scorer of points, and the concern is that his run could be over. However, for those looking to make a bit of a punt to get ahead in the run to the finals, Perth’s fixtures are favourable.
Andy Keogh ($279k) was a premium forward last season and in recent weeks it appears he has not lost his scoring touch. He’s found the back of the net in 5 out of 6 games from Rounds 17-22, averaging 8.5 points per game in that period. He is someone who could be considered as an alternative to Berisha if you can’t afford the Victory forward (or simply don’t want to spend the money on him).
Perth do provide us a couple of cheapie defenders in Marc Warren ($112k) and Alex Grant ($133k) – though Grant could drop out of the side once Dino Djublic ($237k) is fit enough to start. Also, don’t expect a plethora of points from either Warren or Grant: the Glory have kept only 4 clean sheets this season.
Sydney FC (7th)
Remaining fixtures: Wellington (H), Mariners (a), Brisbane (a), Adelaide (H), Perth (H)
Last season’s Grand Finalists have been underwhelming this season and their spot in the finals is under threat from Perth, who moved past them on the table last round. Sydney must take maximum points from their next two games, before three tough tests await.
Sydney haven’t really offered us much in a fantasy sense this campaign, and potential rotations due to their ACL participation won’t help much. Only Newcastle and the Mariners have hit the target less than Sydney, and despite allowing the fewest shots on target of any team the Sky Blues have kept just one clean sheet since Round 9.
The awkward prices of most Sydney players make them unappealing in fantasy. For example, Milos Ninkovic ($287k) is Sydney’s top point scorer with 122; but he simply isn’t worth the price for a solid (at best) average of 5.8 points per game. Filip Holosko ($259k) has one score above 3 in his last 7 games. Alex Brosque ($262k) could have been worth considering if his season wasn’t destroyed by injury problems. David Carney ($220k) probably isn’t quite worth that price tag – Sydney aren’t much more of a scoring threat than the Jets were, so I would not expect his scores to increase dramatically.
Even in defence there are no cheapies – Alex Gersbach ($136k) has departed the A-League, and while Zac Anderson ($111k) finally has made an appearance for the Sky Blues it was only due to the suspension of others. He may feature again in the ACL, but that’s not much help to Fantasy A-League coaches.
It’s probably best to give Graham Arnold’s men a miss.
Wellington Phoenix (9th)
Remaining fixtures: Sydney (a), Perth (H), City (a), Victory (a), Wanderers (H)
Due to injuries and a failure to recruit a replacement for Nathan Burns, Wellington’s season has fallen apart. Aside perhaps from a point against Sydney, it seems unlikely they will add to their tally of 22 points for the season.
It’s a similar story in Fantasy A-League. Apart from cheapie defender Dylan Fox ($108k) there’s not much to consider here – and Fox could potentially lose his spot once Ben Sigmund ($185k) is fit enough to start (assuming that actually happens before he retires at the end of the season). Tom Doyle ($122k) is a safer, but slightly more expensive, cheap option.
Otherwise, there’s really nothing to consider. Hamish Watson ($100k) would potentially be good value if it wasn’t essential to have 3 premium forwards. Don’t expect Blake Powell ($151k) to repeat his Round 19 heroics either.
Western Sydney Wanderers (2nd)
Remaining fixtures: Newcastle (a), Adelaide (H), Victory (a), Mariners (H), Wellington (a)
The Wanderers may have been dethroned at the top of the table by Adelaide on the weekend, but the title is still in their hands as they must face the Reds again. Judging by their fixtures, they are perhaps still favourites to take out the Plate.
Nonetheless, the Wanderers have looked more vulnerable in recent weeks. The absence of members of their Spanish trio hasn’t helped, but since Round 13’s 0-0 draw with Adelaide they have failed to keep a clean sheet. Hence Alberto Aguilar ($150k) isn’t quite the value pick in defence that he was earlier in the season – and he’s the cheapest Wanderers’ defender worth considering.
Mitch Nichols ($323k) has been dominant but somewhat erratic for the Wanderers in midfield. His five most recent scores are 2, 11, 3, 7 and 2. Still, with the Wanderers having 3 games remaining where they would be expected to win comfortably, it would be risky to trade him out of your team.
Romeo Castelen ($246k) isn’t a consistent point scorer himself, however he has scored in each of his last 2 games for returns of 12 and 10. It could be just a flash in the pan or him at last hitting form in the A-League. With those tempting fixtures to come, it could be worth a punt.
Mark Bridge ($245k) frustratingly was a late withdrawl from the loss to Brisbane, however at least we knew about it before lockout. Assuming he is right to go this week he is one alternative to consider for your forward line. Just don’t expect massive scores: his last four goals have come from only five shots on target, suggesting he is not going to be prolific.
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