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ANALYSIS: Goal Australia crunch the Opta stats to predict the impact of the international marquee striker at the Big V in the 2014-15 season

Melbourne Victory have spent the last two seasons trying to win the A-League without a recognised centre-forward.

They finally have one in the form of Besart Berisha, who faced the media as a Victory employee for the first time on Thursday. But can he make the difference in the navy blue and white quest for silverware?

A victim of Ange Postecoglou's unorthodox 4-2-4 formation, Marcos Flores proved a flop in Melbourne, while a combination of Mitch Nichols (briefly), Guilherme Finkler and James Troisi wasn't enough to avoid a second successive semi-final exit last season.

The blame can't all fall on a forward line that has scored plenty of goals in the last two years, with a lack of depth in midfield and defensive failings perhaps more to blame for a trophy drought now stretching back to 2009.

But there's no denying the signing of Berisha is both an admission of failure as far as the dual playmaker experiment is concerned and also a major statement of intent moving forward.

Troisi's departure and the arrival of a traditional centre-forward, as well as the recruitment of Carl Valeri and retention of Mark Milligan, is likely to herald a shift to a 4-2-3-1, with Finkler in the hole behind his new Albanian team-mate.

Any of Archie Thompson, Kosta Barbarouses, Connor Pain and Andrew Nabbout will be deployed on the flanks, but what can we expect from the new jewel in Victory's attacking crown?

Attack

 

Besart Berisha (Brisbane Roar)

James Troisi (Melbourne Victory)

Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets)

David Williams (Melbourne City)

Stein Huysegems (Wellington Phoenix)

Goals

13

12

16

12

13

Minutes per goal

115.5

189.9

134.1

160.8

210.6

Shooting accuracy

53.2%

50%

62.7%

49.1%

57.8%

Successful/unsuccessful crosses

2/2

5/44

2/8

9/36

5/19

Cross completion percentage

50%

10.2%

20%

20.5%

20.8%

Assists

0

7

1

1

3

Chances created

15

44

18

31

44


There's more to a striker than scoring goals, but that's what the Albanian will be judged on and there's no doubt he's the best exponent of the art in Australian football. Adam Taggart hit the back of the net more often in 2013-14, but he couldn't match Berisha's ratio of minutes per goal. That was despite the Roar man being less accurate in front of goal than both the A-League's golden boot winner and former Phoenix striker Stein Huysegems.

Berisha will probably want to be judged on goals because supplying them for others isn't his strong suit. The 28-year-old created the fewest chances, attempted the lowest number of crosses and was the only one of last season's five leading goal-scorers not to supply an assist for a team-mate. Is that a deficiency in his game or evidence of his dedication to scoring?

It's worth remembering that Berisha's presence alone, particularly his threatening runs off the ball and into space, may have helped the Roar develop opportunities which are not formally recognised as a 'chance created'.

General

 

Besart Berisha (Brisbane Roar)

James Troisi (Melbourne Victory)

Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets)

David Williams (Melbourne City)

Stein Huysegems (Wellington Phoenix)

Passes

427

1,157

437

663

733

Passing accuracy in opposition half

74.1%

74.5%

65.7%

73.2%

79.2%

Duels won

40.8%

38.9%

44.6%

50.2%

41.7%

Aerial duels won

27.3%

26.1%

31.9%

33.3%

38.4%

Recoveries

36

106

38

108

85


In terms of his general contribution, Berisha completed the fewest passes of last season's top five scorers, but his statistics were comparable to golden boot winner Taggart, confirming what we already knew - both men's primary function was to get on the end of chances and they did so superbly.

Of the passes he did attempt, Berisha's accuracy in the opposition's half was bettered only by Troisi and Huysegems, indicating he uses the ball carefully enough in advanced areas.

His record in duels and aerial duels leaves something to be desired, but Victory are unlikely to be lumping the ball up to him or expecting him to be snapping at the heels of defenders and defensive midfielders.

Defence & discipline

 

Besart Berisha (Brisbane Roar)

James Troisi (Melbourne Victory)

Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets)

David Williams (Melbourne City)

Stein Huysegems (Wellington Phoenix)

Tackles won

15

19

11

29

14

Tackles lost

3

6

3

13

2

Tackles percentage

83.3%

76%

78.6%

69%

87.5%

Clearances

15

7

6

8

24

Blocks

3

3

0

2

0

Interceptions

5

17

8

29

9

Fouls won

39

39

32

44

32

Fouls conceded

32

39

22

27

16

Yellow cards

2

5

3

4

0

Red cards

2

0

0

0

0

Dismissed after two yellow cards

1

0

0

0

0


Some coaches will call on their forwards to defend from the front and Kevin Muscat should be able to do so with his combative new international marquee, even though the raw statistics don't necessarily look favourably on the striker in that area.

Berisha won the second fewest tackles of our sample group and made the lowest number of interceptions. We feel that doesn't tell the whole story though, with pressing that didn't result in a foul or a turn over, but which could have caused an opponent to play a unproductive pass, not necessarily recognised.

He was however second for clearances and joint top for blocks, so perhaps Pristina's finest comes in to his own on opposition set pieces.

You don't need us to tell you discipline will be a concern for the notoriously hot-headed former Arminia Bielefeld man. Of our five players in the sample group, only Stein Huysegems received fewer yellow cards than Berisha, but none of other four saw red at any point in 2013-14, while the Roar's prized asset was given his marching orders on three occasions.

An international marquee needs to be on the field, not in the stands serving suspensions. Is Muscat, notoriously combustible himself, the man to help Berisha stay out of the referee's notebook?

As with the recruitment of any star striker, if the goals flow, the newcomer will be forgiven his inevitable indiscretions (just look at Luis Suarez) as well as any shortfall in other areas of the field. But if Berisha forgets to bring his shooting boots south with him, it won't just be the opposition fans getting on the Albanian's back.

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