Melbourne Victory 'insanity' continues as results worsen under Kevin Muscat

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The reluctance by Kevin Muscat to change things up has contributed to a campaign that is currently on life support

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."

That's the famous quote which is usually wrongly attributed to Albert Einstein.

It's also an apt way to describe Melbourne Victory's season - a campaign that has descended into disarray during the past month.

Kevin Muscat's team has lost four of their past five games in all competitions, conceding 14 goals and scoring six in that period with the club dropping to fifth on the A-League table.

Three of the defeats have come since chairman Anthony Di Pietro described the club's season as 'not good enough' during the Victory In Business luncheon on February 2.

 

 

The pressure is really starting to rise on Muscat, and with fixtures coming at AAMI Park against rivals Adelaide and Melbourne City, failure to get positive results could see his position come under scrutiny.

There is no doubting Muscat's achievements as Victory coach. Winning the A-League premiership and championship, and then following it up with the FFA Cup is nothing to be sniffed at.

But Victory's attacking style of football in a 4-2-3-1 formation has basically remained the same in Muscat's five years of managing the club - with no real alternatives for different scenarios.

It's a following on from one of Ange Postecoglou's key principles - plan B is always to make plan A better.

Plan A is struggling too often now, with teams seemingly adjusting to Victory's attacking style, focusing on the defensive weaknesses, and picking them off to get results.

It was admirable that Victory attacked Shanghai SIPG for 90 minutes in China on Tuesday night (AEDT), but at the end of the day, they were never going to win a shootout against last year's Asian Champions League semi-finalists - a side featuring Brazilian stars Oscar and Hulk.

Did Muscat really believe the current team could achieve a positive result by taking it up to the Chinese giant? It's blatantly obvious that a more defensive approach is needed when playing a stronger team away from home.

Kevin Muscat Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC A-League 26012017

While style and flair is important, at the end of the day football is about achieving results.

Several key Victory players have been horribly out of form this season, but Muscat has refused to make significant changes to the team.

Besart Berisha currently looks a shadow of the superstar he has been. It was extraordinary how many times he was caught offside against Shanghai.

The question must be asked: Is he finished as an elite player or is it just run of poor form from lacking confidence?

At the end of the day, the club hasn't signed well enough to have any players putting significant pressure on Berisha for his role in the team, and the reluctance to change things up means a new system involving a centre forward alongside the Albanian is unlikely.

If Berisha's legs are starting to go, it's concerning for the club that he was recently given a new contract for next season.

Creative midfielder James Troisi is another capable player that is struggling this season. We have seen the gifted attacker win games single handedly, but he has been missing when Victory have needed him most this campaign.

Aside from starting on the bench in the loss to Brisbane, Troisi has been a regular in the attacking midfield slot despite his poor form. 

There has been no move to try him in say a left-sided attacking wing position while moving the brilliant Leroy George inside to pull the creative strings in advanced midfield.

Leroy George Melbourne Victory

Another player to stagnate significantly is full-back Jason Geria.

It was only 18 months ago that Geria earned his first Socceroos cap and looked set to make the national team right-back position his own.

Since then, the 24-year-old's performances have declined significantly, with his reliability as a defender currently at the lowest point since his debut.

While he was unlucky to give away the penalty against Shanghai, he was beaten to the ball for Wu Lei's diving header goal and his poor clearance allowed Oscar to swoop for his first strike.

Despite his struggles this campaign, Geria has started every league match for Victory this season, except one match he was suspended for, which incidentally came about after giving away a crucial penalty in the Australia Day loss against Sydney FC.

Captain Carl Valeri has been a stalwart for both club and country during his lengthy career, but it has been clear for a while that the 33-year-old isn't operating anywhere near his best as age catches up with him.

The skipper was overwhelmed continuously by Shanghai counter attacks featuring Oscar, Hulk and Elkeson and it's unfortunate that his career is winding down.

But he has started every Victory match this season bar one, despite his declining form and increasing age.

Mark Milligan's mid-season departure hasn't helped the midfield issues but why not try Rhys Williams in the defensive midfield role? You may be robbing Peter to pay Paul but Williams excelled at the position at Middlesbrough and is surely worth a try.

Victory's season is currently on life support with the power close to being switched off and it's clear changes are needed, whether on or off the field, to salvage anything from the campaign.

Too often players are being picked in the starting XI based on quality performances from some time ago, and are not being held accountable for their current form.

Reports last week from Football Nation Radio suggested Muscat is in discussions with Victory for a new two-year contract, with his current deal set to expire at the end of the season.

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Has Victory's season or Muscat's coaching warranted a contract extension?

Or could it be a case of the 'insanity' at the club continuing as Victory fans' discontent grows louder?

Losses in the coming matches against rivals Adelaide and Melbourne could see the outside noise become deafening.

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