If you look at the stats to see how often the team who scores first wins a match, I reckon it would be at least 50%, but the Mariners have led eight times so far this season for just one result. What’s going wrong?
Everyone knows the Mariners are already behind the ball when it comes to squad building in the market place, so they’ve always needed to find other ways to rise above the pack – as they have done so memorably in the past.
Lawrie McKinna’s players would run through a brick wall for him and for each other.
Graham Arnold's players were super disciplined – especially without the ball. If you took your eye off the ball and just watched the team shape, they were unbelievably tight. It was really hard to score against them and they exploded into effective attacking shape the instant they won the ball.
So what is going so wrong with Mike Mulvey’s crop?
There is some quality here but he whole doesn't add up to more than the sum of its parts, as the best teams always do (and as the Mariners used to do).
For a start, the tight structure without the ball is long gone. If you take your eye off the ball and watch the team these days you no longer see them working in close formation – you see the closest guys to the ball moving but the whole is very sluggish.
That suggests a lack of discipline (in the Arnie sense) but also a lack of desperation in the Lawrie sense. Individual quality (as occasionally shown by all current team members) will not make up for those.
With the ball, the situation is also problematic – especially in the second half. The most obvious issue is a lack of connection between the forwards and the midfield. If the ball does get to the forwards the midfield are rarely in support.
Coming out of the backline into the midfield there are no third man runs. Too often we see just a couple of players trying to move the ball forward with the rest of the team ball watching.
Ninety-five percent of football is played off the ball. All the best players understand this and all the best teams are made up of players who know automatically that there is always a right place for them to be.