Fears of a sub-standard A-League have been eased with a record-breaking start to the 2020-21 season.
A record-breaking goal tally after 50 matches has revived the A-League and eased pre-season fears of a declining competition.
The season’s 50-game total of 150 goals is an A-League record, with the tally before Tuesday night’s games between Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City, and Perth Glory and Central Coast Mariners standing at 152 goals from 51 matches.
While some of the defending has been questionable, the amount of goals scored and the attacking style of play from most teams has so far made the season one of the most exciting since the competition’s inception in 2005.
“I was actually a little bit sceptical about what the season was going to bring,” said Melbourne Victory great and Fox Sports football expert Archie Thompson, who like many others was concerned the quality would drop after COVID-19 ramifications led to a host of players leaving Australia in the off-season because of a reduced salary cap.
“But it’s delivered on so many levels. It’s probably one of the best seasons in a long time.”
Thompson was pitch-side at Marvel Stadium for last Saturday night’s thrilling Melbourne derby won 4-3 by Western United over the Victory.
It was win secured by a stoppage-time Victor Sanchez goal after the Victory had fought back from 3-1 down to level scores at 3-3.
“The game on Saturday night was the best of the season so far – it’s brilliant,” Thompson said.
United captain Alessandro Diamanti, the reigning Johnny Warren Medallist, said the competition had not dropped in standard despite the exodus of players.
The Italian star also said this season was more enjoyable than the 2019-20 because of the openness of the competition, as evidenced by last season’s cellar dwellers Central Coast sitting on top of the table.
“I love the A-League because every team is at the same level,” Diamanti said.
“I’m very excited to see how it goes this year in the A-League, more than last year.
“Last year we had Sydney (FC) to win, and maybe two or three other teams who could win it.
“This year we have 12 teams who are very similar. Every weekend one can beat another one. For me this is beautiful.”
As is the emergence of a host of youngsters who have made the most of more game time this season.
The include Mariners marksman Alou Kuol, Perth pair Carlo Armiento and Nick D’Agostino, Roar striker Dylan Wenzel-Halls, and teenage Adelaide forward Mohamed Toure.
Mix in the experience and star power of Diamanti, his United teammate Besart Berisha, Sydney FC talisman Milos Ninkovic, Brisbane’s classy midfielder Jay O’Shea, and new arrivals including Victor Sanchez (Western United) and Matt Derbyshire (Macarthur), and it’s a fascinating array of talent.
Thompson said: “It’s a great mix – it’s so entertaining.
“When you got some of the old dogs scoring goals, and some of the young guys that have come on and got the opportunity, it’s like there are more goalscorers.”