Five games to salvage a season? Melbourne Victory face a 2020-21-defining A-League run

Can five games make or break a season? Especially this early in the campaign? Grant Brebner and his Melbourne Victory squad might be about to find out.   

After three consecutive road fixtures — which yielded just a single point — Victory welcomes Newcastle Jets to AAMI Park on Sunday afternoon, before subsequently facing 11th-placed Wellington Phoenix on Wednesday night at the same venue before then hosting Western United at Marvel Stadium next Saturday. 

Cross-town foes Melbourne City will also head to Marvel Stadium for the season’s first Melbourne Derby a week later, before Adelaide United come to Melbourne to stage another iteration of the Original Rivalry — having won the season’s first staging 1-0 — seven days later. 

“By the end of these five games, we’ll be at eleven [played] and we’ll have a much better idea of where we are,” said Brebner. 

Five games — five home games — and a season on the line. 

It’s a highly bombastic statement to make about a club that’s played only half-a-dozen times — and Adelaide United’s 2015-16 season hovers as an example of why a poor start need not deal a death blow to a side’s title hopes — but circumstances on the Yarra being as they are, it carries with an undeniable air of truth. 

Largely ineffectual in attack and laborious in defence across their opening half a dozen games, Victory sits rooted to the bottom of the A-League table heading into the Jets’ fixture; a negative-seven goal difference ensuring they fall below the equally points-shy Phoenix. Stretching back to last season, Victory has only won two of its last 13 matches — both of those against Perth Glory. 

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For a club that recorded its worst-ever league finish of second-bottom in 2019-20, it’s hardly the start Brebner would have envisioned in his quest to restore the four-time A-League champions to the promised land and make amends to the club’s loud, passionate, expectant and large fan base. 

Put simply, this isn’t supposed to happen at clubs like Victory — especially two seasons in a row. 

“We have incredibly high expectations at our football club,” Victory CEO Trent Jacobs told SEN’s Whateley program on Thursday.

“We know what our members and fans expect. And it’s not where we want to be at the moment. It’s easy for me to make excuses but I don’t think anyone wants to hear it. We’ve got to be better.”

While the entertaining start to this season has shown that any side is capable of beating any other on their day, the coming slate of fixtures — against teams that have won just a combined eight times in 38 attempts this season — should be eminently winnable ones for Victory. And with any points dropped serving to propel their nearest rivals up the table at their expense, the need to secure as many wins as possible in the weeks ahead crystallizes even further. 

“It’s going to be defining,” Brebner admitted. “It’s absolutely going to be a huge, pivotal moment for us. 

“We’ve had two games at home this year and we’ve won one of those games and the rest have been away from home. 

“We look forward to getting back on AAMI Park, getting out to Marvel and playing in front of our members and fans. If we can’t get up for that then there’s something wrong. I’m 100% confident that my players will be up for things.

“When you want to talk about pressure then absolutely there’s pressure. There’s pressure whether you’re winning, losing or drawing. There’s pressure just being [coach at] this football club.”

Nonetheless, despite the poor form and large expectations that exist at AAMI Park, according to multiple reports from ESPN, The Age and The World Game, Brebner still retains the support and belief of the Victory brass despite a challenging start to the season.

The relatively new nature of the squad, group stage progression at the Asian Champions League, chaotic nature of the COVID-affected season, and Brebner’s status as a club legend have all, according to the reports, combined to win the 43-year-old the support of club higher-ups. 

That doesn’t discount, however, the need for an urgent turnaround in form. 

“I think there is [greater expectations at Victory],” said Brebner. “I think that comes with being a successful, big club that is expected to win things. 

“There are coaches that have been in the game a long, long time that are one, two, three points ahead of me and probably not feeling too much pressure because they know that they’ll get the runs on the board eventually. 

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