TEAM FOCUS: Melbourne Heart

What a momentous weekend for Melbourne Heart! As the players lined up to face the Newcastle Jets in round 15 of the 2013/2014 season of the A-League at the AAMI Park Stadium, they knew they stood on the edge of history. Unfortunately for them, it was the wrong end of history. Melbourne Heart had not won a game in 19 attempts, dating back to the 2012/2013 season when they beat Sydney FC 3-1 at the end of February 2013. Fast forward 11 months and Melbourne Heart were now sitting level with the now defunct New Zealand Knights in having played 19 games without victory. One more game without victory and that dubious record would be all theirs. To add to the pressure on the already weary Melbourne Heart shoulders, the game against the Newcastle Jets also represented their 100th game in the A-League!

Luckily for the supporters of Melbourne Heart, their team put a stop to the rot to record their first win of the season! It wasn’t all clean sailing though as they trailed to Taylor Regan’s 37th minute goal. This clearly spurred the Heart players on and they struck twice just before half time to take a slender lead into the break. They further added to the score in the 68th minute, ensuring that they not only took the three points on offer but halted their wretched run of form.

It is not often that a team in the top tier of its country’s football league has such a long winless streak so we looked back at the Heart’s matches this season to see if we could tell what the root of the problem was and what they did differently against the Newcastle Jets.

From those games, we saw that in general, the Heart seem happy to give their opponents the majority of the possession. In fact, they only average 46% of live ball possession per game. Accordingly, their opponents are afforded more attacks per game than the Heart. Their preferred route to goal would seem to be the counter attack as they average 11.6 counters per game. Interestingly, despite have less possession and fewer attacks than their opponents, they find themselves in more good scoring chances per game than their opponents! Further, when it comes to turning those chances into shots on goal, they actually have the same number of shots on goal as the opposition.

Unfortunately for Heart, this is where it goes all pear-shaped for them and this is the telling statistic. Out of their shots on goal, the opposition manages to score one goal from every 4 shots (23%). Heart, on the other hand, only managed to convert 1 out of 17 shots into a goal – representing a mere 6%. This is a significantly low number – far lower than the average. This profligacy in front of goal has clearly cost Heart!

So with this in mind, we looked at what, if anything, they did differently in the game against the Newcastle Jets. In line with previous games, the Heart had less possession and fewer attacks but more good scoring chances. They did have more shots on goal than the Newcastle Jets and crucially, they took their chances with a scoring rate of 33% – over 5 times than their average up to that date. Iain Ramsay, scorer of the first goal, had previously had 14 shots on goal without scoring a single goal. In this game, he managed 1 goal from his 3 shots. Double scorer, Mate Dugandžić, had previously scored no goals from his 12 shots whereas he managed to score 2 goals from his 5 shots in this game.

As they look to build on from their first victory in almost a year, Melbourne Heart will need to take advantage of the good scoring chances that they find themselves in. They do all the hard work to get shots on goal but let themselves down at the crucial time and this has cost them up to now. Could this win spur them on? Time will tell!

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