Sydney silences record-breaking talk
GRAHAM Arnold might not want to discuss it anymore, but these are the statistics that show the remarkable record which Sydney FC are on course to beat.
The Sky Blues coach has banned his players from discussing further targets in what is already a record-breaking season, telling his squad they have won nothing except plaudits, and can't risk looking too far ahead.
But as his side prepares to face Western Sydney on Saturday night for the season's third and final derby, they hold 47 points from 19 rounds - an unprecedented haul at this stage of the season, that equates to an average of 2.47 per game.
The record in the A-League is 65, which came in 2010-11 when Brisbane Roar topped an 11-team competition, and had 30 games to accrue that figure. Sydney will have three fewer this season, but if they are able to sustain that average, they will finish around 66 points.
More than any other figure, that would underline their dominance this season, and their relentless ability to steamroller teams.
Their unbeaten record to date has tended to make the headlines, but the other startling statistic is that Arnold's side has won almost three-quarters of their games.
It is a team effort, too. Three quarters of Sydney's 41 goals have come from four players, Alex Brosque, Bobo, Milos Ninkovic and Filip Holosko, Arnold's normal front four.
The same players have 18 assists between them. Stop one from scoring, and he's likely to set up one of the others.
The question now is whether Sydney can realistically maintain that level of points earned in the final rounds, and get close to Brisbane's record. The record for a 10-team competition is the 57 set by the Wanderers in 2012-13, as Arnold well knows - he came second that year with the Mariners. That Sydney will skate past that figure seems inevitable, because teams very rarely collapse from this point.
The portents from recent history are encouraging for the Sky Blues - in the six seasons starting from Brisbane's record-breaking year, four times the side that has finished top of the league has accrued 18 or more points in their last eight games, a total that would allow Sydney to at least equal the Roar's 65 from 2010-11.
The other factor that suggests they will at least go close is the intensity of the competition. Suspicions that overall this isn't a vintage year, at least in terms of competitiveness (the point of the salary cap, after all), tend to be born out by the fact Newcastle, in sixth place on 21 points, have earned an average of only 1.1 per game.
If that average proves roughly enough to earn a place in the finals - and with teams taking points off each other, it's quite possible it will be - then the bottom-ranked qualifier will have set a new record, after Perth squeaked into the finals on goal difference in 2012-13 with 32.
Not that Arnold will care about the other teams, with his own squad powering ahead. Just don't mention any of the above in his presence.