A-League Power Rankings: Arnie's Mariners deserved title favourites

Goal-scoring veteran Daniel McBreen has been a big part of the Central Coast Mariners' success this season.
Goal-scoring veteran Daniel McBreen has been a big part of the Central Coast Mariners' success this season.

As we turn for the second half of the A-League season, the contenders are being separated from the pretenders.

1. Central Coast Mariners. They're the A-League's best team and only the lottery of the finals stands between Graham Arnold and a much-coveted (and much-deserved) championship. Their win over the in-form Wanderers was a masterful coaching display.

2. Melbourne Victory. Three wins in their past four matches has the Victory within just three points of the top two. Marcos Flores' scintillating game against Wellington couldn't be more timely. They look unbeatable at home.

3. Western Sydney. Having performed brilliantly in the past month, the loss to Central Coast hasn't taken off too much gloss. The finals are now well in their grasp. Going to New Zealand this week is a test of their mettle.

4. Perth Glory. Annoyed as they'll be at not clinching the result against a desperate Sydney side, Ian Ferguson's side appears to have grown in confidence, registering nine shots on target. A double for Shane Smeltz is a great sign.

5. Adelaide United. The sole positive result in their past four matches was a win over Sydney FC, which is nothing to write home about. Lucky they racked up so many points earlier in the season. Perth at home on Friday is tricky, too.

6. Melbourne Heart. Two wins from two in 2013 has hoisted the Heart into the six. Neither win was convincing - they played out the final 10 minutes of both clinging for dear life. However, if they can skittle the Sky Blues on Sunday, that would be three from three.

7. Brisbane Roar. Rated a $10 title chance, everyone is keeping the Roar safe, despite having lost three more games than they've won. They missed the start, so to speak, but have showed glimpses of potential. Keep safe for another month.

8. Wellington Phoenix. The honest truth about Wellington is that they are the A-League's barometer for overall improvement this season. Last year, they made it to fourth. Playing the same football, they are ninth this season, and that's inclusive of the golden boots of Jeremy Brockie. They're still cannon fodder away from home.

9. Newcastle Jets. Those poor Jets fans who ventured out to the Hunter Stadium on Saturday for 0-0 with Newcastle - they wasted a perfectly good opportunity to go surfing at Bar Beach. They've won only once since-mid November.

10. Sydney FC. The middling efforts of the teams above them means the Sky Blues are just four points off sixth-placed Heart and only five points off fifth-placed Perth. Such mathematics hardly reflect this car-crash of a season - but their ladder position certainly does. Joel Griffiths isn't available for another another week. He can't make his debut quickly enough.

This story A-League Power Rankings: Arnie's Mariners deserved title favourites first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.