When Anthony Lesiotis took to the field for his first minutes in navy blue against Brisbane in Round 15, he became Melbourne Victory's ninth debutant of the campaign.
This is the most in any single season since 19 new faces took the field throughout 2012/13.
Lesiotis joins Storm Roux, Corey Brown, Georg Niedermeier, Raul Baena, Keisuke Honda, Ola Toivonen, Rahmat Akbari and Elvis Kamsoba in the class of 2018/19, and each individual to come before the teenage midfielder has been able to leave his mark on the Club’s season to date.
In Corey Brown and Storm Roux, the boss has found two mainstays either side of his centre halves, with Brown the only outfield player to have seen every competitive minute of the league season and Roux just 60 seconds shy of his fellow full back.
The pair have also had the most touches of any Melbourne Victory players – Brown with 1145 and Roux with 1143 – and contributed three goals and three assists between them.
Akbari and Kamsoba have played just over two hours apiece and shown their potential to compete at the top level, and will continue their top flight apprenticeships as the season progresses. Importantly, as fellow developing players they shape as great examples for Lesiotis to follow.
As for the Club’s international imports, the key quartet have all made notable contributions since their arrivals at AAMI Park, with one statistic in particular suggesting the best is to come.
Keisuke Honda has won plaudits from pundits, teammates, rivals and fans alike with his outstanding work rate and creativity. The Japanese star took out the PFA Player of the Month award for October-November and through eight appearances has scored on five occasions and contributed a further three assists.
Despite a recent hamstring injury, Honda also leads his teammates in tackles attempted and interceptions, is 2nd in total duels and 3rd in percentage of duels won, and only one teammate who has played more minutes than him – Leigh Broxham – has a better pass accuracy percentage.
Ola Toivonen overcame a pre-season calf injury to debut in Round 4 and wasted no time in finding both his feet and the back of the net, breaking records along the way.
The Swede has eight goals in just 11 total appearances and became the first Melbourne Victory player to score in five consecutive league matches, capping a superb December with the PFA Player of the Month award.
Apart from his ability to bring teammates into the play, his tangible contributions have left a marked impact: the opener against Sydney FC, an assist and goal in a 2-0 win over Adelaide, the go-ahead strike in the Christmas Derby, the equaliser against Wellington Phoenix and both goals in a 2-1 victory away to Western Sydney.
Spanish midfielder Raul Baena and German centre back Georg Niedermeier have endured spells on the sidelines in the early parts of their Melbourne Victory careers, but in the minutes they’ve played have each indicated they’ll be crucial cogs in a squad pursuing silverware in the back half of the season.
In an encouraging statistic, those four internationals have shared the pitch on only one occasion in the season to date – against Sydney FC in Round 5 – and for just seven second half minutes.
With Baena approaching full fitness and both Honda and Niedermeier nearing returns, the boss will soon be able to call on a full complement of players young and experienced, new and old as the second half of the Hyundai A-League season unfolds.