It may only be six rounds into the A-League season and with it, six rounds into Keisuke Honda’s highly anticipated campaign with Melbourne Victory, but already the Japanese star is having a tremendous impact.
That has been clear in his on-field work and the stats drive home just how influential he has been to the reigning champions – six games, four goals, three assists. Impressive.
In his post-match interview with Fox Sports, we were given an insight into the level of meticulous professionalism and commitment Honda has brought to the cause since his arrival.
Coasting at 4-0 against a rather insipid Western Sydney Wanderers, Victory were home and hosed and could be forgiven for taking their foot off the gas.
Not when Honda is around though.
He wanted more, and in that interview explained that he did not stop pushing his teammates for more to entertain the masses for the whole 90 minutes.
When considering players benefitting from the presence of Honda, capped 98 times by Japan including three World Cups, midfielders come to mind immediately.
It is a strong midfield Kevin Muscat has put together too, boasting Honda as well as the likes of James Troisi, Carl Valeri, Raul Baena and Terry Antnois.
POTY | Honda doing Honda things. He’s now 4️⃣ points clear of the chasing pack.
— Daily Football Show (@DFS_AUS) December 4, 2018
But Honda’s influence goes beyond midfield and reaches as far as the goalkeeping ranks. Victory gloveman Lawrence Thomas revealed on Wednesday just how profound an impact the former AC Milan man has had on his performances.
“I don’t need to say too much about the bloke, his career before speaks for itself,” Thomas told reporters.
“I think it was maybe the third or fourth round in – he came to me after training, maybe two days after a game – and he said, ‘Lawrence, I want to meet you after training and go through some of your options with playing out from the back’.
“We stayed behind for an hour and he talked me through some of the options I should be looking for, what to play.
“He just has a real passion for the game and he’s incredibly disciplined. I think everyone in the club can pick his brain a bit and really learn how to get to that top level.
“He gives his feedback when needed and he tends to see, because he’s played at such a high level, he sees bigger pictures that maybe I don’t see that early, playing out from the back.
“Maybe he’s seen something that I didn’t and after that set’s done, he’ll say ‘look for this pass’ or ‘look for this a bit earlier’. He’s like that all over the field, respectful in a really disciplined way.
Lawrence Thomas was asked about his #Socceroos chances.
🗣️ “I believe I’m good enough to be there.”
— Daily Football Show (@DFS_AUS) December 5, 2018
“I can’t say enough about him and the impact he’s having at this club.”
Victory will be gunning for their fifth win in a row and a potential shot at the top of the table against rivals Adelaide United at Marvel Stadium on Saturday, themselves looking to back up their triumph over Brisbane Roar.
It took Muscat’s men some 40 minutes to put themselves in a winning position against the Wanderers, leading 3-0 before the break.
Thomas targeted a similar start, hopeful of piling the pressure on the Reds from the get-go.
“With the ball, I think the first half (against the Wanderers) was solid but we let them get back into the game a bit,” he added.
“A team on their night could have taken a few chances when we turned the ball over. The second half was the main thing.
“We had a very good patch against the Mariners early on but in the second half, we let them back into the game as well.
“Once there’s a complete game where I don’t really touch the ball defensively, I guess I can be happy with how we’re going.”