After progressing to the grand final last season, Sydney capitulated at the final hurdle. Despite some key players departing the club, there’s no doubt Graham Arnold and co. will be aiming to go one better.
Team: Sydney FC
Manager: Graham Arnold
Captain: Alex Brosque
Ins: Andrew Hoole (Newcastle Jets), Riley Woodcock (Perth Glory), Zac Anderson (Central Coast Mariners), Milos Ninkovic (Évian), Filip Holosko (Besiktas), Matt Simon (Central Coast Mariners), Alex Mullen, Brandon O’Neill.
Outs: Terry Antonis (PAOK Saloniki), Corey Gameiro (Melbourne City), Marc Janko (FC Basel), Hagi Gligor (Perth Glory), Nikola Petkovic (KVC Westerlo), Sasa Ognenovski, Peter Triantis, Nick Carle.
Last Season: 2nd
2014-15 was… The year Sydney FC grew up.
Since winning the Premiership and Championship in 2010, Sydney FC went through a massive lull. Poor signings and mediocre management turned the Sky Blues into easy targets on and off the field.
The massive signing of Alessandro del Piero in 2012 was cancelled out by poor performances and results under former managers Ian Crook and Frank Farina. The successful addition of the Western Sydney Wanders to the league during the same season meant the club couldn’t rest on their laurels.
Last season, the board recruited Arnold as manager and he instantly went to work repairing the club’s mentality: no player was bigger than the club.
Instead of a world-class marquee, Arnold recruit unknown Austrian Marc Janko who went on to win the Golden Boot with a flurry of goals from January to the finals.
2014-15 will be… Another huge step forward for the club.
After changing the style of the football team, Arnold has made even more changes in the off season. The manager recognised that, despite his record haul for the club, goals weren’t enough to hide the flaws in Janko’s game. The big Austrian just didn’t fit into Arnold’s system and a search began for a new marquee, one that offered more off the ball and in build-up play.
The new marquee is Slovakian international Filip Holosko who signed from Besiktas in Turkey. A goal-scorer by nature, Holosko is more capable than Janko at creating and is versatile in his range of positions.
After the departure of Petkovic, Sydney re-signed inspiring midfielder Milos Dimitrejevic. Alongside him will be Mikael Tavares who, along with cousin Jacques Faty, helped Sydney climb out of their bad patch of form prior to the Asian Cup.
Arnold has always recruited a swathe of Australian youngsters who will contribute not only in the future, but now as well. Woodcock, O’Neill and Hoole will all be regular fixtures in Sydney’s starting line up and will compliment the other youngsters that Arnold holds high hopes for like Aaron Calver and George Blackwood.
With quality Australian youngsters and experience foreigners with international and World Cup experience, Arnold is close to finding the perfect balance in his side. The only problem is Melbourne Victory are still far too good and the Sky Blues will need to play out of their skin on a weekly basis to challenge for either title.
Key Player: Milos Ninkovic. The Serbian international, who played against Australian in the 2010 World Cup, has the ability to be the best player the A-League has ever had. Even Dimitrejivic is genuinely impressed by him.
Before spells with Évian in Ligue 1 and Red Star Belgrade in Serbia, Ninkovic spent almost a decade plying his trade in the Ukraine with Dynamo Kyiv. There he played alongside star players like Miguel Veloso, Niko Kranjcar, Bacelona target Andriy Yarmelenko, and Ukranian legend Andriy Shevchenko.
With a great touch and silky skills, Ninkovic will be another midfield creator with Dimitrejivic and together they will be a hard duo to mark. Behind them will be Tavares who’s job it is to protect the defensive line and prevent attacks through the middle.
With such a strong midfield triangle, Ninkovic will flourish in an advanced role with the likes of Christopher Naumoff, Holosko, captain Alex Brosque and Shane Smeltz ahead of him.
What, or whom, do Sydney need? To concede less goals. Many times last year, Sydney FC were saved from their ability to score more goals than the other side, however, they will need to stem the flow this year if they are to overcome Melbourne Victory on the ladder.
Aside from drawing twice with Victory in a pair of 3-3 draws, from February to April Sydney FC won four games where their opponent scored four of more goals. Those wins, 4-2 at home to Central Coast, 5-4 at home to Brisbane, 4-3 away at Wanderers and 4-3 away at Newcastle, will need to be more convincing in this campaign.
At the start of last season, Sydney went four games without conceding a goal, mostly thanks to the keeping of Vedran Janjetovic. They will need more of that this season and with Jacques Faty in the side from the first game of the season, Sydney should concede less goals.
The Blog FC Predicted Finish: 2nd