Macarthur make intentions clear with five stellar off-season signings
THERE'S no doubting Macarthur FC's aim to build on the success of the club's inaugural A-League campaign when you observe the calibre of players heading to Campbelltown this off-season.
At the conclusion of the 2021/22 A-League campaign, a number of high-profile departures left Bulls boss Ante Milicic bereft of a large portion of the quality and experience which helped his side reach the Semi Finals in the club's inaugural A-League campaign.
But the Bulls have taken considerable steps to fill the void left by the likes of the retired Mark Milligan, Markel Susaeta and Beñat Etxebarria, along with departing striker Matt Derbyshire - the scorer of 42% of Macarthur's goals (14 of 33) in the 2020/21 campaign.
Since the conclusion of the Bulls' first A-League season, Milicic has secured the signatures of five key players who will look to play their part in taking Macarthur's Semi Final finish in 2020/21 and going one better in 2021/22.
Former Wellington Phoenix captain Ulises Dávila headlines the star-studded list of off-season recruitments to date.
Joining the Bulls after his second A-League season for the 'Nix, Dávila will bring the kind of class, skill and midfield ingenuity found in a rare breed of magical players around the league. Think Diego Castro, Miloš Ninković and Alessandro Diamanti and you think of Dávila, a creative attacking midfielder who scored 19 goals, notched 12 assists and created 109 chances in 50 games for the Phoenix.
The Mexican leaves an enormous void at the Phoenix as he heads to Campbelltown to join a Bulls midfield unit bolstered by the arrival of Daniel De Silva from Central Coast Mariners. Similarly silky to Dávila, the former Central Coast Mariners ace joins Macarthur after an impressive season under Alen Stajcic in Gosford.
The 24-year-old will look to take his game to the next level alongside the likes of Dávila and fellow Australian youngster Denis Genreau in Macarthur's midfield group after providing four goals and three assists to the Mariners across 22 appearances in 2020/21.
De Silva made his A-League debut in 2013 as a 15-year-old for hometown club Perth Glory. He's played six A-League seasons in total at Perth, Sydney FC and Central Coast, with his combined seven goals and assists in 2020/21 his best ever attacking return in a single league campaign.
Milicic will look to harness the momentum garnered by De Silva in 2020/21 to catapult the crafty midfielder to greater heights in his first season at Macarthur. But whilst the likes of De Silva and Dávila arrive with the directive to have an impact in attack, Tomislav Uskok joins the Bulls' ranks from Western United to add solidity and dynamism in the engine room.
As shown throughout his two seasons in Green and Black, Uskok has the ability to play in central midfield or as part of a defensive unit - much like retired Bulls captain Mark Milligan offered Milicic throughout the 2020/21 season.
Uskok won't be expected to replace the quality, experience and leadership offered to the Bulls by the Socceroos legend and inaugural club captain, but his similar versatility will come in handy for Milicic as he looks to keep his squad fresh throughout the 2021/22 campaign.
In 33 appearances for Western United Uskok scored two goals, passed at 83% accuracy, made 55 tackles, 356 duels and 145 recoveries.
After helping Melbourne City clinch both the A-League Premiership and Championship in 2020/21, Craig Noone arrives in Campbelltown eager for a fresh challenge in the upcoming season.
Noone played 50 times for City across two campaigns, scoring 11 goals and assisting 15 more. Noone played as part of a lethal front three for City in 2020/21, linking with Socceroos Andrew Nabbout and Jamie Maclaren to frightening effect as Patrick Kisnorbo's side sliced defences apart on their way to the securing the club's first two A-League trophies.
The winger says the club's style of play was a major factor in the move, as Noone hopes to thrive in a frontline fed by the likes of De Silva and Dávila, and spearheaded by incoming striker Tomi Juric.
Juric arrives after a one-season stint with hometown club Adelaide United, and will be asked to shoulder the bulk of the load left in the wake of Derbyshire's departure.
The 29-year-old scored nine goals in 18 appearances for the Reds in 2020/21 - an injury-effected campaign for the player capped 41 times by the Socceroos.
A return to the international frame isn't off the cards for Juric, who hasn't played for the national side since 2018 - that much is certain after the likes of Maclaren and Mitchell Duke fired themselves into the Socceroos frame after excelling throughout recent A-League seasons.
Milicic will hope Juric can build on his scoring output throughout the last campaign to mitigate the loss of Derbyshire to AEK Larnaka of Cyprus. But with the addition of Noone, Dávila and De Silva Milicic has made it clear that a wider spread of goalscorers will be a key area he looks to improve in 2021/22.
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