Sydney FC boss Graham Arnold still rates Perth Glory as serious contenders for the Hyundai A-League Championship despite Sunday's loss to his Sky Blues – providing mercurial Spaniard Diego Castro is fit.
Arnold’s Sky Blues handed Glory a pre-finals wake-up call - and denied them a home game in the process - with a 4-0 drubbing at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.
Without Castro due to hamstring tightness, Perth played without imagination and struggled to break down a Sydney side that hadn’t won in 11 games.
But Arnold feels the loss could actually work in Glory’s favour in the Finals Series if striker Castro is fit to return.
“That’s the kick up the backside they probably need. They’ve won 10 out of 11, they’ve done it convincingly…it’s probably what they needed,” the Sky Blues boss said.
“Now they have a lot to reflect on, I’m sure Kenny will be expecting a big reaction next week against Melbourne City.
“I do believe Perth have got the quality and the power to win it. The question is how bad is Castro?
“You take Castro out of their team, who’s a dynamite player and for me has to be close to the player of the year,” Arnold added.
“You take him out of the team, the assists are gone, the goals are gone, the production line is gone and it makes it difficult.”
Castro’s absence aside, the Sky Blues were good value for their win on Sunday.
David Carney and Filip Holosko both scored before the break before Ali Abbas and Milos Ninkovic added some gloss to the scoreline in the last six minutes.
The big win is a pleasing end to what has ultimately been a season of disappointment for Sydney, who finished seventh and seven points outside the finals.
“I actually feel a little bit sicker to be honest. To leave that performance to the last [game],” Arnold said.
“At the end of the day I take full responsibility. I chopped and changed the team over the last eight weeks to try and get through both [AFC] Champions League as well as A-League and maybe in hindsight it was too much.
“These players have pretty much played together the last three or four weeks in the Champions League. They have rhythm, they have cohesion together and a performance like that was fantastic.”
Arnold feels his side’s inability to turn a number of draws this season into wins is the main reason they won’t be playing finals football.
“We’ve been very close every game with those draws, eight of them we should have won. That’s 16 points and you are talking a totally different story today,” he said.
“It’s the first time I’ve missed the top six in five years and I don’t enjoy it. It’s not good for the fans and Sydney FC deserves better.
“But let’s look at the positives and the positives are we’re performing well at the right time and let’s go for the Asian Champions League.”