Can Graham Arnold take Central Coast Mariners any further or have they plateaued?
In the lead up to season 2012/13, we're looking at the club coaches, their history, their challenges and what they have to do to make this season a success.
Graham Arnold, Central Coast Mariners
After turning down a lucrative offer to take the reins at Sydney FC, Graham Arnold obviously feels his work with the Mariners isn-t finished yet.
Last season-s minor premiership was the culmination of all the excellent work Arnold has done at the Mariners, imprinting a patient, ball-playing style of football and built on well balanced team of youth and experience.
The benefit of having their own recently built training ground and academy could start to tell, as the Mariners can offer the kind of facilities few other Hyundai A-League clubs can match.
The Mariners have become a club known for giving exciting young talent an opportunity to shine, and this season, Arnold will certainly be expecting the likes of Tom Rogic and Bernie Ibini-Isei to become more consistent at a senior level.
A little further down the pecking order, defender Trent Sainsbury and midfielder Anthony Caceres could be the break-out stars this season.
What remains to be seen is whether the current squad, now missing the likes of Alex Wilkinson and Mustafa Amini, has the depth to match last season-s achievements.
History: During his tenure in Gosford, Arnold-s Mariners have become a byword for consistency.
Somewhat in the shadow of Brisbane Roar-s repeated grand final dramatics, the Mariners have attained success without fanfare, based on the same values of teamwork without star power that have been in place since Lawrie McKinna-s time in charge - but just a little more style.
The heart-breaking grand final loss to Brisbane was eased somewhat by the deserved minor premiership last season, despite missing out on a rematch against the Roar.
Challenges: those who think Arnold turned down Sydney because the risk was too big, think again - there are plenty if huge questions to be answered at Bluetongue.
The loss of captain Wilkinson, such an important figure for the club and the bedrock of their team, is a big one. Patrick Zwaanswijk, for all his quality, will be 38 in January; faith in young talent is one thing but do you want to pin your defence on it?
Another issue could be the lack of a proven goal-scorer. Mile Sterjovski will add some experience upfront but he was never prolific and the club have never replaced reliable striking talent they lost when Matt Simon left the club.
So while his rivals have strengthened, Arnold might find his lack of resources are starting to tell. Can he take this team any further or have they plateaued?
Target Position: No doubt Arnold will be looking for another top-two finish but this might just be beyond Central Coast this season - but finals football is a definite.
Final Word: Arnold has cemented his reputation as one of Australia-s finest coaches at the Mariners, and continued the club-s excellent tradition of punching above their perceived weight.
But a lack of activity in the transfer window could spell trouble this season. The old maxim, strengthen when you-re strong, is how the top clubs stay on top. The Mariners will challenge but a title defence seems unlikely.