Brisbane Roar did everything but land silverware in 2015/16, ending their Finals Series campaign with an extraordinary 5-4 loss to Wanderers. Much of the off-season has been working towards taking that next step.
John Aloisi’s first season in charge saw an impressive rebuild of the "Orange Army".
Their supposedly ageing stars showed there’s still plenty of good football in them, while the youngsters began to deliver on their potential.
There’s not much tweaking for Roar to do to reach the Hyundai A-League summit.
While some key players have moved on – most notably Corona, Henrique, James Donachie and Steve Lustica - they look to have covered those losses with some astute recruiting.
Brett Holman brings experience and goal-scoring quality from midfield, while Thomas Kristensen’s ball-winning ability and passing range is exciting.
Defender Luke DeVere looks to be over his injury issues meaning he’ll play more of a role to bolster the defence while Tommy Oar will benefit from a full pre-season at Ballymore.
And don’t forget Jamie Maclaren. He scored 20 goals in 2015/16 in a breakout season for the young striker that saw him called up for the Caltex Socceroos. And he should only get better.
A possible ACL campaign will throw up its challenges late in the campaign but if they stay injury-free and fresh, the ingredients are all there for another big season ahead of Roar and their fans.
The burning questions
- Can new Danish midfielder Kristensen fill the big boots of Spaniard Corona?
- Can they find the final piece of the puzzle to take that final step to silverware in 2016/17?
Lessons learnt from last season
- Can’t afford defensive lapses. Roar conceded three goals or more in six matches last season, including the epic 5-4 semi-final defeat to the Wanderers.
- Must improve their away form, winning only three on the road last season, the worst of any side in the top six.
Roar open the new season with a blockbuster home clash against Melbourne Victory. With winnable road trips to the Mariners and Jets, plus a home clash with Perth, it’s a reasonable start to the season. The test for Aloisi’s side will come from the end of November to mid-January, where they play just three out of nine games at home, including trips to the Wanderers, Victory, Wellington and City. They end the campaign with three of the last four at home which could be crucial, especially with a potential ACL campaign to contend with should they get through a qualifier in February.
- Home form. Roar lost only once at Suncorp Stadium last season, winning 12 from 15 in front of their home fans.
- Striking depth. Will they be able to find someone else to score the goals should Maclaren be out of the side for any extended period?
Don’t expect too much of a change. They will be positive, they will look to pass it quickly and they’ll almost certainly be entertaining to watch. It should be Aloisi’s preferred 4-3-3 system, with Jamie Maclaren leading the line. There are options in the wide areas with Tommy Oar, Thomas Broich and Brandon Borrello all in good form while veteran Caltex Socceroo Brett Holman will add some goal-scoring power and nous from an attacking midfield role. Dane Kristensen has a big job to anchor the midfield along with Matty McKay, giving Roar that solid base and passing quality to start their attacking game.
.Jayden Prasad. Big things are expected from this Young Socceroo. Could be his year to step up and show what he can do.
A whisker away from winning the Premiers’ Plate and making the grand final last season, there’s not much more that’s needed to take that next big step. Aloisi will demand improvement. If it works out, then silverware beckons. And in what could be Roar great Thomas Broich's final season as a Brisbane player, that'd be a fairytale finish for the German and the flagship Queensland club.