Hyundai A-League season preview: Central Coast Mariners

It's a new-look Mariners outfit for the Hyundai A-League 2017/18 Season with close to a dozen changes to the squad that finished eighth last campaign.

Coach Paul Okon has lured some exciting players to the club as he looks to return them to the glory days which saw the Mariners miss just two finals series in the first nine years of the Hyundai A-League.

Ins and outs

Ins: Tom Hiariej, Alan Baro, Antony Golec, Andrew Hoole, Ben Kennedy, Kye Rowles, Josh Rose, Daniel De Silva, Thomas Glover, Asdrúbal, Wout Brama.

Outs: Paul Izzo, Roy O’Donovan, Fabio Ferreira, Ivan Necevski, Nick Montgomery, Jacob Poscoliero, Jacques Faty, Scott Galloway, Mickael Tavares, Michael Neill, Jake Adelson.

The burning questions

Will Paul Okon's refresh bring finals football back to Gosford?

Who will fill the goalscoring void left by Roy O'Donovan?

Can Daniel De Silva kick-start his career back on home soil?

Lesson learnt from last season

Gosford must become a fortress again. The Mariners lost more often at home last season than any other side, taking maximum points from just four of their 13 home fixtures. By contrast, the Mariners lost just once at home in each of the 2011/12 and Championship-winning 2012/13 campaigns.

Alan Baro

Road ahead

The Mariners open 2017/18 by hosting a blockbusting F3 derby at Gosford before trips to Western Sydney and Perth Glory. The season's first month is completed by a visit from Melbourne Victory.

Expected strengths

The Dutch duo of Tom Hiariej and Wout Brama will strengthen the Mariners midfield and their combined experience should allow the engine-room to function very effectively, freeing up youngster Daniel De Silva to create chances for the side's strikers.

Potential weakness

The now-departed pair of Roy O'Donovan and Fabio Ferreira combined for nearly half of the Mariners' goals in the last two seasons and their absence leaves a front-third void that urgently needs filling.

Okon will place his faith in the likes of youngster Trent Buhagiar, the mercurial Andrew Hoole and new Spanish attacker Asdrúbal to shoulder that important load. 

Tactical approach

The Mariners improved under Okon last season and will look for more of the same in 2017/18.

Shoring up a defence which leaked 52 goals in 2016/17 will be a key plank in the strategy, with much of Central Coast's transitional play likely to go through Hiariej and Brama. Getting De Silva on the ball as often as possible will also be key.

Breakout star

Daniel De Silva. The talented youngster joined Italian giants Roma from Perth Glory in 2015 before spending 18 months on loan at Dutch club Roda JC.

His return home in search of greater game-time and the chance to work again with his former youth international coach Okon is an extremely exciting prospect for Mariners fans. Still only 20, De Silva has the ability to light up the Hyundai A-League with his wide range of eye-catching skills.

Best-case scenario

A return to finals football for the first time since 2013/14, with the new players quickly meshing into a unit that is both defensively sound and effective on attack.