It’s the great imponderable. After a 12 months that redefined the term “rollercoaster” how will a new-look Wanderers respond this season?
The daily rhythms have returned to a steadier beat out west, with an infusion of Spanish flair no less.
Now, can Tony Popovic fashion another successful domestic era in what looks very much like Wanderers 2.0.
With all the club’s achievements and success over the last few years, a Hyundai A-League crown still evades them. It would be a remarkable turnaround to make that happen in 2015/16 but the Wanderers have already shown they can achieve incredible things.
In pre-season, they've played well in patches during but haven't fully dominated over each 90 minutes. This may be more a case of experimenting as the many new faces bed in while a tweak to the playing system seeps in.
The big test is Tuesday night in Perth. It's an FFA Cup clash they'll desperately want to win with the Hyundai A-League season kicking off nine days later.
Expect the red and black to start the new season slowly and build strongly as the campaign progresses. And Popovic is wily enough to know it’s not how you start but where you finish. And he’ll want to peaking at the business end of the season with four out of the last regular season games on the road.
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THE BURNING QUESTIONS
- · Can the large number of new faces gel quickly?
- · Will marquee man Federico Piovaccari be the goalmachine WSW crave?
- · Can Wanderers reclaim Sydney after the Sky Blues took the honours in last season’s Sydney derby?
LESSONS LEARNT FROM LAST SEASON
· Managing an ACL and CWC campaign is poison for your A-League ambitions
Wanderers are still in the hunt for the Westfield FFA Cup, with a quarter-final trip to Perth Glory set down for tomorrow night (Sept 29.)
Just nine days later they open the Hyundai A-League season with a home clash against Brisbane Roar, while fans have to wait until round three for the first Sydney derby.
With no ACL to worry about this season, they will be able to focus solely on A-League duties which can only be a good thing.
Back-to-back home games against Roar and Melbourne Victory (round 9 and 10) will be huge drawcards for Wanderers fans, while it’s a busy festive period for the club, hosting Newcastle Jets on Christmas Eve and Adelaide United at ‘Wanderland’ on New Year’s Day.
Four of the last six games are played away from home, meaning Popovic’s side will have to perform well on the road to ensure a finals finish.
- · Midfield depth
- · Creativity from midfield
- · No ACL commitments
· Massive turnover in the squad, time to gel required
Popovic sets up his teams like he used to play himself. Tough, disciplined and uncompromising.
That said, with the likes of Dimas Delgado in the side as a controlling midfielder, we'll likely see a cleaner passing game through the lines, while the excellent full backs appear to be set for increasingly attacking roles.
It won't quite be tiki-taka but simply an evolution in the efficient system used in the past to grind teams into submission, with an increased emphasis on ball possession (traditionally something they've not needed in order to win).
A water-tight defence will again be the base for the Wanderers success. The additions of the Scotts - Neville and Jamieson – give them quality, speed and experience in the vital fullback roles. It appears the 4-2-3-1 system will remain this season and might just work with the players at Popovic’s disposal.
Andreu is likely to provide the anchor in midfield alongside Delgado, in front of a defensive duo of Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Brendan Hamill.
Piovaccari will lead the line and be relied on to score the goals, with service to come from the likes of Vidosic, Nichols, Romeo Castelen and Mark Bridge.
On paper, it’s very impressive.
SOCIAL MEDIA STAR
PREDICTION – 5th
With no ACL commitments and other outside distractions, it’s fair to suggest the Wanderers will have a more settled season and that should contribute to better results.
While there has been a major overhaul of the squad, the recruits look to have settled well and have undoubtedly added quality and experience to the side.
With that depth of talent, especially in midfield, the coaching ability of Popovic and the raucous atmosphere of the RBB, the ingredients are there for a bumper campaign for the red and black.
A return to finals football looks a good bet.
Odds: Western Sydney Wanderers
TAB Hyundai A-League Season 11 Championship Futures