Hyundai A-League season review: Sydney FC

A season of disappointment for Sydney FC, missing the Hyundai A-League Finals Series less than a year after playing in the Grand Final. We examine the Sky Blues’ season and look ahead to the 2016/17 campaign.

Position: 7th
Record: Played 27, Won 8, Drawn 10, Lost 9
Goals: 36
Conceded: 36
Leading Goal Scorer:  Filip Holosko (10)

Best home crowd: 40,539 – Round 3 against Western Sydney Wanderers

Star performer: Matt Jurman

The 26-year-old has developed into a real leader at the back for the Sky Blues and there’s no doubt the 2015/16 campaign was his best in the Hyundai A-League. Even when things soured for Sydney mid-season, Jurman’s performances never dropped.

Mark Bridge fights for the ball with Sydney FC's Matt Jurman.

He led the way in clearances and interceptions but his distribution and organisational skills also improved markedly. Jurman won all three major prizes – Player of the Year, Players’ Player and Members Player gong – at the recent Sydney FC awards night. With the Sky Blues looking to rebuild next season, the central defender will be a pivotal player in their resurgence. 

 Breakout player: Brandon O’Neill

After making just 13 appearances in four seasons at Perth Glory, O’Neill moved to Sydney this season looking for a chance…and certainly made the most of it. The 22-year-old impressed that much he was often chosen ahead of big-money imports Milos Dimitrijevic and Mickael Tavares, catching the eye with his clinical passing – both short and long – and ability to control the tempo of a match.

Phoenix striker Roy Krishna challenges for the ball with Sydney FC midfielder Brandon O'Neill.

In total, O’Neill made 21 appearances, finishing with 51 interceptions, 45 tackles, 27 key passes, two assists and a passing accuracy of over 81 percent. Arnold will be hoping he can hold onto O’Neill’s services for another year with overseas clubs circling.

 Goal of the year: Filip Holosko

The Slovakian finished with 10 goals for the campaign but none better than the one against Wellington at the Cake Tin in round 11. After collecting the ball near the right sideline about 30 yards from goal, Holosko cut a swathe through the Phoenix defence with a mazy run in-field. He easily beat two defenders as he drove into the box before moving the ball onto his left foot and curled the ball past a despairing Glen Moss into the far corner.

VIDEO: Top 10 Hyundai A-League goals for 2015/16

Highlight: Sydney is Sky Blue

While Sydney FC finished well below fierce local rivals Western Sydney Wanderers on the ladder, they again gave their fans bragging rights on Sydney Derby day this season. The Sky Blues won two – and drew the other – of the three local derbies, increasing their unbeaten run against the Wanderers to seven matches

Milos Ninkovic netted the winner late on for Sydney FC.
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The 2-1 win at Wanderland in January – thanks to Shane Smeltz’s last-minute volley – was probably the high point of the campaign for Sydney, right up until the final day 4-0 demolition of Perth Glory.

Lowlight: Missing the finals

After making the grand final last season, big things were expected of the Sky Blues in 2015/16. So to finish seventh and seven points outside the finals places was a huge disappointment for everyone associated with the club. The hamstring injury which marred the season of skipper and talisman Alex Brosque didn’t help and the side certainly didn’t deal with the extra games and travel due to the ACL. Seemingly assured of a top six spot in February, Sydney went on an 11-game winless run to free-fall down the ladder and ultimately miss the finals.

What they need:

You don’t need to be Einstein to work out a new striker will be the main priority for Arnie. The loss of 16-goal striker Marc Janko was never adequately replaced with Matt Simon (3) and Shane Smeltz (4) unable to fill the Austrian’s very large boots, while skipper Alex Brosque (5) missed half the campaign through injury.

Sydney skipper Alex Brosque laments a missed chance against Wellington Phoenix.

Only the three teams below Sydney on the ladder scored less goals than the Sky Blues’ 36 for the season. Simply, a striker is a must!

Acquisitions for next season:
Alex Wilkinson

Losses for next season: 

Jacques Faty, Mickael Tavares, Ali Abbas

Outlook for 2016/17:

This looms as a defining off-season for the Sky Blues and coach Graham Arnold. If they can get their recruitment right there is every chance they can get back to the top as quickly as they went the other way during the recent campaign. Finishing top of a tough group in the ACL has gone some way to lifting the mood around Moore Park and that will only increase if they can progress to the last eight ahead of the new Hyundai A-League season. With some fresh faces, proper planning and a revamped playing style – much like crosstown rivals the Wanderers did this season – the glory days can return quickly for the Sky Blues...at least that’s what the club’s fans will be hoping.