Coach Phil Moss has had a full pre-season at the helm of the Mariners and while the nucleus of the squad he inherited remains, "Mossy" has had the chance to put his own stamp on the side.
But it won't be easy. Central Coast thrive on their underdog status, which they'll be counting on again to propel them into the six with most pundits writing them off as a Hyundai A-League force this season.
Are the Mariners in decline?
Having won the Hyundai A-League Premiership and Championship in succession prior to last season, the 2013/14 campaign was the first time in three seasons the Mariners went without silverware.
Indeed it was also the first time in four seasons they finished outside the top two – a remarkable effort from a club that doesn't boast the financial muscle of many of their rivals.
The Mariners still managed a semi-finals appearance and third place finish to once again qualify for the Asian Champions League, however it remains to be seen if they can mount another title challenge.
Where will the goals come from?
With McBreen, Ibini, McGlinchey and Flores all having departed and Nick Fitzgerald, Mitch Duke and Matt Simon failing to fire on a consistent basis last season, questions will be asked just where are the goals coming from?
The Yellow Army will be hoping Seung-Yong Kim can take his game to another level this season and that new signing Malick Mane hits the ground running but the club will be relying on everyone to contribute on the scoresheet this term.
LESSONS LEARNT FROM LAST SEASON
The Mariners experienced a huge turnover in personnel last season, including the loss of long-time coach Graham Arnold.
While Phil Moss has taken over the reins seamlessly, there's no doubt the loss of some key players throughout the season stifled their finals chances.
The club are into the quarter-finals of the Westfield FFA Cup where they'll play Queensland PS4 NPL outfit Palm Beach Sharks, having accounted for South Coast Wolves and Olympic FC. We'll learn a lot about the Mariners' system and season's fortunes after this Saturday’s F3 Derby.
Leadership. Mariners players are tough, typified by captain John Hutchison and deputy Nick Montgomery.
The pair will have the experience to lead the side. ‘Hutcho’ is one of only a handful of remaining foundation players in season 10 and will break Matt Thompson's league record for appearances if he plays in excess of 20 matches.They've got plenty of options from set-pieces and Liam Reddy was outstanding in goals last season.
Squad depth. Central Coast have been relatively quiet in the transfer market during the off-season and their squad looks a little thin considering they will have two Cup competitions to contend with. The side was hampered by transfers and injuries to key players last season and they'll be desperate to ensure there's not a repeat in 2014/15.
Having served a long apprenticeship under Graham Arnold, Moss will be keen to make his mark but will surely not dispense with the ‘Dutch’ style we're use to seeing from the Mariners. With an expected 4-3-3, look for his side to frustrate oppositions with resolute defending then hit quickly in transition.
Malick Mane: The Senegalese striker has been tasked with filling the void up front and has the potential to light up Central Coast Stadium from the offing. The 25-year-old has spent the majority of his career playing in Norway and arrives on loan from Swedish parent club IFK Gothenburg. Mane has shown glimpses of his electric pace in pre-season and is not scared to pull the trigger in front of goal.
“Mariners lose F3 season opener to the Jets”
Mariners journeyman Eddy Bosnar was ranked fifth in the world for “shot power” on EA Sports' recently released FIFA 15. The centre-back will no doubt unleash some bullets from set-piece duties this season that could blow the lid off the sauce bottles at Central Coast Stadium. Off the pitch, defensive pin-up star Zac Anderson has been turning heads having been named as a finalist in Cleo magazine’s Bachelor of the Year award.
John Kosmina (former Socceroo): 6th
Adam Peacock (Fox Sports): 8th
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