There is a genuine feeling that good times are ahead down Moore Park way. Under new coach Graham Arnold – a championship winner with Central Coast – he already has them organised tactically, and with a host of impressive signings there is plenty of optimism coming out of the Sky Blues camp.
There’s no doubt they should be looking to improve on last season, where they slumped to a fifth-place finish before being bundled out by Melbourne Victory in the first week of the finals.
But their new-look squad looks to be gelling quickly and Sydney have been among the most impressive performers in the pre-season, losing just once (to EPL club Newcastle United in New Zealand) and making it through to the last eight of the Westfield FFA Cup.
THE BURNING QUESTIONS
Finding the right balance in attack
Arnold has a vast array of attacking talent which gives Sydney one of the best strike-forces in the competition, but the wily coach must find his best combination and just how he can fit them all into his system. Marc Janko, Alex Brosque, Shane Smeltz, Corey Gameiro, Bernie Ibini and Chris Naumoff all have designs on starting spots and how Arnold fits them all in will be interesting.
Who will fill the troublesome left back position?
The Sky Blues haven’t given up hope of bringing in another player in that position for the season. Alex Gersbach has done well in pre-season but is only 17 and it’s a big ask to expect him to do the job all season. Matt Jurman and Ali Abbas are other options but are more comfortable in other positions.
LESSONS LEARNT FROM LAST SEASON
There’s no more relying on one star player. Over the last two seasons almost everything the Sky Blues did went through marquee man Alessandro Del Piero.
But the Italian legend is no longer there so the Sky Blues will base their game on a more structured, team-based style.
It promises to be a tricky opening few weeks to the season, with a tough schedule and the squad to be weakened by international commitments.
Bernie Ibini (Socceroos), Ali Abbas (Iraq), Chris Naumoff and Hagi Gligor (Young Socceroos) are all likely to miss the first couple of games due to national team commitments meaning the squad’s depth is to be tested.
With games against Melbourne City, Western Sydney Wanderers FC, Brisbane Roar and Central Coast in the first month, it won’t be an easy task to navigate for Arnold, especially with a Westfield FFA Cup quarter-final against Adelaide to contend with as well.
But if they can get through that period, it could be blue skies ahead for the Sky Blues.
Going forward there’s plenty of depth. In fact, it’s scary. Sydney arguably has the most firepower in the competition and threats all over the park, something they haven’t enjoyed since their title-winning season in 2010. And with Arnold, they’ve a coach who’ll give them the structure and tactical discipline that’s been lacking since 2010 and Vitezslav Lavicka.
Midfield inexperience. While Ali Abbas has been around for a few years now, the Sky Blues will rely on youngsters in the middle of the park. Terry Antonis (20), Peter Triantis (22) and Hagi Gligor (19) have loads of potential but not a lot of Hyundai A-League experience under their belt.
Arnold is likely to stick with his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, based on a disciplined game-plan and rock-solid defence. Sasa Ognenovski and Nikola Petkovic provide class and experience at centre-back and with the likes of Janko up front and Carle in midfield, the spine of the team looks very strong.
Chris Naumoff. The 19-year-old had a small taste of first-team action last season but could play a more significant role under Arnold. Quick and technically gifted, the Young Socceroo attacker also has an eye for goal as demonstrated by his two stunning strikes against Sydney United in the Westfield FFA Cup.
‘Here we go again: Sydney FC look for 10th coach in 10 seasons after Arnold sacking”
DID YOU KNOW?
Sydney FC has a massive international flavour. Current Austrian national team captain Marc Janko, Iraqi international Ali Abbas and numerous former and current Socceroos all wear the sky blue. Not to mention World Cup 2010 New Zealand striker Shane Smeltz and Serbian U-21 international Nikola Petkovic.
Adam Peacock (Fox Sports): 6th
John Kosmina (former Socceroo): 2nd
Aidan Ormond (Managing Editor FFA network): 2nd
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