Season preview | Sydney FC

One signing has made all the difference to Sydney FC; what effect will he have on the title?

One signing has made all the difference to Sydney FC; what effect will he have on the title?

A little more than a month ago, there were serious questions hanging over Sydney FC. New coach Ian Crook had been appointed to a certain amount of muted praise, while the playing roster was undergoing a similarly understated shift.

The old guard were out, replaced by an interesting mix of young talent, Hyundai A-League know-how and untested imports.

The likes of Mitch Mallia and Hagi Gligor, Adam Griffiths and Ali Abbas, and Kruno Lovrek and Yairo Yao illustrated that Crook was quickly reshaping the Sky Blues squad as he saw fit - but it was hard to tell if Sydney possessed the desire to push forward to be considered among the favourites.

The sudden departure of Nick Carle then left a huge hole in the midfield. Carle had never quite found his mojo at Sydney, displaying flashes of his undoubted ability but failing to deliver the creativity and goals the Cove hoped for.

And then, in a moment of mad inspiration, Sydney FC turned the A-League season on its head. Enough has been written about the capture of Alessandro Del Piero but the former Juventus great-s minimum two-year commitment to Sydney has galvanised the club, and the competition as a whole, to perform at even higher levels.

The question now is will that inspiration last all season? Crook had his plans in place and now has to find a way to accommodate a truly great individual. It-s not a bad problem to have but who can tell how it might affect the balance he was aiming to achieve.

But whereas the Sky Blues previously appeared to be stuck in a rut, they-re now back on the right track. There-s no doubt Sydney loves a bit of glamour, and ADP has certainly brought that back to Allianz Stadium. The have stars in their eyes and the wind is at their back - how far can they go now?

Key player: Alessandro Del Piero It couldn-t be anyone else. Del Piero will make a massive contribution to Sydney this year, there is no question. If Crook can build his squad around the veteran Italian, we could all be in for a treat.

Coach: Ian Crook Experienced at every level but the top, the manager gets his chance here. He knows he was Sydney FC-s second choice behind Graham Arnold and has everything to prove, with more than just A-League fans watching to see how he will handle it.

The upside is that having been the youth team coach he has a great relationship with those players and they will be used to his systems and might just make things work at Sydney FC.

X-Factor: Joel Chianese Fast, enigmatic and with a strong taste for goal, Chianese has shown he has the ability to get in behind defences; the problem last season was he didn-t always finish well, but of he has improved on that then he could be a huge weapon for Sydney FC.

Transfers In: Paul Reid, Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus), Trent McClenahan (Perth Glory), Blake Powell (promoted, National Youth League), Yairo Yao (Sporting San Miguelito, Panama), Krunoslav Lovrek (Qingdao Jonoon, Chinese Super League), Adam Griffiths (Hangzhou, Chinese Super League), Fabio Alves Macedo (Melbourne Victory), Ali Abbas (Newcastle Jets), Mitch Mallia (Sydney FC Youth), Daniel Petkovski (Sydney FC Youth), Hagi Gligor (Sydney FC Youth), Vedran Janjetovic Out: Nick Carle (loan, Baniyas Sports Club, UAE), Mark Bridge (released), Michael Beauchamp (released), Bruno Cazarine (released), Shannon Cole (released), Jamie Coyne (released), Scott Jamieson (Perth Glory), Karol Kisel (Slavia Prague, Czech Republic), Juho Makela (HJK, Finland), Liam Reddy (released),

Key fixtures Round 1 v Wellington Phoenix (A) Heading straight back to where the last season came undone could be cathartic for the Sky Blues and if they nab three points in New Zealand they show they are the real deal.

Round 3 v Wanderers FC (A) The inaugural Sydney Derby promises to be full of drama, especially after the nasty events that occurred at Sydney-s first trial at Campbelltown, there is plenty on the line here.

Round 27 v Brisbane Roar (A) Sydney seem to trouble the Roar for some reason and there is also plenty of bad blood between the teams, given the way things went last year in both Sydney and up in Brisbane, which means this match, one week before finals could be a belter.

Stat shot: Despite their middling form last season, Sydney-s worse stat was in assist, with just 29 all year, which means the team weren-t providing enough for their strikers. That must change this season, and you-d imagine Del Piero will be behind most of them.

Prediction: Fifth (This is not the author-s prediction but an average of contributors.)

The Hyundai A-League 2012/13 season kicks off on Friday 5 October with the season-s first Melbourne derby at Etihad Stadium. Click here for tickets to all the matches.

The official Hyundai A-League 2012/13 fantasy football game and tipping competitions are also open - so sign up now.