Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold says last season was the "kick up the backside" he may have needed, adding he's learnt some crucial lessons ahead of Season 2016/17.
After missing the 2016 Finals Series – just 12 months after playing in a grand final – there was a feeling in the playing group they have something to prove this season.
That also applies to Arnold, who had finished no lower than the top two in his four previous seasons coaching Central Coast then the Sky Blues.
“Definitely for myself coming into this season the determination is a lot more,” Arnold told www.a-league.com.au.
“My first year at Sydney making the grand final, I thought just a few more players and a bit of improvement that would get us there…but it wasn’t to be
“Before [last season] I’d had four years of top two, maybe it was the kick up the backside I needed as well.”
Sky Blues defender Aaron Calver saw a determination, not only in Arnold but the whole squad, to make amends for last season.
“The boys were all keen to prove everyone wrong from last year. It will be a good year I think,” the 20-year-old said.
“Arnie’s been really positive and trying to make us better and the signs are all good.
“He knows what the boys can do so I think we’re in for a big year.”
Things started well enough for Sydney FC last season, but fell away in the second half of the season when they went 11 games without a win.
The downward spiral started at the end of January, just as the squad was about to embark on their AFC Champions League campaign.
While refusing to make excuses for their failure to reach the top six, Arnold admits he learned plenty of lessons to take the squad forward.
“If you look at it realistically I think it was round 16 we played the Wanderers and we were sitting in second spot, two points off the lead,” the Sky Blues boss said.
“Then Champions League started and we fell apart because of probably the scheduling but also the dissection of the team.
“We had so many players. I went for quantity over quality and was splitting the squad in two to try and deal with the different competitions and that probably didn’t help the team.
“I made sure the foreigners came back earlier into training and in good conditions. Last year we didn’t have any foreigners until the middle of August and that didn’t help our cause.”