The eleventh season of the Hyundai A-League has arrived! After another interminably long off season, Australia’s premiere national football competition begins anew on Thursday with the once mighty Brisbane Roar travelling away to Western Sydney Wanderers.
As has become tradition on The FAT Website, this season preview will provide some comically inaccurate predictions charting the Brisbane Roar’s prospects, the fortunes of the other teams in the comp and which individual players will emerge as stars.
At the start of last season I wrote a blog detailing some predictions for the season ahead. Here’s how I went:
How I said the table would finish
1 Sydney FC WRONG
2 Western Sydney Wanderers WRONG
3 Brisbane Roar WRONG
4 Melbourne Victory WRONG
5 Adelaide United WRONG
6 Melbourne City WRONG
7 Central Coast Mariners WRONG
8 Wellington Phoenix WRONG
9 Perth Glory WRONG
10 Newcastle Jets CORRECT!
- Besart Berisha will be the top scorer in the competition. WRONG – Marc Janko
- Kenny Lowe will be the first coach to lose his job. WRONG – Mike Mulvey [Brisbane Roar] was the first coach to lose his job. Kenny Lowe was not sacked.
- The final will be between Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC in a huge NSW derby. WRONG – I was half right! Sydney FC played Melbourne Victory
- Melbourne Victory will win the inaugural FFA Cup WRONG – Adelaide United won the inaugural FFA Cup
- The eventual winners of the competition will be Sydney FC WRONG – Melbourne Victory won the championship
Summary: I am terrible at football predictions.
Now with a new season upon us it’s time to lay down some fresh predictions and share my thoughts on the season to come.
Predictions For 2015/16 Season
Coach: John Aloisi
Ins: Jamie Maclaren (Perth), George Lambadaridis (injury replacement), Corona (Almería)
Outs: Kofi Danning (Oakleigh Cannons), George Lambadaridis (released), Adam Sarota (FC Utrecht — end of loan), Andrija Kaluderovic (unknown), Ben Litfin (Palm Beach), Lachlan Jackson (Newcastle Jets), Luke Brattan (released)
Last Season: Sixth
Brisbane Roar are a club in serious trouble. After four glorious seasons that saw the club win three titles, their fortune came crashing down last season in spectacular fashion. Championship winning coach Mike Mulvey was sacked after six games with his dismissal being leaked to the media before he was even told. The club had a poor regular season in which they never hit their stride. Then in the off-season, things went from bad to worse. The club’s Indonesian owners The Bakrie Group seemingly lost interest in supporting the club. Huge debts were amassed and it was revealed that most of the club’s players and staff haven’t been paid properly for almost eighteen months. One player – influential midfielder Luke Brattan – tore up his contract and left. Managing Director Sean Dobson was fired for financial mismanagement and for most of the off-season, outgoing chairman Chris Fong promised the FFA and fans that a sale of the club to new owners was imminent. After three months of talk, no such sale eventuated and Fong went into hiding. The Bakrie Group sent out representatives to Brisbane and during a fan forum held last week they claimed they never had any intention of selling the club, completely contradicting what fans had been told in the months prior.
The club’s relationship with its fans is in tatters. The season membership numbers have plummeted from 0ver 10,000 last season to just 3,000 for 2015/16. The fans don’t trust the owners of the club and want them out. The Fan Forum was an intense three hour evening in which angry supporters vented their frustration and searched for apologies and answers. Point blank the representative of the Bakrie Group was asked by club members to apologize for their handling of the club on three occasions and each time he refused. Promises were made by the club to clear its outstanding debts to staff by January 2016.
With so much turmoil off field, its impossible to see the club having much on-field success. It’s hard to get excited about playing for your club when you’re not sure if the next pay cheque will arrive on time. New coach John Aloisi has plenty of accolades from his playing career but he is resuming a coaching career from Melbourne Heart where he went fifteen games without a win – a competition record. Last season fans were told Mike Mulvey was sacked because the playing style he wanted ‘didn’t fit the club philosophy’. Since then we’ve hired a 36 year old midfielder, released twelve youth players and the technical director responsible for that decision Ken Stead is no longer with the club. It’s fair to say that any framework or legacy of the Ange Postecoglou is now gone and the club will basically rebuild itself as something new. What that something is is anyones guess.
Coach: Guillermo Amor
Ins: Iacopo La Rocca (Western Sydney), Bruce Kamau (youth team), George Mells (free), Eli Babalj (AZ Alkmaar — on loan), Mate Dugandzic (Melbourne City)
Outs: Nigel Boogaard (Newcastle Jets), Miguel Palanca (released), Cam Watson (Jets), Paul Izzo (Central Coast Mariners), Awer Mabil (FC Midtjylland)
Adelaide United are a club that seem perennially one star player away from attaining greater success in the A-League. They ended their trophy drought last season by winning the inaugural FFA Cup but the lack of depth in the squad meant that they fell short in the regular season despite some patches of brilliance.
To be honest, there doesn’t see to be a whole lot thats changed in the club to sway their fortunes to drastically in 2015/16. I don’t think they’ll be serious challengers for the Premiers Plate but they are definitely a cut above the stragglers in the competition. Comfortably snug in midtable.
I’m sad to see colourful coach Josep Gombau leave for an assistant coaching role in the MLS during the off season.
Central Coast Mariners
Coach: Tony Walmsley
Ins: Roy O’Donovan (Brunei DPMM, Singapore), Mitchell Austin (Cambridge United, England), Josh Bingham (promoted), Jake McGing (promoted), Paul Izzo (Adelaide United), Harry Ascroft (VVV-Venlo), Daniel Heffernan (Heidelberg)
Outs: Zac Anderson (released), Brent Griffiths (released), John Hutchinson (retired — appointed assistant manager), Mitchell Duke (Shimizu S-Pulse), Travis Major (released), Richard Vernes (return to Budaoest Honved), Matt Simon (released), Zac Cairncross (released), Dejan Pandurevic (released), Tom Slater (released), Isaka Cernak (released), Hayden Morton (released), Matthew Nash (retired — appointed goalkeeper coach)
Look at that outgoing player list!
Central Coast Mariners was once a club that was hailed for its consistency and ability to perform at a level well above expectations for a team their size. They had been a permanent fixture of the finals season and even won the Premiers Plate two years ago. The departure of influential coach Graham Arnold and financial pressures however have taken their toll.
The club had a dismal 2014/15 season by their standards and if preseason form is any indication, it will be another long season for the Mariners. Too many talented mainstays (not least former captain John Hutchison) have left the squad and they don’t have a seasoned coach to rebuild the squad in a manner that keeps them competitive. They are hands down favourites to claim the wooden spoon and be warned – picking the bottom team in the competition is the only thing I’ve consistently got right since I started writing these season previews.
On a fun side note – keep an eye out for Roy O’Donovan. I have no idea who he is but apparently he transferred from Brunei DPMM.
Coach: John van’t Schip
Ins: Steve Kuzmanovski (Western Sydney), Ivan Franjic (free), Corey Gameiro (Sydney FC), Harry Novillo (contract renewed), Aaron Hughes (Brighton & Hove Albion), Michael Zullo (FC Utrecht), Bruno Fornaroli (free), Thomas Sorensen (free), Jason Trifiro (Western Sydney)
Outs: Andrew Redmayne (Western Sydney), Josh Kennedy (retired), Mate Dugandzic (released), Kew Jaliens (released), Damien Duff (released), Iain Ramsay (released), Robbie Wielaert (released), Massimo Murdocca (Avondale FC), Jason Hoffman (Newcastle Jets)
Surely the most underperforming team in the competition is Melbourne Heart/City who are one of the richest clubs in the competition, based out of the biggest city in the country and have qualified for the finals (top six out of ten teams) a grand total of two times.
This season they finally look like a club that will hang around during finals football as they’ve steered clear of hiring aging stars of the past (see – Josh Kennedy, Harry Kewell etc) and recruited smartly with the addition of Socceroos Ivan Franjic and Michael Zullo.
Honestly, the only real weaknesses I see with City is their coach John van’t Schip. I don’t think he has the tactical nous to win the club trophies.
Coach: Kevin Muscat
Ins: Danny Vukovic (Perth Glory), Oliver Bozanic (free), Giancarlo Gallifuoco (Swansea)
Outs: Nathan Coe (released), Andrew Nabbout (released), Jordan Brown (released), Mark Milligan (Baniyas)
Defending champions Melbourne Victory are a club poised to absolutely dominate the A-League. They enjoy huge support and boast an extraordinary one third of the entire competition’s season members. They enjoy financial security and a stable squad that includes Besart Berisha, the most fearsome striker in the competition. They have also recruited smartly in the off season with the aquisition of Vukovic, Bozanic and Gallifuoco and jettisoned the gaffe prone Nathan Coe.
Its hard to see any weaknesses in the champion’s armour. I believe they’re a good shout to win the first ever treble in the history of the A-League. The change of rules allowing for a second marquee player will only further strengthen their squad in the future. They look ominous.
Coach: Scott Miller
Ins: Nigel Boogaard (Adelaide United), Andy Brennan (South Melbourne), Themba Muata-Marlow (Sydney FC), Mark Birighitti (returns from loan), Jason Hoffman (Melbourne City), Lachlan Jackson (Brisbane Roar), Mateo Poljak (Western Sydney), Labinot Haliti (Western Sydney), Cam Watson (Adelaide United), Leonardo Vitor Santiago (1860 Munich), Milos Trifunovic (Radnicki Nis)
Outs: John Solari (released), Allan Welsh (released), Sam Gallagher (released), Taylor Regan (released), James Virgili (released), Max Burgess (released), Andrew Hoole (Sydney FC), Travis Cooper (Adamstown Rosebud), Edson Montaño(Barcelona — end of loan), Scott Neville (Western Sydney), Jacob Pepper (Western Sydney), Zenon Caravella (released)
Wholesale changes have been rung in at Newcastle Jets who endured the season from hell last year. They still don’t formally have new owners confirmed although interim caretakers the FFA are promising a sale soon. They have pretty much hit the reset button with their squad which they absolutely needed to do. Will this new batch of players come together and become serious contenders? I doubt it. But the only way is up and with the shape that Central Coast are in, I believe the Jets will go up. All the way to ninth on the competition ladder.
Coach: Kenny Lowe
Ins: Antony Golec (Western Sydney), Jerrad Tyson (Sun Pegasus), Alex Grant (free), Hagi Gligor (Sydney), Ante Covic (Western Sydney), Gyorgy Sandor (Videoton FC), Marc Warren (free), Diego Castro (Getafe), Guyon Fernandez (Breda)
Outs: Brandon O’Neill (Sydney FC), Danny Vukovic (Melbourne Victory), Riley Woodcock (Sydney FC), Scott Jamieson (Western Sydney), Jack Duncan (Randers FC), Daniel De Silva (Roda JC — on loan), Rostyn Griffiths (released), Youssouf Hersi (released), Dragan Paljic (unknown), Jamie Maclaren (released), Andy Keogh (released)
Boo! Hiss! The salary cap cheating villains of the A-League are back with a new look squad. Basically, all their best players are gone! It’s hard to think of such a dramatic talent drain that a squad has endured in a single offseason but I guess thats what happens when you’ve been fudging the books and suddenly can’t make good on the extra money you promised. McLaren, Vukovic, Keogh, Jamieson, De Silva…all gone. An aging Ante Covic and journeymen like Marc Warren and Jerrad Tyson as replacements. It doesn’t look good.
Coach: Graham Arnold
Ins: Milos Ninkovic (Evian), Riley Woodcock (Perth Glory), Brandon O’Neill (Perth Glory), Andrew Hoole (Newcastle Jets), Mickael Tavares, Jacques Faty (upgraded to full contract), Zac Anderson (Central Coast), Filip Holosko (Besiktas), Milos Dimitrijevic (returns), Matt Simon (uncontracted), Alex Mullen (Mars Hill), Ivan Necevski (returns), Jacob Tratt (Sutherland)
Outs: Sasa Ognenovski (released), Nick Carle (released), Hagi Gligor (released), Peter Triantis (released), Bernie Ibini (Club Brugge), Corey Gameiro (Melbourne City), Marc Janko (FC Basel), Nikola Petkovic (KVC Westerlo), Terry Antonis (PAOK)
I’m a little befuddled by Sydney FC’s recruiting policy in the off season. They released Golden Boot winner Marc Janko as well as Corey Gameiro who was looking sensational until injury brought his 2014/15 season to a premature end.
Having said that, the club’s greatest asset remains their coach Graham Arnold whose tactical nous and experience should ensure that the club are one of the few teams that will keep pace with Melbourne Victory during the regular season. Should their paths cross in the finals they will be out for revenge after the embarrassing capitulation they endured in last years final.
Coach: Ernie Merrick
Ins: Blake Powell (APIA Leichhardt), Jeffrey Sarpong (NAC Breda), James McGarry, Logan Rogerson (both promoted), Troy Danaskos (Sydney Olympic)
Outs: Michael Boxall (SuperSport United), Tyler Boyd (Vitoria Guimaraes), Jason Hicks (released), Josh Brindall-South (released), Kenny Cunningham (released), Nathan Burns (FC Tokyo)
As an outsider looking in, my main question for the Nix are where will the goals come from after the departure of Nathan Burns and Kenny Cunningham, two strikers who reliably banged in the goals last season. Otherwise, the Nix are a team that will likely build on the unexpected success they enjoyed last season which saw them get tantalizingly close to winning a maiden premiereship. Under Ernie Merrick’s stewardship, the club’s exciting young talent should be finals contenders for a second year running.
Western Sydney Wanderers
Coach: Tony Popovic
Ins: Andrew Redmayne (Melbourne City), Scott Jamieson (Perth Glory), Scott Neville (Newcastle Jets), Jacob Pepper (Newcastle Jets), Andreu Guerao Mayoral (Racing Santander), Mitch Nichols (Cerezo Osaka), Federico Piovaccari (Sampdoria), Dimas Delgado (Recreativo), Alberto Aguilar (free), Dario Vidosic (FC Sion)
Outs: Matthew Spiranovic (Hangzhou Greentown), Ante Covic (Perth Glory), Yusuke Tanaka (released), Jason Trifiro (released), Nick Ward (released), Adrian Madaschi (released), Yianni Perkatis (released), Nikita Rukavytsya (released), Kerem Bulut (released), Tomi Juric (released), Nick Kalmar (released), Antony Golec (Perth Glory), Steve Kuzmanovski (Melbourne City), Yojiro Takahagi (FC Seoul), Iacopo La Rocca (Adelaide United)
Last season was the best and worst of times for Western Sydney Wanderers who had a fairytale run in the Asian Champions League, becoming the first Australian club to win such an accolade. It came at a cost though as the players were burned out from a lack of offseason and as a result the club performed dismally during the regular season.
Once again, coach Tony Popovic has rung in the changes and with a proper preseason under their belt, it seems safe to assume they’ll be contenders once more. The signing of Dario Vidosic in particular is an exciting proposition. They’ll be in the mix during finals season and I think they are one of the few clubs that will challenge the Victory.
1. Melbourne Victory
2. Sydney FC
3. Western Sydney Wanderers
4. Wellington Phoenix
5. Melbourne City
6. Adelaide United
7. Perth Glory
8. Brisbane Roar
9. Newcastle Jets
10. Central Coast Mariners
- Besart Berisha will be the top scorer in the competition.
- Tony Walmsley will be the first coach to lose his job.
- The final will be between Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC in a grand final repeat.
- Melbourne Victory will win the FFA Cup
- Melbourne Victory will win the treble – the minor premiereship, the grand final and the FFA Cup