Sydney FC enter the season as defending premiers and champions. The Sky Blues cruised to the premiership last season and backed it up with a grand final win over arch-rivals Melbourne Victory. The defending champions will be eager to replicate that dominance and win back-to-back titles for the first time in the club’s history.   

Last Season:
A-League: Premiers
Finals: Champions
FFA Cup: Runners Up

They’ll win the league because…
They won it at a canter last season and have kept the talent they need to repeat it in 2017/18.

Continuity is big when it comes to sustaining success, especially in a salary-capped league. With the notable departures of Filip Holosko and Danny Vukovic aside, Sydney is largely the same team it was a year ago. In fact the Sydneysiders may have even strengthened.

It’s by no means a like-for-like swap but the addition of Adrian Mierzejewski should help with the loss of Holosko. A versatile midfielder with a great passing range, the Polish international showed flashes of brilliance in his Man of the Match performance in the FFA Cup win over Melbourne City.

Adding Mierzejewski’s talents to those of Alex Brosque and Milos Ninkovic sets up an intriguing ‘pick your poison’ dilemma for opposing defenders. All three have the versatility and creativity to cause havoc and create chances. Combine that with a defensive unit that conceded just 12 goals last season and it becomes hard to argue that Sydney aren’t candidates to back it up again.

At the end of the day Sydney have a squad that is responsible for setting a record in points earned, a record goal differential and won the league by 17 points. They’ll win the league because Graham Arnold and his men are simply better than everyone else.

They’ll be cellar dwellers because…
Injuries are a challenge for any team, especially one that revolves around so many older players. Brosque is already banged up and Ninkovic, Mierzejewski, Bobo and Alex Wilkinson are all in their thirties. There’s youth in the squad but it’s hard to argue that their key players aren’t a little bit greyer this year.

The departure of Holosko and the injury to Rhyan Grant could also hurt the team. Replacements have been signed but the work rate down the right hand side from both players was a big reason Sydney were so hard to beat last year.

The loss of Vukovic is harder to quantify. Sydney set a record for clean sheets in 2016/17 but how much of that is down to the defence and how much of that is down to the keeper is yet to be seen. If Andrew Redmayne, or Alex Cisak, aren’t up to the job then Sydney might suffer.

Then there’s the issue of the Asian Champions League. The Sky Blues will be glad to be back in Asia but there’s no doubt that it adds a difficult hurdle to their season. Even if they’re every bit as good as they were last year, midweek trips to Asia will likely see them drop points domestically.

Talk around the watercooler… Look smart in front of your colleagues with this valuable piece of information.
New loan signing Anthony Kalik signed for Arnold’s Central Coast Mariners at the age of 15. It made him the youngest player ever to sign a professional A-League contract. Now 19-years-old the midfielder rejoins Arnold from Hadjuk Split, who he joined in 2016 and made 11 first team appearances for.

Key player…
This one is easy – Milos Ninkovic. There’s a reason why the Sky Blue faithful were calling for his substitution in their FFA Cup win over City and it wasn’t because he was having an off-night. Audible winces were heard from the crowd with every challenge the little Serbian received. Safe to say a campaign without their marquee man is something they want to avoid.

Sydney parted ways with Holosko just so they could retain Ninkovic on a marquee wage. Holosko was hardly a bust at the club so it was really a testament to how much Ninkovic means. His creativity, passing and vision are a joy to watch and are the impetus for the club’s success.

One to watch…
Adrian Mierzejewski (who mercifully goes by Adrian) has arrived in Sydney looking to regain his spot in the Polish team ahead of next year’s World Cup. His drive to achieve that goal will undoubtedly benefit the Sky Blues, who will need him to be on form both domestically and in Asia.

It will be interesting to see is how the Sydney FC boss chooses to use his versatility. He has the ability to play both centrally and out wide and offers Arnold an intriguing weapon. One thing is certain, with 40 caps for Poland under his belt and experience in the top flights in Poland, Turkey and in the Europa League, he’s sure to be an asset.

Full squad list…
1. Andrew REDMAYNE, 2. Aaron CALVER, 4. Alex Wilkinson, 5. Jordy BUIJS, 6. Joshua BRILLANTE, 7. Michael ZULLO, 8. Paulo RETRE, 9. BOBO, 10. Milos NINKOVIC, 11. Adrian MIERZEJEWSKI, 13. Brandon O’NEILL, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 16. Anthony Kalik, 17. David CARNEY, 18. Matt SIMON, 19. Chris ZUVELA, 20. Alex CISAK, 21. Charles LOKOLINGOY, 22. Sebastian RYALL, 23. Rhyan GRANT, 26. Luke WILKSHIRE.

 

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Football fan, writer, and post-grad journalism student at the University of Technology Sydney. Joined the team in 2017 to cover Sydney FC and the Central Coast Mariners.