It’s the time of the year when clubs look towards the second half of the season and The Football Sack critiques each club’s progress so far.

Do you agree with our assessments made in the return of our mid-season report cards?

Semester Summary: Sydney FC sit eight points clear atop the A-League ladder with 12 wins, three draws and just a solo loss. On top of their league form they wrapped up an incredible year by winning the FFA Cup, their third piece of silverware in 2017. Any talk of a regression from the harbour city side has been thoroughly dispelled.

Brazilian striker Bobo and fellow import Adrian Mierzejewski have been particularly important for the Sky Blues – the former is the pace setter for the golden boot and the latter is the team’s player of the season thus far. Marquee man Milos Ninkovic has returned to outstanding form after early season injuries and the defensive line has proven to be up to the task as well.

Quite simply they are every bit as dangerous as they were last season and have shown themselves to be a class above the rest of the league.

Areas of Excellence: It’s easy to talk about the attacking quartet or even their stout offensive line but the unsung heroes in Sky Blue are holding midfielders Joshua Brillante and Brandon O’Neill. The most dangerous aspect of Sydney’s game is how quickly they shut down the opposition and transition into attacks of their own. The duo of Brillante and O’Neill – with their relentless work rate and near perfect passing – are the engine that make that transition possible.

Areas in need of improvement: As demonstrated in their 0-0 draw with Adelaide United last week, Sydney’s one true weakness lies in their depth. When fully fit the starting 11 doesn’t change and David Carney becomes a vital twelfth man that can be brought on to add an attacking spark. The absence of Michael Zullo to illness saw Carney slot into fullback and left Graham Arnold with a bench of largely unused youngsters who seem to lack the coach’s confidence. Instead Sydney turn to the often used but rarely impactful Matt Simon whose role sits somewhere between target man and enforcer and it leaves the Sky Blue’s without a plan B. It’s an issue that has rarely shown its head in what has been an incredible season for Sydney but it could be something to keep an eye as they head into the finals.

Top student: Adrian Mierzejewski is this season’s Johnny Warren medal winner. The only way that changes if his teammate Bobo manages to set the A-League scoring record and the voters decide that his final tally is worth elevating him above the Pole. Beyond that it’s hard to see any other candidate coming close to the level of Mierzejewski, who has proven adept at both creating chances and scoring goals and is especially deadly with the ball in transition. As of writing Adrian sits third in both goals (8) and assists (5) and has given the Sky Blues a weapon on par with current Johnny Warren medalist, Milos Ninkovic.

Class clowns: Matt Simon’s role in this Sydney team is somewhat puzzling. The team prides itself on crisp movement, quick passing, and ruthlessness in front of goal. None of those things could be attributed to Matt Simon. Arnold uses the striker sparingly but his addition to the team usually coincides with a dip in play from the champions. Graham Arnold clearly appreciates the work rate of the former Mariner but the drop in quality from Bobo or Brosque to Simon is jarring.

As stated above, it seems as though Simon is used as a throwback ice hockey enforcer – a goon that is thrown onto the field to inject physicality and rough up those who’ve been too hard on Ninkovic or Mierzejewski. It’s doubtful that is actually what Arnold has in mind when he turns to number 18 but it’s hard to see what else he offers.

Grade: A+

Outlook: Barring a complete collapse brought on by injuries, fatigue from the Asian Champions League or the departure of Graham Arnold to the Socceroos, the Sky Blues are going to win the premiership. The finals are always harder to predict but they’re hot favourites to win that as well. The domestic treble is well and truly on the table.

In Asia, Sydney likely face a repeat of their 2011 group stage opponents with Shanghai Shenhua and Kashima Antlers confirmed and the Suwon Bluewings to join the group should they progress from the qualifying round as expected. The Sky Blue’s track record in the tournament is far from exemplary with the Sky Blues only ever making it as far as the round of 16. It will be interesting to see how Sydney cope playing on both the domestic and continental front but qualification past the group stage isn’t even the bare minimum goal for Arnold’s men who will be looking to try to win the whole thing.

If Sydney manage to hold their nerve at home and do damage in the Champions League we could be looking at the greatest seasons in all of Australian sport. They’re lofty goals to aim for but the men from the harbour city just might be good enough to achieve it.

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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.