End of 2021/22 season report card: Sydney FC

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With the 2021-22 A-League Men finals now well and truly underway, here at The Football Sack we like to investigate the teams who missed the cut, and specifically, what went wrong for them this season.

So let’s take a look at how Sydney FC faired…

Season summary:

After falling 3-1 to Melbourne City in last year’s grand final, Sydney FC’s misery in the competition would continue with a four-game winless streak to start the season.

With the pressure mounting on coach Steve Corica at this early stage, the greatest concern for the Sky Blues would have undoubtedly been their lack of goals, after finding the net just twice in those four games. Sadly, this would only been a sign of things to come.

Back-to-back wins against Wellington Phoenix and Macarthur in late December would ensure a slight recovery, right before Omicron threw the league’s fixtures into chaos. When their season resumed in mid-January, disappointing results at home against Brisbane Roar and Perth Glory followed.

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Rather surprisingly, the Sky Blues bounced back with a five-game undefeated streak which featured impressive wins against Adelaide United and Central Coast Mariners. However, it was the three consecutive losses which followed where a lot of the damage would be done.

Sydney’s struggle for consistency would continue throughout the season, not being able to string more than two wins together at a time. The Sky Blues showed glimpses of their former selves with comprehensive three and five-goal wins against Western United and the Mariners respectively, only to be let down by heavy defeats to Melbourne City and throwing away their lead in stoppage time against Adelaide in a season-defining match.

Whilst Omicron, the FFA Cup and the AFC Champions League campaigns all proved to be major distractions for the Sydneysiders, they ultimately failed to make the A-League Men finals for the first time since 2016, limping to eighth-position on the ladder.

Areas of excellence: Midfield dominance

Despite being let down by poor execution in the final third, Sydney’s rotating roster of midfielders proved effective this season in setting up ample opportunities on goal.

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After Luke Brattan’s season-ending injury in the FFA Cup round of 32, the rest of the Sydney midfield pulled through in his absence, with his replacement Mustafa Amini, Anthony Caceres and young gun Patrick Yazbek in particular causing havoc upon opposition defences.

Paulo Retre, Max Burgess and veteran Milos Ninkovic were also solid performers, as the Serbian overcame limited game time from an ongoing knee injury by adding three goals and two assists to his name.

However, their good work came undone on far too many occasions this season, leading to the area in most need of improvement.

Areas in need of improvement: Finishing

Saying that Sydney’s finishing was poor this season would not be a controversial statement to make.

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A constant grievance of Corica, their poor execution in front of goal would prove particularly costly during a run of February games, which saw them create 16 and 17 chances in matches against Western United and a whopping 25 against the Phoenix. However, they only managed two goals from those three games.

The Sky Blues would end up finishing the season on 37 goals, with only the bottom three sides and Wellington scoring less. If they made the most of their countless opportunities up front, however, it could have been a very different story.

Top student: Elvis Kamsoba

After his off-season signing for the club was laughed off by critics, based on his previous season at Melbourne Victory, the Burundian striker well and truly proved his doubters wrong when he burst onto the scene at Kograh against the Phoenix in round five.

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The attacker showed off his explosive pace by taking on and beating his defenders down the wing with the greatest of ease, as well as proving equally dangerous in front of goal when he calmly slid the ball past Oliver Sail for the opening goal of the evening.

Whilst he only found the net two more times and claimed two extra assists throughout the season, Kamsoba’s multiple moments of brilliance proved just how much of an attacking force Sydney could have been this season if they simply found the net more often.

Class clown: Trent Buhagiar

Whilst “class clown” is perhaps a rather unfair term to use to describe the former Mariner’s showing this season, there was one particularly off game for the 23-year-old this year which truly epitomised this saying.

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Coming up against his former club in late January, the young attacker spurned chance after chance at the end of the first half, including a particularly memorable miss from close range, allowing the Gosford side to take the lead just before the hour mark.

Despite recovering his shaky form by adding four extra goals to his tally to close out the season, Buhagiar was still a long way off his 2019/20 season best, which saw him bag eight goals across all competitions.

Grade: D

Outlook:

Despite facing the constant disruptions of Omicron, player unavailability and a fixture scheduling nightmare, the 2021/22 campaign will definitely go down as one to forget for the Sky Blues, and one which would have disappointed fans in too many ways to count.

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Being the league’s most successful club in terms of championship wins, the Cove have become accustomed to nothing less than success ever since that famous grand final victory in the league’s inaugural season.

In this case, it is not difficult to see why the Sydneysiders’ measly record of eight wins, seven draws and 11 losses fell well short of most people’s expectations, being one of the league’s most disappointing stories this season.

Feature Image Credit: Jaime Castaneda

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Jimmy Alexander
Covering Sydney FC for the 2021/22 A-League season. Studying a Bachelor of Sports Media (Journalism) at Charles Sturt University.

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