Sydney FC, the Champions in hiding

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Alessandro Del Piero hides the ball from referee Jarred Gillett during Sydney FC's round 19 game against Newcastle Jets. (Image: Paul Barkley/LookPro)

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So we lost to the Heart, does that really mean Sydney FC still aren’t underdogs for the title or that we aren’t the best team on paper and the team to beat next season?

The answer is no!

All good teams lose. You just have to keep up with football scores from around the world, and our very own A-League.

Manchester United lost a game against Norwich, they are still dominating the Premier League. Barcelona have lost games, they are still amazing. The Central Coast Mariners have lost games, they are still expected to win the title.

The fact is all good teams lose. Same goes for Sydney FC. Sydney FC have the players, it just needs to lift its game; it can, and will.

Sydney undoubtedly have one of the toughest, if not the toughest, runs in to the finals. Central Coast Mariners, Melbourne Victory and then Western Sydney Wanderers all one after another, finishing off with an away game to Brisbane Roar; that’s tough.

However, all because it’s tough, doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Sydney beat the Mariners in their last game, and that will give them renewed confidence to doing this again. A home Big Blue is easier than an away one, and should be a cracker of a match (as usual).

If Sydney are coming off a win, they will be the favourites. If they are coming off a loss, it will be a must win game to make the finals. Either way, Sydney will be looking to win it.

The Sydney Derby will be tough. Wanderers have played amazingly all season, but it is still a 50-50 game. With the players the Sky Blues have at their disposal, it is certainly possible.

A top six spot in the A-League is a must for the Sky Blues. With the quality within the team, nothing else will be accepted. Alessandro Del Piero, Brett Emerton, Joel Griffiths and Lucas Neill will all have to help lift the team into a finals spot. This will be achieved.

There is a reason Griffiths and Neill have been signed during the season, and it’s not to look pretty and attract a few more fans. Neill was brought in to strengthen the defence, the weakest spot in the team. Griffiths was brought in to link up with Del Piero and Emerton and score goals.

But enough about this season. They are underdogs for the title and what I really mean when I say Sydney FC are the team to beat, is next season.

A season preceded by a good preseason with all key players and a good coach. A preseason which isn’t disrupted by a legend joining. A preseason where the club knows its direction beforehand.

With Tony Pignata and Frank Farina at the helm of Sydney FC the club now has its direction and identity back. These guys are an amazing asset for the club. Both know who they have to represent, how to represent them and where the club should be headed.

They know the club’s identity has always been ‘Bling FC’. They know the club needs stability but needs to win, and they are on the right track to providing this.

Tony Pignata has done a great job in his short time as CEO of Sydney FC. He was a pivotal part of bringing Del Piero to the club, signing Griffiths and Neill.

He has helped bring about stability, bought back Sydney’s original identity and helped reconnect Sydney FC with the people in Eastern Sydney. He has helped make Sydney FC become internationally recognised.

Frank Farina is a great coach, and a full and proper preseason with him will allow the Sky Blues to hit the ground running from the first round in the 2013/14 season. His knowledge of the team and players will be greater than it has been this season and won’t still be experimenting with his starting XI or positional changes.

Farina will have a structure in place, and a better game plan developed. His tactical nous can’t be disregarded, he did coach Australia to a third place in the 2001 Confederations Cup beating Brazil 1-0.

Now let’s take a look at the team. It’s the best team in the A-League on paper, and that can easily be converted to the table.

With the greatest footballer to ever play in an Australian team, Alessandro Del Piero, Socceroos’ captain Lucas Neill, throw in former Premier League regular Brett Emerton and predominant goal scorer Joel Griffiths being the main men to lead the team on the park.

Lucas Neill has only signed as a guest player until the end of the season, but Sydney FC would have signed him with long term intentions. I’d be very surprised if Neill didn’t sign on for another year or two.

It is probably his intention to see out his career for his hometown club, and if he wants a bit more cash, the club has plenty to offer. Sydney will be looking to keep the Australian captain in their squad.

With the signing of players like Neill and Del Piero, experience and quality is brought to the team. Del Piero does a good job at directing the attack on the field, giving helpful insights and suggestions. His awareness of his surrounds and quality as a player helps break down defences throughout the league.

Neill can help organise the defence ensuring they work as a productive unit, stopping opposition attack from penetrating. These influences, combined with Frank Farina’s tactical nous and coaching, will prove hard to beat.

The youth of Blake Powell and Terry Antonis, among others, provides an energy to the team. Their tireless effort on and off the pitch to become better footballers, and their willingness to learn and improve make them an essential asset to the club both now and in the long term.

These guys are going to play a pivotal role the rest of this season and for seasons to come.

During the offseason and during the preseason a few things need to be changed in order for Sydney FC to maximise their performance potential.

Firstly, I would make either Del Piero or Neill captain instead of Terry McFlynn. I have nothing against McFlynn, it’s just the two mentioned have more experience, knowledge and insight when it comes to being captain, not to mention they are born leaders and are good at lifting teams and keeping moral high.

Del Piero helped lift Juventus back to Serie A after they were relegated to Serie B, displaying his ability to captain a team in difficult times.

Next I would change the playing formation. The 4-4-2 formation doesn’t work for such a good attacking team. Sydney would be better off with a 4-3-3 formation with a dynamic triangular front-line and midfield, with a flat back-line that works as a unit with overlapping left and right backs.

This formation can be changed to an attacking or defensive formation depending on the upcoming game or during a game. This provides a great structure with the flexibility to cover all aspects of the game.

With the right movement on and off the ball, the team can work as a cohesive unit, providing a great attacking, passing or defensive game.

This formation works best when you build it from the back. When the back-line becomes a cohesive unit, the rest starts to fall into place. This allows for great defence and the ability to play out from the back and build pressure, but also for great attacking options out wide with overlapping runs.

A quick search on Youtube for 4-3-3 formation brings up heaps of results for the basic structure and playing options. Of course this would be enhanced and more technical in a professional team, however the principle remains the same.

My starting XI would be Vedran Janjetović (GK); Neill, Adam Griffiths, Fabio and Sebastian Ryall (DF); Emerton, McFlynn and Rhyan Grant/Terry Antonis (depending on form) (MF); Del Piero, Griffiths and Blake Powell (FW).

Now this is a great team. This is a team to beat. This is a team in which, if the discipline, motivation and structure is there, would win the A-League. With Tony Pignata as CEO and Frank Farina as head coach, this can easily be achieved.

This offseason coming and preseason to 2013/14 will prove crucial to Sydney. Farina understands what is at hand and what is needed to be done, and he is the right person to do it.

I look forward to next season, with bright hopes that Sydney will fulfil their full potential and be the best team, as that is what they are on paper.

Follow Andrew on Twitter: @A_n_d_r_e_w_S

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