Scarcely fathomable records have fallen, but coach Graham Arnold stresses Sydney FC’s A-League legacy will not be complete unless they push on and win the title.
Sydney’s remarkable campaign has grown more predictable by the week, to the point they were expected set a new all-time points record of 66 by beating Newcastle 2-0 on Saturday night.
To that end, it’s widely presumed the Sky Blues will continue their flawless run in the finals series and win the grand final, as seven of the previous 11 premiers have.
Yet Australia’s sudden-death finals system can be a cruel and unpredictable beast, and rivals boasting big-game X-factors will be more motivated than ever to deny Arnold’s squad what they crave most.
At this stage second-placed Melbourne Victory, Brisbane, Melbourne City, Perth and Western Sydney are all still a chance to take out the title despite their widely varying levels of consistency throughout the season.
Indeed, Victory coach Kevin Muscat has already kicked off the mind games by suggesting the Sky Blues “might not make the grand final” on May 7, the only day the staunch interstate rivals could face each other again.
That would be rare given only two grand finalists have come from outside the top two, when third-placed Central Coast (2005-06) and Perth (2011-12) both lost their respective season-deciders.
And Arnold has mastered the art of avoiding complacency and maintaining ambition, despite being assured of top spot weeks ago.
Even on Saturday, after Sydney lifted the Premiers’ Plate and celebrated the greatest regular-season campaign the competition has seen, Arnold was adamant celebrations would be capped and the focus re-doubled for the looming home semi-final in a fortnight.
“We haven’t achieved our major goal,” Arnold said.
“You change your goals along the way.
“Early on it was about winning the FFA Cup, and then the premiership, and now the grand final.
“We’ve made history and you’ll probably never see it again, but our motivation has always been to win the grand final and that’s what we’re going for.”
He’s also eschewing comparisons with Ange Postecoglou’s revered Roar side which, until Saturday night, held the all-time points record of 65 (2010-11), albeit with the luxury of three additional games.
That team won two consecutive championships in 2011 and 2012, a feat many say Sydney must equal to claim the best-ever status.
“We’ve never compared ourselves with Brisbane Roar,” Arnold said.
“They were a fantastic team who won a premiership and two grand finals in that time. Ange did a fantastic job.
“The stats show that we’re better, but it’s a matter of opinion if we are.
“At the end of the day I’m extremely proud of what we’ve done and the next challenge is in two weeks.”