Five new big wishes for the upcoming A-League season

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By , Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    With less than two weeks until the new season kicks off, now seems like the perfect time to put out a wish list of some of the things we’d like to see in Season 13 of the A-League.

    Could the off-season possibly be any longer? It is now 142 days – or more than four and a half months – since Sydney FC lifted the championship trophy.

    If there was one single thing we could change about the A-League today, surely it would be lengthening the calendar so that we didn’t have to suffer through the world’s longest off-season.

    The FFA Cup at least goes some way to mitigating the problem, but short of building a bunch of brand new stadia so that A-League clubs no longer have to share them with rival codes, perhaps it’s worth concentrating on issues the competition actually has some control over.

    Last year I listed five things I’d like to see in the new A-League season and asked you guys to do the same. And since it was a popular topic, it’s time to run it up the flagpole again!

    Without further ado, here are my five big wishes for the 2017-18 season.

    Sydney FC to be genuinely challenged
    The Sky Blues were simply superb last season, and if their recent FFA Cup win over Melbourne City is anything to go by, they could dominate the A-League once again.

    Can anyone realistically challenge Graham Arnold’s men? The likes of Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney will certainly hope so, but if anything Sydney FC look even stronger this time around. And that could be a problem for a league that was dull as dishwater in certain parts last season.

    As enjoyable as Sydney FC’s football can be to watch, the A-League really needs a genuine challenger to step up this time around.

    Alex Brosque Sydney FC A-League Grand Final 2017 tall

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    The foreign signings to fire
    Matmour. Absalonsen. Adlung. Bautheac. Maccarone. Brama. Hiariej. Asdrubal. Schenkeveld. Budzinski. Matias Sanchez. George. Vargas. Xavi Torres. Mierzejewski. Paracki. Cejudo. Llorente. Riera.

    It’s some list. And those are just the newcomers! Add in the likes of Thomas Kristensen, Fernando Brandan, Roy O’Donovan and Diego Castro and the competition boasts some seriously talented foreigners.

    The truth is that the level of the A-League is nowhere near as bad as some of the critics would have you believe, and that’s in part down to the quality of foreign players. Here’s hoping the latest crop can fire, even if there’s still a noticeable lack of Asian talent.

    More fans to pile through the gates
    You can look to the National Rugby League for a step-by-step guide in how to alienate fans and guarantee dwindling attendances. No sporting competition in Australia is as badly run as the NRL.

    The A-League should really be consistently out-drawing NRL crowds – but it needs a season-long commitment from fans across the league. And that means turning up week in and week out.

    There’s a fine line between being fan friendly and catering exclusively to TV audiences. But while the A-League needs every cent it gets from broadcasters, it could also do with a few more fans shuffling through the gates this season.

    NRL Finals empty seats

    (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

    The perennial ‘crisis clubs’ to show some form
    How about this Ronald Vargas? Call it a hunch, but he could be a sensational signing for the Newcastle Jets.

    And they need him to be, after so many years of mediocrity. The Jets haven’t made the finals since 2010, and they’ve finished bottom of the table in two of the past three seasons. Yet they’re arguably the competition’s biggest sleeping giants.

    Central Coast Mariners have made some astute signings and look like they’ll be stronger under a more experienced Paul Okon this season, while there’s no telling what the Wellington Phoenix will do under new coach Darije Kalezic. But the league really needs some of its smaller clubs to step up and start performing.

    Melbourne City to reveal an identity
    What’s going on at Melbourne City? To suggest they were uninspired in their recent FFA Cup defeat to Sydney FC is an insult to the word.

    Could they really be protesting Football Federation Australia’s handling of the A-League by serving up an under-strength squad? That’s one of the conspiracy theories doing the rounds.

    Whatever the problem is, new coach Warren Joyce needs to sort it out – and fast. Signing Ross McCormack should help, if only because he’s good enough to score goals at this level. But the bigger problem for City is their continuing lack of identity.

    If they’re happy to play second fiddle to Melbourne Victory, so be it. But it’s a curious tactic from a City Football Group that boasts enough resources to transform the club into a powerhouse of the league.

    So there you have it. Those are my five big wishes. What are yours?

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.