The opening night of the A-League’s ninth season is finally upon us – here are my predictions for the season ahead.
First: Melbourne Victory (Premiers)
Season 2012/13 for Melbourne Victory was always going to be a season of improvement under Ange Postecoglou.
The amount of progress, development and football philosophy engrained into the club and players throughout last season has been what was required to bring the club back to the top.
Last season, despite finishing third, proved that Ange has Victory moving in the right direction.
With the 48 goals scored during regular season – club record – it was evident the team was moving forward.
What wasn’t – and what let their season down – was their defence.
With 45 goals conceded during regular season – a club record – it did show that 2012/13 was meant as a season of improving.
With the latest additions Ange Postecoglou has brought into the team, the attacking options have been covered despite the huge loss of Marco Rojas.
Personally I don’t think scoring goals will be their issue.
Their defence will be what wins them the premiership.
With the addition of Pablo Contreras, I honestly believe Victory will benefit significantly.
It is a long season ahead but I think Victory will have what it takes to win the Premiership in what will be another hotly contested season.
Second: Brisbane Roar (Champions)
Last season can be put down as one Brisbane Roar would in some ways like to forget, but will appreciate the lessons learnt as their season finished strongly.
The midfield proved to be their Achilles’ heel throughout the majority of the season.
They proved to slow to react to any counter attacks that came their way and ineffective whilst in possession – creating minimal chances to capitalise.
One match in particular where the opposition executed the counter perfectly was Roars round 6 clash against Melbourne Heart. They lost this match convincingly 4 – 1 and it proved the hunger for success was no longer strong.
Fast forward to 2013/14 and for any starting 11 in the A-League, they don’t get much better than Brisbane Roar.
With addition of Liam Miller and return of Matt McKay, it could be argued that this may be the best midfield any A-League team has seen.
With the likes of Broich and Brattan to boot, there should be no reason why Roar can’t fire, feeding the crazy Albanian, Besart Berisha.
They’ll push Victory and could win the premiership but I think they’ll have to settle for the championship in which they know all to well how to win.
Third: Western Sydney Wanderers
What a season, what a team! The Wanderers were the new boys on the Bloc, the fairytale run of 2012/13 and no one could have forecasted such as season but that didn’t stop Popovic and his team.
Although being the Premiers from last season and runners up in the grand final, I believe season 2013/14 will prove to be huge learning curve for the Wanderers.
Having had such as successful 2012/13, the Wanderers faithful and RBB will expect no different and nor will the playing group. The positive for the Wanderers last season, was the unknown for other teams.
This will no longer exist and teams will adapt to the playing style of the Wanderers.
Having to the additional pressures of Asian Champions League could prove too much to handle as previous teams have found out the hard way.
This is the reason why, despite improving on last seasons squad, that I predict the Wanderers to finish 3rd.
Fourth: Adelaide United
Adelaide United got off to the perfect start last season, winning four of their first five matches.
Dario Vidosic was in superb form for the first half of the season but when 2013 rolled round, the Reds and Dario lost their way.
Kosmina decided he had seen enough and no longer wanted a part of the Adelaide United Football Club.
This brought in Michael Valkanis and from that point onwards the Reds would only win two of their remaining 10 games.
After a review of the teams performances on-field and off, the club decided to move in a different direction and hired the services of Josep Gombau.
Having been a former member of the coaching staff at FC Barcelona’s youth team, the board decided they wanted to bring a coach who could provide the attractive football the Reds had lacked at times throughout the 2012/13 season.
Along with the arrival of Gombau, he has brought what seems to be stability and attacking tiki-taka into the squad with players such as Steven Lustica, Michael Zullo, Tarek Elrich and two eyebrow-raising imports with only Spanish lower league experience, Sergio Cirio and Isaias Sanchez.
I predict Adelaide to finish a lot stronger this season and could be a bolter for the Championship. Being Gombau’s first season in charge, I find it hard to see Adelaide winning the Premiership race.
Fifth: Central Coast Mariners
All A-League fans will learn not to write the Central Coast Mariners off so early. Having just been pipped at the post by the Wanderers in the race for the Premiership, the Mariners cast their eyes to the grand prize, the Grand Final.
Winning the grand final has seemed to ease a bit of pressure off the team and now they can go out not having to prove to anyone that they aren’t what many labelled them, including myself: chokers.
The Mariners have lost a lot of experience but as Graham Arnold always does, he gets his players to fire and perform.
I don’t predict a season like the last three but I do predict a decent season.
Having brought in plenty of youngsters to the club, this season will be as much a season about development as it will be about engaging with factors both on and off the field.
Sixth: Sydney FC
I had to pick a sixth team and it wasn’t easy. Besides the top five, I cannot see the rest of the competition being as competitive and challenging for any titles.
This top five seem too superior in my opinion. I predict each team will give it their best shot and this season will be even closer than last but I am only choosing Sydney FC based on the fact they have a team that should be in the finals.
Was tough and I hope all teams do well. I should be proven wrong but I look forward to your predictions.
Having scored 35 goals in 56 games in his two seasons as Brisbane Roar, Besart Berisha is proving to be one of the best strikers to have graced Australian shores.
I don’t think this season will be any different and I expect no less than 20 goals.
Melbourne Heart (Ninth)
Newcastle Jets (10th)
No team in my opinion.
With fantastic players coming threw the ranks at the Newcastle Jets, this season should really be a vast improvement on last season.
The only problem is, is that I don’t think Gary Van Egmond has what it takes to take this team to the next level.
Player to watch out for
The season’s best signing
I believe Marcos Flores will shine at the Mariners and we may see a return to the old Flores when he was at Adelaide United.
Will WSW rise above second-year blues syndrome?
No, but I do believe they’ll be very competitive.
What can Wellington Phoenix expect under Ernie Merrick?
Entertaining football but I think it will take more than a season under Merrick before they return to final football let alone a chance at the premiership.
First manager to be sacked
Gary Van Egmond or John Aloisi.
Asian Champions League
I shall reserve this opinion until it is guaranteed that all three teams will be participating and until we see how their season is fairing. It is a tough competition and one that deserves a really good look into.