Season 10 of the A-League is finally upon us. On Friday night, Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers will face off to kick-start what many believe will be the greatest season yet, and this clash will only whet the appetite for more football action.
It has once again reached that time in the season where we come together to predict what may be. Who’ll get the bragging rights and who shall be made to look the fool?
It’s time to lay out those horrendous predictions and show how intelligent you really are.
If last season’s predictions are anything to go by for myself, then I could say I am fairly confident that I’ll get a fair few correct this season.
Last year my top six predictions for the premiership were as below.
1. Melbourne Victory
2. Brisbane Roar
3. Western Sydney Wanderers
4. Adelaide United
5. Central Coast Mariners
6. Sydney FC
Top six correct, but not the order.
My other predictions were Brisbane Roar to win the championship, Besart Berisha to score more than 20 goals, Pablo Contreras to be the best A-League marquee to watch, and Gary van Egmond and John Aloisi to get the sack.
I also predicted that Wellington Phoenix would surprise a few throughout the season, but it would be this season coming that would be the most telling.
So with the formalities out of the way, let’s lay out these predictions.
First place – Melbourne Victory
Last season I believed that the influence of Ange Postecoglou would prove the telling difference. What could not be foreseen prior to my prediction was Victory losing Postecoglou to the national team.
As well as that setback, Victory had to cope with losing Mitch Nichols midway through the campaign, Gui Finkler not entering the season completely fit, a poor defence that still required tinkering and an Asian Champions League campaign – one which the club should be very proud of.
Having been able to improve on their weaknesses in defence and add more potency to their attack, they look set to hit the ground running hard into this season. With no ACL commitments and vast experience learnt from the previous season, all signs lead to a very successful campaign.
I honestly cannot see Victory finishing any lower than second, and if they did I would be very surprised.
Second place – Sydney FC
This is where my predictions may make or break me. The off-season signing of Graham Arnold as coach is a masterstroke. Not that it was all that hard to pull off considering the circumstances surrounding Arnold’s departure at his last job, but more so because I believe Arnold is one of the greatest coaches to have graced the A-League.
Sydney may not look the side that Victory does on paper, but what Arnold will be able to bring to the team is a form of consistency and style. Sydney FC fans will be licking their lips at the attacking weapons they have at their arsenal, but it is a matter of finding the right balance that will lead Sydney back to the top.
I believe their defence will remain their weak point but if Arnold has Sydney playing anything similar to that of his previous team the Central Coast Mariners, then we can expect some tough, never-say-die matches.
Sydney FC to finish no higher than second but no lower than fifth.
Third place – Melbourne City
Like Sydney they have a very strong team, but their defence remains a key weakness. After an abysmal term last season, Melbourne Heart would be bought out by Manchester City owners and an overhaul would begin.
Their recruitment stepped up another gear and no longer were they wanting to be the little brother to Melbourne Victory. The big boys are now in town and ready to play. Melbourne City have a midfield and attack possibly greater than any other team in the A-League but for them I believe their problem will be their coach, John Van’t Schip.
Their season will depend heavily on the decisions he makes and the attitude he can bring to the team. As the old saying goes, ‘Old habits die hard’ and for City that could prove to be the case. When David Villa leaves, will the likes of Robert Koren, Damien Duff, Aaron Mooy and Erik Paartalu be able to prove the difference?
City to finish no higher than second and no lower than sixth.
Fourth place – Adelaide United
Last season was a time of re-education and learning. Josep Gombau will have no such excuses this season as the expectations at Coopers Stadium are sure to increase. The charismatic and highly entertaining Gombau will show the A-League what the Spanish influence can really bring to the A-League.
After a slow start last season, Adelaide fans remained patient, watching and waiting, and then all of a sudden it clicked. Their possession and passing-based game was a sight to behold. The lofty standards that Brisbane Roar set were beginning to be met by that of Adelaide United. For them, this season is more viewed as a season to win silverware.
I don’t believe they have the legs or experience to stretch the length of 27 rounds but I wouldn’t be surprised if they can push for the Championship. Adelaide United to finish no higher than third, no lower than seventh.
Fifth place – Western Sydney Wanderers
Two places left and I am yet to choose my beloved Brisbane Roar. But you cannot go past the quality of Tony Popovic. Having joined the A-League only two seasons ago, the Wanderers have gone from nothing to two-time grand finalists, inaugural season premiers and Asian Champions League finalists.
I don’t believe they have the playing group to push for another top-two placing, let alone a championship, but if Popovic has it his way he’ll make sure the Wanderers are close. After a huge season last term and Asian Champions League commitments still to come, I don’t see the Wanderers proving as successful this time round.
Wanderers to finish no higher than fourth, but no lower than eighth.
Sixth place – Brisbane Roar
Last season I only chucked Sydney FC in the top six because I did not feel as though there were enough teams to be worthy of the top spots. This time round I believe each team has a genuine chance, but as always the main factors like player management, home and away records, club issues and injury will play its toll. With that said I believe every other single team has what it takes to finish in the top six and potentially push for a top four.
I will have to go with Brisbane Roar though. How can you look past them? Well, with Besart Berisha and Ivan Franjic having left, how will the Roar go? I can justify why they won’t make it fairly easily.
They have a ageing playing squad, couple that with inexperienced youth, an Asian Champions League campaign and an injury to Michael Theo to kick start the season. Roar will be finding it hard to convince me they can pull of what I would regard as the greatest achievement in the A-League if they were to win the premiership this season.
You just cannot go past the defending champions and premiers though. So they take sixth spot. Mike Mulvey has a tough task ahead of him this season, but the Roar are out to do what no team has done before – win the premiership two seasons in a row.
Roar to finish no higher than third but no lower than seventh.
This leaves Wellington Phoenix, Central Coast Mariners, Perth Glory and Newcastle Jets. Wanting to make predictions means I have to make the tough calls and unfortunately not appeal to everyone and their thought process.
If one thing is for certain though, in a salary capped league, it is not meant to be easy and your team is eventually meant to find success. Each of these teams is more than capable of making the finals but I do not believe that any of them have a chance at clinching the premiership.
Each team’s expectations this season should be to qualify for top six as a minimum, some higher than others.
Coaches to get the sack
The only coach I can see getting the sack is John van’t Schip from Melbourne City. Fail to perform and I don’t think his owners will afford him the same length of time as what John Aloisi was afforded.
I cannot look past Besart Berisha. There is no reason why he cannot break the A-League season goalscoring record. Perhaps his temperament may affect this, but his ability is up there with the best we have ever seen.
Players to watch out for
David Villa (City), Robert Koren (City), Marc Janko (Sydney FC), Victor Saba (WSW), Mensur Kurtishi (Roar), Jonny Steele (Jets), Andy Keogh (Glory), Matthieu Delpierre (Victory). All of these are the new boys on scene and I expect big things from each of them.
So that is my predictions for another season. I don’t know what season 10 of the A-League has in store, but I hope it’s one to remember. What are your thoughts fellow Roarers? Am I crazy, lucky or do I know my A-League?