In July I spoke with Ben Sigmund about defending in the A-League.
Season 2015-16 of the A-League kicked off on Thursday night with the Wanderers falling 3-1 to Brisbane Roar at Pirtek Stadium. Going off from a cracking opener, it’s time to make some bold, crazy and bizarre predictions.
First: Melbourne City
Melbourne City have looked exciting heading into this season and with one of the best full strength starting line-ups, they could shock a lot. Unlike their rivals in Melbourne Victory, they’re without Asian Champions League commitments and this could assist them in going all the way. My only concern is John van ‘t Schip doesn’t come across as the championship type.
Second: Perth Glory
Despite the off-field dramas that derailed last season’s run to the finals, they still have quality on the park to surprise many. Granted they have learnt from last season’s mistakes, they’ll once again be up the top and could very well challenge for the title.
Third: Melbourne Victory
How could you look past Melbourne Victory you crazy person? Well the fact no side has ever gone back-to-back for the premiership is one factor, the other will be the challenge of juggling A-League and ACL commitments. Not many sides have been able to have a successful run in the ACL without it severely impacting the A-League season.
The benefit for Victory is the squad depth that has been retained. Despite the loss of Mark Milligan, they’ll be able to move on without him fairly easy. Like many teams before them, one competition will have to give way for the other to be successful.
Fourth: Western Sydney Wanderers
Western Sydney Wanderers. You live by the sword and you die by it. For me, that appears to be Tony Popovic and like a western saloon door swinging open entry and exit, the fact Popovic has never been able to settle on a squad may affect him greatly.
He has talked a big game and watching them during the pre-season you can see the direction he’s trying to take the squad. I think they’ll once again be a side no one wishes to face at Wanderland but I just don’t think the side will gel quick enough, but if anyone has proven it can be done it is Popa.
Fifth: Adelaide United
Had Josep Gombau remained and lost the quality of players he did, Adelaide United would have been my tip for first. Looking at the team they are littered with quality but under a new coach I don’t think they’ll be a big enough threat for the premiership. Add the potential commitments of ACL and I think fifth is a more than reasonable finish.
Sixth: Brisbane Roar
Brisbane have had negativity surrounding them all off-season, but I think the way John Aloisi has addressed fans, and the vibe I get from the playing group, is that they’re switched on and just want to play football. I’m unsure of how Aloisi will go, he must improve on his last outing as a coach or this could be his last. Pressure is on Aloisi.
Seventh: Newcastle Jets
Newcastle Jets are under the ownership of the FFA and a new coach is at the helm. It’s a time of moving forward and getting the place back in order. They’ll have a respectable season but I don’t think they’ll light it up.
Eighth: Sydney FC
Shock horror, no way! Yep. I’m afraid to say I don’t think this will be their season. You watch though, they’ll probably prove me wrong. I’ve always struggled to associate consistency with Sydney and without looking at history, for I may be proven wrong, it’s just a feeling I’m getting. Purely based on a feeling.
Ninth. Wellington Phoenix
No Nathan Burns, no finals for Phoenix. This season will also surely be the time we find out their future in the A-League. Would it be really bad of me to suggest there is a possibility that this could be their last season? Their owners want a 10-year license but from all reports the FFA do not have the confidence in this and are only willing to supply a five-year license. Over to you Phoenix owners.
10th: Central Coast Mariners
Central Coast have done nothing to inspire me whatsoever. I have no confidence in what they’ll be able to achieve for the upcoming season but you know what Mariners fans say… ‘never write us off’.
Now I know what you’re thinking, I’m mad! But I’ve predicted the past two grand final winners, the top six for season 2013-14 and four out of the top six for season 2014-15. If it’s any consolation, this season will surprise many and will go down as one of, if not the, closest seasons on record. I think we could be seeing a few first timers this season.
Golden Boot: Besart Berisha
Johnny Warren medallist: Aaron Mooy
Grand final winners: Perth Glory
So come on, let me have it! I want the conservative bunch to have a crazy and wild guess how the season will go as well. I think I’ve officially lost it.