Word is that two unnamed English clubs and Scottish club Rangers are interested in Sydney FC midfielder Brandon O’Neill. But what would that mean for Sydney FC?
The Sky Blues could replace O’Neill with a well-established A-League player, they can fork out a large sum of money and get someone who’s at the end of their career – a big name and possibly even a marquee – or they can replace him with a youngster.
Cameron Devlin seeming the most likely if Sydney opt with the young option.
At the moment, when Sydney struggle with the press, either Josh Brillante or O’Neill comes back to form a back three, and the other plays as a long central midfielder. If Sydney has comfortable possession and are eager to get the ball up into the attacking end of the field, then Rhyan Grant (right back) and Michael Zullo (left back) push up as wingers, then Brillante comes in at right back, and O’Neill comes in at left back.
They then attempt to carry up the ball in that way, and they cut back in to their regular positions when they have moved the ball further up.
Without O’Neill, there is one unanswered question: is Devlin comfortable on the ball like O’Neill when being pressed hard? If he is, then nothing will change and the team will play the same way.
But if Devlin isn’t comfortable on the ball while being pressured, then there are two options: change the play or don’t start Devlin.
Now, it is unlikely Steve Corica would change the way the whole team plays, because Devlin is only 20 years old and this is Corica’s first managing job, so he won’t be looking to change the style Graham Arnold had so much success with yet.
On the other hand, the gaffer is probably not willing to pay big money for someone, as O’Neill was young when he first came and he’s turned into an amazing player. As such, Devlin seems the most likely replacement, and Sydney will use all the power they have to teach the youngster to cope.
As for O’Neill and Brillante’s partnership? As one of the best defensive midfielder partners to ever grace the A-League, Sydney FC can’t afford to lose that. One of the only positives from their game against Melbourne Victory was that Brillante and O’Neill were the best (in terms of their partnership) that I’ve seen all season.
While O’Neill’s will likely leave the A-League at some point, for now it seems like he is fully focused on Sydney FC.