The A-League season came to a close on Sunday night, with Sydney FC claiming the championship with a penalty shootout victory over Perth Glory.
After a shaky display against Central Coast Mariners where they needed a penalty and some Brandon O’Neill brilliance, a lot of people have started to question if Sydney have what it takes to contend with Melbourne Victory and possibly even Perth Glory for the championship.
They have been dominating the league for two years, but the loss of Graham Arnold and key imports Adrian Mierzejewski and Bobo means there is less quality in the team. This is the case even with Le Fondre’s form, as Siem De Jong hasn’t contributed a lot and has been injured (except for a goal and assist in the FFA cup semi-final).
Even though Steve Corica appears to be a good manager he doesn’t have the experience to be as good as Graham Arnold. Then you look at Melbourne Victory’s recruitment, where they have gone for money more than scouting, with Keisuke Honda, Ola Toivonen and Georg Niedermeier being the three big names.
I would say that in terms of the top three teams this week, Melbourne Victory easily played the best, Perth Glory were lucky, as if that red card hadn’t happened then it would have been a win for Wellington, and Sydney nowhere near their best in a scrappy 2-1 win against Central Coast.
Clearly the only consistent team in that time is Melbourne Victory. They did lose their first two games, but they had a very new team, and after they kick-started their season with a 1-0 win against Newcastle they have seemed unstoppable. I think they are the team with the best chance of winning this season.
Sydney FC really need to up their game if they want to be strong contenders this season. They will need to become the consistent team that they were last year and the year before. Not many people will remember, but two years ago in the second round of the A-League, Sydney FC thrashed the Central Coast Mariners 4-0 with a performance which can be compared to what Melbourne Victory did on Saturday night against Western Sydney Wanderers. This season however Sydney only won 2-1, and I would say that it was quite a lucky win as well.
They are not at all showing evidence of the consistency we know they are capable of, or even the consistency that won them the minor premiership trophy and FFA Cup last season.
Going into next game they have to be working their team about getting Ninkovic and Le Fondre to link up, as their partnership could be one of the best the A-League has ever seen. See my article about how Ninkovic and Le Fondre can win the A-League for Sydney FC for more info about my thoughts on their partnership. Sydney need to get them in the game, and when Siem De Jong returns from injury they will need to include him in the game plan, as he has enough quality to be as good as Mierzejewski for Sydney FC.
I believe that they should press higher and be more direct with their play, as against the Mariners they were just trying to play the long ball, and that didn’t seem to work well. Both of their goals came from bringing the ball up the field.
Sydney now have a fast striker, but that doesn’t mean that they should change their strategy to getting either Andrew Redmayne or Jop Van der Linden to smash it up the field and hope that Le Fondre gets on it and manages to do something with it.
The fact that Sydney now have a quick striker is good, and if they aren’t going to put in as many high crosses that Bobo can head in is fine, but it would be a lot more prolific for them to pass up the ball and have either Ninkovic or Siem De Jong to play a through ball to Le Fondre.
Overall, Sydney have a team and a coach with enough quality to push for first place on the table, but there needs to be a lot more tweaking by Corica and a bit more consistency by the players before they can truly challenge Melbourne Victory and Perth for the title.