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A-League expectations vary depending on who and how old you are

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Expert
4th September, 2019
22

Whether it be fresh faced young rookies, seasoned professionals who do their job week on week or the elite A-League players upon whom much weight of expectation falls, everyone has something at stake this coming season.

For players like Adelaide United’s 19-year-old striker Al Hassan Toure, Brisbane’s raw Izaack Powell and Newcastle’s gifted young midfielder Angus Thurgate the pressure is still well and truly off.

Similarly free to learn and continue to develop will be Phoenix defender Liberato Cacace and Western United’s great hope for the future Apostolos Stamatelopoulos.

For such young stars, 2019-20 will be something of a free swing. There will remain little pressure or expectation surrounding their play, with coaching staff preferring to guide them through the lessons that each and every young professional must face in the early years of a career.

Those coaches will be monitoring their progress closely, eager to determine whether they have what it takes to morph into a long term A-League player or perhaps something more.

For others, it will be a season of consolidation. Socceroos Josh Risdon (Western United), Rhyan Grant (Sydney FC), Josh Brillante (Melbourne City), Thomas Deng (Melbourne Victory) and Dimi Petratos (Newcastle Jets) have all taken great strides in their football careers over the last 12 months.

Grant has become Graham Arnold’s first choice down the right flank, Risdon also proved to have the Socceroo manager’s trust and Petratos found himself in the World Cup squad following a speedy ascension to national selection and his stellar A-League play with the Jets.

Deng has just the one Socceroos cap at this stage yet should finish his career with considerably more and Brillante must also be harbouring thoughts of a return to the national set-up; with his move to the new-look Melbourne City a potential launching pad.

All will be looking to confirm their standing as Socceroos, hoping to play a role at some stage of the qualifying campaign which begins on the 11th of September and draw attention to their skill set from overseas clubs in the process.

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At the top end, expectations will be high. Ola Toivonen has much to live up to with Victory after simply astonishing A-League fans with a season of subtlety and dexterity that made him the most attractive player in the competition to watch.

Ola Toivonen

Ola Toivonen of the Victory. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Sydney FC’s hopes will once again rest with the gifted Serb Milos Ninkovic, however that weight of expectation will now be shared somewhat with the arrivals of Alexander Baumjohann and Kosta Barbarouses.

With Englishman Adam le Fondre the fourth leg of the table, Sydney fans would be well within their rights to expect another championship challenging season.

Now that ‘Fornaroli-gate’ is finally over and the Uruguayan has found a new home in the west, the expectation will be that he returns as potentially the best pure finisher that the A-League has seen for some time. No doubt he will, yet perhaps Glory fans will need to give him something of a leave pass should he be a little rusty early on, after such an extended period without regular football.

Jamie Maclaren also has much at stake and frankly, needs to put up in the short term. With Adam Taggart excelling in Korea and both men hopeful of playing a key role for the Socceroos leading into the Qatar World Cup of 2022, Maclaren needs to show the coach that he is indeed deserving of a place in the squad.

Daniel Arzani and Martin Boyle will be pushing for selection in the attacking third as they return from injury, Awer Mabil appears a definite favourite of Arnold and Robbie Kruse and Andrew Nabbout will be hoping to re-establish their claims at the Victory.

Daniel Arzani

Daniel Arzani of Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

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Mathew Leckie continues to add to his impressive resume at Hertha Berlin, starting on the opening weekend against Bayern Munich in a creditable 2-2 draw and Arnold may well have to squeeze a disappointed Socceroo or two from his squad throughout the long campaign ahead.

At this stage and in his current form, Taggart looks to be first cab off the rank. Seeing Maclaren in full flight will be a positive thing for both City and the national team should the 26-year-old find some scoring form.

Three other men will hope for a red letter campaign, their seasons laced with considerable expectation based around undoubted potential.

Trent Buhagiar returns from a serious knee injury for the Sky Blues after impressing early last season and appearing likely to become the player many have suggested he would.

Adelaide’s explosive Nikola Mileusnic is somewhere near the crossroads after another unfulfilled season in red thanks to injury and Kenny Athiu will need to show something more than potential for the Victory after failing to take his opportunities last season.

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Each and every A-League player has a story, reputation and ability around which a fair and justified level of expectation exists. In a perfect world, they would all meet such expectation, yet football is never that fair.

As another A-League season approaches, there will be those that fall well short of expectations, some that meet them and others that stun and far exceed what we ever thought possible.

As usual, it will be fun to watch.