Overjoyed Australian goalkeeper Mat Ryan has hailed his move to Premier League giants Arsenal, the team he supported as a kid back home, as “surreal”.
When the Sky Blues’ 2020-21 A-League campaign finally kicks off, they will be chasing their third-straight championship crown and second-straight regular-season title.
Manager Steve Corica’s accomplishments to date are certainly impressive. He’s overseen a sustained period of success over his tenure, building on the foundations now national team boss Graham Arnold built at the club.
I’m sure Corica has aspirations to coach at a higher level and a third championship in as many seasons will grab the attention of clubs overseas.
It’s also pertinent to recognise the potential for him to reach demi-god status at the club he won two championships with as a player. He certainly has competition for the candidacy for the club’s biggest icon with the likes of Terry McFlynn and Rhyan Grant, but a third championship as a manager might just seal it.
I have no qualms with naming Corica the best manager in the league, biased as I may be, and this is a huge advantage in a salary-capped league.
I’ve previously talked about how you can’t win in this league without either solid recruitment or a top manager (or both).
Speaking of recruitment, at time of writing, Sydney’s squad for the upcoming campaign remains largely unchanged from the side that won the club’s fifth toilet seat at Bankwest Stadium back in August. There certainly hasn’t been much coming in and there hasn’t been much traffic going the other way, but I would be remiss not to mention the elephant in the room.
That elephant’s name is Adam le Fondre, and there’s definitely no getting away from the fact the ex-Reading man is a significant loss. Le Fondre contributed 20 goals in the regular season – just two shy of golden boot winner Jamie Maclaren.
Everyone involved at the club – including the man himself – would have hoped for more goals from Kosta Barbarouses in 2019-20, but even with increased output from the Kiwi in the upcoming campaign, it’s unrealistic to expect him to match or even get near le Fondre’s tally.
It’s safe to say young guns Trent Buhagiar and Luke Ivanovic will be granted more game time, but again, the chances their names will light up the scoreboard on a regular basis are low.
Of course, it’s quite unlikely the plan is for improved showings from existing players to balance the loss of Alfie. Corica and CEO Danny Townsend are no doubt on the hunt for an out-and-out number nine to spearhead the Sky Blues’ attack, but with the start of the season just days away, the potential new striker won’t be in place for the first few games of the new campaign. As a Sydney fan, I’m confident they will get the right man in.
Talk around bringing former number nine Bobo back to the club is still around, but that would be an odd move.
The Brazilian is no spring chicken at 36 years of age and since departing Sydney, hasn’t exactly been in top goal-scoring form in stints at overseas clubs.
Quotes from that Sydney Morning Herald article suggest that while he’s obviously targeting a new import to lead the line, Corica is pinning high hopes on Buhagiar to take a big step forward.
But what of Sydney’s competition for the premiers plate and championship title? There are threats all across the league – new boys Macarthur FC have assembled an imposing squad and you’d expect bounce-back seasons from old rivals Melbourne Victory and cross-town enemies Western Sydney.
Melbourne City and Western United will be there or thereabouts.
It’s certainly going to be a battle, but I’m confident Corica and the team will get the business done in 2020-21. A trophy-less season would be a major disappointment for Sydney FC.