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A-League Men: Who must, can and will improve in season 2021-22 (Part 2)

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3rd November, 2021
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After casting a critical eye over six A-League clubs and their chances of improving in season 2021-22 in my regular Tuesday offering for The Roar, Part 2 of the series will feature the remaining clubs.

Newcastle Jets (last season – 11th)
Despite avoiding the wooden spoon by millimetres in the final throes of the season, the Jets won just five matches and fall into the category of an A-League team that simply must improve in 2021-22.

New manager Arthur Papas brings much credibility and subsequent hope, yet will battle to gel a squad that is almost entirely new.

Arthur Papas

(Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

No less than 15 players have departed and another 12 have now hitched their wagons with Newcastle for the upcoming season.

After a campaign were a league-low 24 goals were scored, Papas will be hoping the acquisitions of Georgian Beka Mikeltadze, Cameroon attacker Olivier Boumal and local Samuel Silvera will provide the added attacking edge required.

Greek utility Savvas Siatravanis could well be the icing on the cake should the squad combine quickly.

Jets fans are sick of mediocrity and anything other than a strong start to the season will have them feeling miserable all over again.

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Perth Glory (last season – ninth)
The Glory scored a creditable 44 goals last season, yet also allowed the same number, in what was a disappointing defensive effort.

Much talent has been lost in the form of Neil Kilkenny, Nick D’Agostino and Chris Ikonomidis, yet the stocks have been replenished with the signings of Englishman Daniel Sturridge, goalkeeper Brad Jones, proven defender Aaron Calver and central midfielder Brandon O’Neill.

(Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

Richard Garcia appears to have a slightly better squad with which to work this season and should Sturridge and Bruno Fornaroli strike up an effective partnership, who knows what is possible?

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However, a spot in the top six looks a tough task for Perth, despite the attacking football they will undoubtedly play.

Sydney FC (last season – second)
Melbourne City were better than Sydney FC last season and accordingly won the championship.

Steve Corica’s squad has had minimal changes made to it in the off-season, with Elvis Kamsoba and Max Burgess the key recruits, and Alex Baumjohann the most telling departure.

It will not take much for Sydney to challenge City this season and having Adam le Fondre and Bobo together for a full campaign may well prove the difference.

Adam Le Fondre celebrates.

(Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

There is no assurance that the Sky Blues will improve this season, but their fans will certainly be expecting it, especially with Melbourne Victory also appearing likely to roar back into contention.

Wellington Phoenix (last season – seventh)
Despite a pandemic-enforced nomadic lifestyle, the Phoenix went within a whisker of the finals and were broadly commended for their efforts to do so.

Now, Ufuk Talay loses four key players from his squad in the form of recently retired Steven Taylor, striker Tomer Hemed, Mexican Ulises Dávila and Cameron Devlin. In anyone’s language, that hurts.

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Yet in comes Englishman Gary Hooper, promising Kiwi Callan Elliot and Italian Nicholas Pennington.

Gary Hooper smiles at a Wellington Phoenix press conference.

(Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images))

In what will be another difficult start to the season in a home-away-from-home scenario, Wellington are under no pressure to improve after such a commendable season and may well stun a few teams along the way.

Sadly for them, another mid-table finish appears the most probable result come season’s end, with a return to home support in Wellington needed urgently to aid their cause.

Western Sydney Wanderers (last season – eighth)
I hope Wanderers manager Carl Robinson enjoys looking in the mirror, because he may well be forced to do so after the first two to three months of the season, should the Wanderers not be perched in the top four.

It is a simple story really. The club has once again made wholesale changes, recruiting Ramy Najjarine, Adama Traore, Tomer Hemed, Rhys Williams, Terry Antonis, Johnny Koutroumbis and Dimitri Petratos to fill the gaps created by the 11 men who have departed.

Wanderers fans

(Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

For how many years Western Sydney can continue the same repetitive pattern is unclear, yet one thing is for certain.

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The fans, board and sponsors expect something far better in 2021-22, especially considering the players purchased.

Robinson is expected to deliver results ASAP. Should he not, look out!

Western United (last season – tenth)
United scored a paltry 30 goals across 26 home-and-away matches last season and need to find more to be any sort of threat this time around.

Some serious talent has departed, yet new manager John Aloisi has brought in quality and promise in the form of Swiss player Leo Lacroix, Serbian striker Aleksandar Prijovic and domestic players Neil Kilkenny, Dylan Wenzel-Halls, Ben Garuccio, Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Jamie Young.

John Aloisi

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Added to a squad that includes Alessandro Diamanti, Dylan Pierias, Josh Risdon and Steven Lustica, the new playing group could well present Alosi with his best chance yet to prove to the Australian public that he can indeed cut the mustard at the managerial top level.

Many are tipping Western to be the big improvers. I’m not too sure, but feel certain they will be more competitive on a week-to-week basis.

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