Another round of COVID-related postponements meant there were only two A-League Men games this weekend, and which one you saw depended on where you watched.
In Round 2 of the A-League Men’s competition, Sydney FC conceded a goal to crosstown rivals Macarthur FC through some stunning work by Lachlan Rose.
They would go on to lose this match 1-0, in what was a really weird game. This came after Sydney defeated the Bulls in last year’s semi.
Every man and their dog would tip the Sky Blues to win that game. Sure, Macarthur have picked up Craig Noone.
But surely that wouldn’t account for the firepower of Bobô, Kosta Barbarouses, Luke Brattan, Adam Le Fondre, and Milos Ninkovic?
Hold on to your horses, Steve Corica. Brattan has been sidelined for a year with an ACL injury, Bobô and Barbarouses have been struck down with nagging injuries, and Ninkovic and Le Fondre have already booked a home in a retirement village.
Doesn’t look so good now, does it? Could Sydney even make the finals this year?
This article will go through their strengths and weaknesses, and predict where they will go this year.
Sydney’s greatest strength in the 2020-21 season was their stunning midfield, and their five-star forward line.
They were able to transfer the ball up forward so easily, mainly off the boot of Andrew Redmayne, or the supreme accuracy of Rhyan Grant.
They can move so freely up the ground, and the prowess of Barbarouses and Bobô could make the most shabby kick look like it was straight from a Scott Jamieson highlight reel.
The hard-running Luke Brattan led the team couragiously through the midfield. All in all, they had star players left right and centre, proving severely damaging to other teams.
So why on earth are they second last coming into Round 3?
The main reason for Sydney’s early downfall would be injuries to star players.
As mentioned earlier, Bobô, Barbarouses, and Brattan have all been sidelined.
But this is not the only reason, as they lost the grand final to Melbourne City with the whole list.
Maybe it is the disipline, or lack there of, as Luke Brattan found himself seeing red at the hands of Chris Beath.
But this is an issue that has been nagging at Sydney for a while now. This is the reason Western United have barely moved off the bottom of the ladder.
Their defence is understocked. Yes, yes. Rhyan Grant is amazing. But he alone couldn’t possibly stop players like Jamie Maclaren or Roy O’Donovan from finding the back of the net.
Sydney have to play some more defensive midfielders to fix this problem. Maybe they should have targeted Craig Noone instead of Barbarouses, and let Melbourne Victory do a bit better.
How could they fix this problem now though? I suggest moving a Brattan-like player to defence.
But that could open up a hole in the midfield. Maybe they should change the formation from a 4-4-2 to a 3-4-3. Steve Corica, you have some thinking to do.
How will Sydney go this year? Can they knock off defending champs Melbourne City? Can they take down the Wanderers and leave Bankwest Stadium drenched in red and black blood?
Or will they fail to make the finals, and leave loyal fans gutted for the second year in a row?
I’d say wait for the reinforcements. Most of the injuries are relatively short term, and most should be back before 2022.
This coming game against the Newcastle Jets may define their season. If Valentino Yuel can score on Andrew Redmayne, and the Jets get the win, I’d say Sydney are headed for another non-finals finish.
This may be too harsh considering they were runners up last year, but I don’t think they can possibly be premiers, or even champions, with an 0-1-2 start.
The competition just seems too good this year. Melbourne Victory seem ready to launch another finals assault, Adelaide United and Melbourne City look like the favourites, and Macarthur seem to be ready to go again.
All of the teams this year look ominous at their best, with Perth Glory the only exeption, and even they were contesting for the finals last year.
My overall prediction is eighth. Sydney don’t have much youth in their list, and it is hard to see them with more silverware.