The Roar
The Roar



Is Sydney peaking at just the right time to stifle the premiers?

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Roar Pro
10th May, 2023

Love them or hate them, Sydney FC are an incredibly important team in the A-League both in terms of history and keeping the game functioning.

Topping the leaderboard with an average home attendance of 17,008 (5,059 more than next best Western Sydney) along with an impressive trophy cabinet of five championships, four premiers plates, and an Australian Cup, the Sky Blues are arguably the biggest club in the country. 

That’s why last season was such a shock to many. Sydney finished the campaign languishing in eighth position with eight wins out of a possible 26, only to carry that dreadful form into 2022/23 by starting poorly, picking up 13 points in the first 10 games.

The signs were clear that they were struggling to form any sort of real consistency and patterns in their build-up play, not taking matches by the scruff of the neck and dominating as they once did.

Injuries were a factor and key departures in the form of Miloš Ninković and Kosta Barbarouses forced the team to adapt rather quickly with a lack of depth at their disposal.

However, it’s coach Steve Corica’s inability to rejuvenate and tinker with the structure and blueprint left behind by former predecessor Graham Arnold that has ultimately rendered them a more conservative side.

For all of the criticisms aimed at Arnold for his brand of football, he understood when to pick the right moments both defending and going forward and at times, he did produce some exciting phases of play.


Corica has struggled to find that balance up until the past few months as Sydney seems a side reborn who possesses an identity for the meantime.

Most people would look at Sydney’s squad and ask themselves why they aren’t doing better. There’s still obvious talent and experience there such as the likes of LeFondre, Mak, Burgess, Lolley, Wilkinson and Grant.

The perception is that they definitely have another gear or two in them to thrust.

The recent 1-1 draw away to Adelaide and the victory in the Sydney Derby on Saturday night come to mind. In both those encounters, all credit goes to Corica who I thought managed those games extremely well. They were happy to hand over possession but were lethal up front and took their opportunities when required.

Sydney FC Manager Steve Corica  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Perhaps, Corica has rediscovered Arnold’s framework?

Sydney’s recent form of six matches unbeaten has them primed to put up a real fight against the regular season champions Melbourne City, a team who I’ve noted in the past as displaying some patches of the best scintillating football in the A-League era.


In fact, these two heavyweights have always matched up well against one another, notably this season in their two meetings. The combined averages in key stats are scarily similar, with City averaging 16 shots and 5 on target while Sydney tallied 14 and 6.5 respectively, proving that goal-scoring chances shouldn’t be that difficult to come by for both teams.

Even in possession where you expect City to dominate, only averaged 51.5%.

Corica’s men were able to score two goals in both of those encounters, signalling the weaknesses that Melbourne City have at the back and the holes they can often leave behind at certain moments, despite the inspirational heroics of Jamie Maclaren up the other end of the ground.

Two-legged semi-finals are fascinating because it requires a club to be asked the question of managing a game for not only 90 but 180 minutes which throws in intriguing tactical battles as well as shifts in momentum and control.

The away goal rule is scrapped, changing the dynamics of how both teams treat this fixture.

Sure, Melbourne City were by far the best team in the competition during the regular season. Unfortunately for them, finals football presents a whole new ball game and anything can happen, albeit this tie not being a one-off game. 

Sydney is peaking at the perfect time, and City must be wary of that.


Sports opinion delivered daily