2020/21 A-League Season Preview

T

he A-League is now at what is arguably the most crucial year ever in it’s short, but memorable history. Their broadcast agreement with Fox Sports Australia expires after this season, whilst Hyundai chose not to continue its sponsorship of the competition. Those two things coupled with the financial implications of COVID19 have meant that clubs now have shoestring like budgets to work with and many great, talented players departed over the off-season.

Some of those major names include Adam Le Fondre, Steven Taylor and Brad Inman jetting off to the Indian Super League and Riley McGree moving to America.

So, if there was ever a season to show your support for your club, buy a membership and let your voice be known in Kogarah or Victoria, or wherever it may be, that season is now!

It’s, not all doom and gloom. There’s still countless current and former Socceroos playing in the competition including big guns such as Jamie Maclaren, James Troisi and Ryan Grant.

I believe Melbourne City is one of the most exciting, free-flowing attacking teams to watch in Asia. And all eyes will be glued onto Sydney FC, as they attempt to win a record 3rd Championship in a row. So, with all of that in mind, let’s get into how each team will fare this season and who their key player will be.

Adelaide United – Coached by Carl Veart

Key player – Javi López. The Spanish Full back/ Midfielder has played 252 games for Espanyol. While he has also represented Betis’s lower grade teams. Could the Reds have finally found a replacement for Isaías Sánchez?

How they should fare – Sorry Adelaide fans, you might be a bit disappointed with this one, don’t expect your team to have a great season. Within the Reds are players such as Abetew (21), Brook (19), D’Arrigo (19), Gomulka (19), A. Toure (20), Niyongabire (20), Ochsenham (21), Smith (20), Strain (23), M. Toure (16), Walls (19), Yengi (21) and Yongbin (21). It should be fun to watch all these young stars develop and to see the damage that they can cause in a professional league. But on the same note, that, unfortunately, won’t translate to many victories for them. They need more experience, which from the looks of their side, they simply don’t have.

Brisbane Roar- Coached by Warren Moon

Key player – You just cannot go past Jamie Young for this one. He’s a huge asset to their side. The former Reading and England U20’s player, has featured for the Roar on 119 occasions. And last campaign he made 74 saves, to go along with his 6 clean sheets. Will his brick-wall like defence help lead Brisbane to a Top 6 finish?

How they should fare – The Roar have a good enough blend of experienced and young players that they could do something this season. But ultimately, I can’t see them making it past Week 1 of the finals …. if that. This is Warren Moon’s first professional managing gig and for a club that should have a bare minimum aim of making the finals, that inexperience doesn’t exactly paint the picture of a rosy outlook for them. Brisbane will go as far ultimately as Young (previously talked about) and new signing Masato Kudo, (92 goals for Kashiwa Reysol) take them.

Central Coast Mariners – Coached by Alen Stajcic

Key player – ‘The Wizard of Woy Woy’ Matt Simon. He is an experienced head in what is mostly a young team. All in all, he’s played in 225 games for the Mariners and in the process, he’s produced 59 goals. That combined with the fact that his side is devoid of any real decent attackers, makes him a key component of the Mariners upcoming season. Will he be able to restore some parity and respect back in Gosford?

How they should fare – This is a club that is the equivalent of Mr Krabs or Scrooge McDuck when it comes to spending money. And that’s not good. Look at Sydney domestically or the likes of Real Madrid or Manchester City internationally, they all win consistently by spending money. De Sliva (23), Khoury (20), Kuol (19), Miller (20), Nisbet (21), Pearce (23), Rowles (22), Ruiz-Diaz (19), Silvera (20), Stensness (21) and Tongyik (23) are amongst the young lads on deck for this season. Similar to Adelaide, their season will be fun to watch due to all the promising youngsters. But ultimately, they won’t do much damage on the scoreboard.

Macarthur FC – Coached by Ante Milicic

Key player – Their captain, Mark Milligan. He’s won 2X A-League Championships, as well as an A-League Premiership. And among his other accolades are a Joe Marston Medal and being named in the A-League PFA team of the season on 3 occasions. Will experienced and hardened players such as himself help lead the Bulls to a final’s appearance in their first season?

How they should fare – Macarthur has set up a very good-looking team for this season. It’s sexy on paper, it’s experienced and they have talented, hard-working players at all positions. This team could well be primed to make a name for themselves right away. And as an added bonus, they boast a tonne of Socceroos experience as well. Milicic will have them playing the right way and effectively at that. I have a strong suspicion that they could earn a straight-up finals birth this season. With Milligan leading the charge and the international experience that they boast, it’s hard to see why not.

Melbourne City – Coached by Patrick Kisnorbo

Key player – Jamie Maclarennnnnn! This past A-League campaign alone, he produced 23 goals for City, as he helped lead them all the way to a maiden Grand Final appearance. Just to put his goal numbers in perspective, he had more goals then Nabbout, McGree and Ikonimidis combined (21). He is a well-respected leader at the club. Will he be able to help Melbourne go one better this season?

How they should fare – They should finish high up on the ladder and play some absolutely sexy Football in the process. They’ll have Maclaren and Nabbout going on a tear together (31 combined goals last season, +7 assists). And they have Craig Noone as well, who got 5 goals and 9 assists last campaign. Their front three is going to be absolutely mental. And they’ll fare as well as they play. Melbourne City are absolutely primed to be a vital Championship contender this season.

Melbourne Victory – Coached by Grant Brebnber

Key player – Rudy Gestede. The 32-year-old French-born Striker has previously called clubs such as Metz, Cardiff, Blackburn, Middlesbrough, and Villa home. How’s that for a list! Replacing the departed Ola Toivonen, Gestede will be heavily relied upon to replace his goal-scoring output. Will how well Gestede performs, define how the Victory perform?

How they should fare – The Victory finished 10th last season. Only the Mariners were behind them and they had a GD of -11, to go along with the Victory suffering 15 defeats out of a possible 26 games. Then this side banded together and advanced through to the final 16 of the ACL. And that was without new, experienced, proper signings such as Gestede and Shotton. They look very well positioned to have a massive change in form from last season. They should make the finals and will definitely be a contender for being a Top 3 side. The Victory Football Club constantly demands the best, this season should be a season where we see just that.

Newcastle Jets – Coached by Craig Deans

Key player – Roy O’Donovan. It wasn’t all that long ago that he led the Jets to a Grand Final appearance. Whilst in 12 games last season for Newcastle, he produced 6 goals. He also scored 20 goals from just an impressive 34 games in his previous stint at the club. Whilst the well-versed Striker has previously played for Sunderland and Blackpool, among other sides. The Jets are seemingly in chaos at the moment, but can he help put that aside and lead them to a respectable finish?

How they should fare – Without an owner and only with an interim coach, how much more can the Jets actually handle? Players don’t want to be there, at least some anyway as evidenced through the Ibini departure. And now there are rumours swirling around that the club could be shut down. Could it possibly get any worse for them? Expect the players to play with pride and passion and to try and do the Hunter region proud. But they’ll fall well short results-wise and that’s the stark reality of it. They’re Wooden Spoon favourites this season for me.

Perth Glory- Coached by Richard Garcia

Key player – Bruno Fornaroli. The ex-FFA Cup winner has quickly cemented his status as one of the A-League’s modern-day great Attackers. He helped lead Melbourne City to a maiden trophy during his time there, but what damage could he cause with the Glory? With City, he scored 48 from 70. And with Perth so far, it’s been 13 from 28. He has to turn those goals into high finishes for the Glory. If he can do that, then suffice to say both Perth and himself will have successful seasons.

How they should fare – They could perform amazingly. They could perform average. Or they could perform s**t. It just really depends on which Glory team decides to turn up and play. Last season they finished 6th (at the conclusion of the regular season), before that 1st, before that 8th, then 5th 2X in a row prior to that. Inconsistency seems to constantly affect this club. Ultimately whether inconsistent or not, they should have enough talent to make the Top 6. If they put in the effort, they could win the Championship. If not, they could be bundled out hard in the opening round.

Sydney FC – Coached by Steve Corica

Key player – The ‘Serbian Snake’, Milos Ninkovic. Just like a snake, he can slither through other things (AKA teams defences), without being touched. Since he joined the Sky Blues in 2015, he’s produced 28 goals. Whilst for Dynamo Kyiv, he produced 14 goals. And last campaign alone for the Sky Blues, he had 37 shot assists. He is the key to their Midfield. And how much of an impact will he have en route to Sydney chasing their 3rd consecutive Championship?

How they should fare – If everything goes to plan, they should be winning a 3rd straight Championship this campaign. They have the players and the squad to do so, even without the newly-departed Le Fondre. As well as that, most of their main rivals have been weakened or haven’t improved enough to genuinely contest Sydney.

City replaced their departed coach with a relatively in-experienced one, while the same applies to Perth. Barring any major injuries or suspensions, etc, the Sky Blues should play the same style of electric Football that they have done so for the past couple of seasons, as they aim to further etch their names into Australian sporting history.

Wellington Phoenix – Coached by Ufuk Talay

Key player – It’s hard to go past NZ born and bred, Stefan Marinovic. The 29-year-old made 87 saves for the Nix last season, at an average of 3.22 saves per match. Of those, 35 saves came from outside the box. And he kept 5 clean sheets. He was one of the key reasons that Wellington featured in last years finals series and having lost Steven Taylor at the back, he’ll prove to be more crucial than ever. How far can he take the Wollongong based Nix this season?

How they should fare – They might’ve had a fairy-tale run to the finals last season. But this is a severely different Nix side now. They can no longer play in NZ due to strict COVID rules and whilst they are being absolute awesome legends and basing themselves in Wollongong for the foreseeable future. That’s bound to have a severe mental effect on them at some point.

There’s also no more Gary Hooper or Steven Taylor anymore. Gone are the ex-Celtic and Newcastle men. They should still do well, and they’ll have a lot of spirit and fight within them. But ultimately, I can’t see them being good enough to make the finals. They just won’t have that in them.

Western Sydney Wanderers- Coached by Carl Robinson

Key player – Berine Ibini. The man leaves quite a mark wherever he goes. He was a key part of the Jets late-season charge, as he featured in 6 games for them, scoring a goal, and contributing 10 shot assists. He’s also been a part of Club Brugge, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and even played in America. The 2X capped Socceroo has had a memorable career to date and will be looking to further add to that this campaign. What sort of impact will the electric Attacker have on the Wanderers?

How they should fare – Western Sydney is currently primed for a huge turnaround season. They’ve added the successful Carl Robinson as their new coach. Whilst they’ve added experienced and star A-League players in the likes of Bernie Ibini, James Troisi and Ziggy Gordon to what was already a fairly decent looking squad.

They should play exciting, attacking football, just like the Jets did under Robinson, as they attempt to break their finals drought. This is a side that wants to win, and the rest of the A-League should be put on notice with the promising changes that the club has made to their respective personnel.

Western United FC – Coached by Mark Rudan

Key player – He won the Ekstraklasa in 2010-11 and played 6 matches for the Poland national U21’s side, yep it’s the man Filip Kurto! He was key to the Nix two seasons ago, then he moved to W.U. with Mark Rudan. And boy oh boy, he made quite the impact last season. He made a massive 93 total saves, good for 3.32 per match. And he kept 6 clean sheets along the way. W.U.’s attack is fine, but their defence is more questionable. How will he go about keeping the Green & Black in the finals hunt?

How they should fare – Western United is one of the few teams this off-season who haven’t made many major changes to their side from last season. And to be fair, why would you? In just their first season, they already made it all the way through to the second week of the finals. The lack of changes could potentially be season-defining. Either in a good or a bad way.

Diamanti and Berisha should lead the way forward as usual. And as expected they’ll be the leading force in their sides attempt to try and go 2/2 finals wise. Two incredible stats from their previous season together, they combined for 27 goals and 7 assists!

A-League is almost here

The A-League might not be that of the EPL, or La Liga, or the Bundesliga perhaps, but it’s our league! And it never fails to entertain us, keep us on the edge of our seats and give us memories that’ll last a lifetime. And we need it more than ever to help keep it sustainable and going strong. Purchase a membership or go to some games and make your voice heard. No matter who you support, it’s bound to be one fantastic, roller-coaster ride of a season!!!

Toby is somebody who is a knowledgeable and passionate sports fan, but none more than the NRL. From a young age, he has been covering and supporting Australia’s greatest code. He has diplomas in both sports and business, while he loves a good laugh, some good food and travelling.

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