Debate: Arnie’s Sydney FC greater than Ange’s ‘Roarcelona’?


Sydney FC have already created history this season and they have a chance to surpass the greatest Hyundai A-League side – Brisbane Roar’s fabulous 2010/11 “Roarcelona” side – over the final three rounds.

The debate over where this Sky Blues team sits in terms of the A-League’s best through its 12 seasons has become a key discussion over the past few months as Graham Arnold’s men have continued to dominate the competition.

The Premier’s Plate is secured – and will be presented after Sydney’s Round 27 fixture against Newcastle Jets – while the Sky Blues have set a new record points tally in a 10-team A-League with 59 after their win over Perth Glory on Sunday.

Sydney FC players celebrate a goal in their 3-0 win over Perth Glory.

But another seven points would remove any statistical caveat to their claim to be the A-League’s best-ever side, as that would take them past Ange Postecoglou’s first Roar squad, who accumulated 65 points in 2010-11 when the competition had 11 teams.

For some fans, mentioning this Sydney side in the same breath as ‘Roarcelona’ is akin to A-League blasphemy.

The statistics show, however, that Sydney at least deserve to be in the conversation, although it remains to be seen whether Arnold’s troops have such a lasting impact on Australian football as Postecoglou’s side of six years ago.


The number most A-League fans will remember about Postecoglou’s Roar tenure is 36 – Brisbane’s unbeaten streak that stretched from September 2010 to November 2011.

That run began in the 2010/11 campaign as Postecoglou transformed Brisbane from a team that finished second last into premiership and championship winners within a year.

Roar stats.

But looking at the 2010-11 season in isolation, Sydney’s current side compares very favourably with the Roar squad of Thomas Broich, Kosta Barbarouses, Matt McKay and Co.

In 33 matches – including finals, Brisbane won 19 or 57.58 per cent of matches through 90 minutes, scoring 1.94 goals per game and conceding 0.91.

So far in 2016-17, the Sky Blues have won 18 of their 24 A-League games or 75 per cent.

Sydney have also been more effective in attack and defence, scoring 2.04 goals per game and letting in just 0.46.

Sydney stats


There have been some critics of Sydney this season that have bemoaned a lack of style from Arnold’s men.

While beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, there are a number of similarities between the playing styles of “Roarcelona” and the 2016/17 Sky Blues.

Firstly, both sides were built around the creativity of an import midfielder not operating as a quintessential number 10.

Broich wins it again

Broich set a new standard for A-League imports following his move to Brisbane from Nuremburg in May 2010, with the man known as “Mozart” drifting from a left wing position to link up with Roar’s central midfield trio, plus Barbarouses and Jean-Carlos Solorzano up front.

Similarly, Ninkovic has generally lined up as a left winger for Sydney this term before roaming infield to combine with Bobo, Brosque and Filip Holosko.

Few would be surprised if the Serbian schemer followed in Broich’s footsteps and won the Johnny Warren Medal as the A-League’s best player this season.

Sydney FC’s sublime Serbian Milos Ninkovic has been involved in more away goals than any other player this Hyundai A-League season.

Many fans will think of Besart Berisha when remembering Postecoglou’s Roar tenure but in that first season – the best in the A-League in terms of stats for the Socceroos’ current boss – came without the now-Kosovo international.

Like Sydney this season – who have shared the goals amongst their front four – Brisbane also had a spread of scorers in 2010-11.

Barbarouses led the way with 12 goals, while Solorzano managed 11, with Thomas Broich and Mitch Nichols (both 6) and Reinaldo (5) also chipping in.


Sydney may very well surpass Brisbane’s all-time points record – the Sky Blues have two home games left against Melbourne City and the Jets, while they also travel to Wellington Phoenix in their penultimate fixture before finals.

Few would bet against them beating Wellington and Newcastle, meaning a draw this week against City would be enough to set a new mark.

But for many – including this journalist – “Roarcelona” will remain the pinnacle of A-League excellence at the end of this season.


Prior to Postecoglou taking over in Queensland’s capital, Australia’s new national competition had generally lacked a sense of style on the pitch with the majority of coaches focusing on counterattacking tactics.

Brisbane changed that by dominating the A-League with possession-based football that not only caught the eye but ensured almost every coach and club official in Australia now talks about ‘playing the right way’.

The Roar of then and Sky Blues of now are both products of their era.

As Brisbane kept the ball on a string in the A-League, Spain had just won their first World Cup on the back of Barcelona’s domination of La Liga and success in the Champions League in 2009 and 2011.

Meanwhile, Sydney’s high press and rapid, direct attacks exemplify an A-League season where more teams have won with a minority of possession and can be linked to the slight departure from “tiki-taka” in Europe over the past couple of years.

Sydney FC celebrate Filip Holosko's winner against the Mariners on Friday night.

If the Sky Blues go on to be crowned champions and back up this season with more success in 2017-18 they may very well join Roarcelona in the upper echelon of the A-League’s pantheon of great teams but at the moment it’s hard to imagine Sydney’s philosophy sparking a revolution in Australian football as Postecoglou’s side did.