Hyundai A-League season preview: Sydney FC


​Since missing the Hyundai A-League 2016 Finals Series, there’s been a sense of urgency around Moore Park.

From excellent recruiting to a rigorous training regimen and some encouraging performances in pre-season, the Sky Blues clearly mean business heading into the new season.

Top five Hyundai A-League defenders

Their Westfield FFA Cup run is a good example. They’ll kick off the A-League season just two games from silverware in the Cup and in good form. What’s more, no ACL commitments mean Arnie’s men will have a clear run at the back end of this season. 

And, crucially, the depth is there to challenge for all three trophies on offer. 

Sydney FC star Filip Holosko celebrates after scoring against Wellington Phoenix.

Vedran Janjetovic and Danny Vukovic both have designs on the number one jersey. Alex Wilkinson and Michael Zullo adds class and experience to the back four, while Josh Brillante has already forged a strong partnership with Brandon O’Neill in midfield. But it’s in attack where Sky Blue fans will be smiling. 

Ibini and Bobo join Brosque, Carney, Ninkovic, Holosko, Simon and Blackwood to ensure plenty of goal threats.

The 3-0 win in Wednesday night’s FFA Cup quarter-final – albeit against PS4 NPL opposition – showed their pattern of play and combinations are starting to gel nicely. 

The burning questions

*Will new marquee Bobo light up the A-League?

Bobo has signed a one-year deal with Sydney FC for the 2016/17 Hyundai A-League season.

*Can Sydney maintain their mantle as Kings of NSW, unbeaten against the Wanderers, Mariners and Jets for more than two years?

*Can forgotten Caltex Socceroo Michael Zullo get back to his best under Graham Arnold?

Lessons learnt from last season

*Must discover a more ruthless streak in attack, turning possession and chances into more goals.

*Dominating the local derbies doesn’t always translate into success in the league.

*Success in the ACL group stage AND the A-League is a tough balancing act. 

Road ahead

Sydney’s FC’s run in the Westfield FFA Cup means they head into the new season relatively match fit and battle hardened.

And they will need to be with a blockbuster opening round Sydney Derby against the Wanderers in front of what is looming as 65,000 plus fans at ANZ Stadium.

Wanderers skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Sydney FC captain Alex Brosque chase the ball in last season's Round 2 Sydney Derby.

The Sky Blues should be looking to make a fast-start with matches against last season’s bottom three (Mariners, Phoenix and Jets) after their derby opener. 

Things get much tougher during the festive period where they have only one of four matches at home, including trips to Perth and Adelaide.

But Sydney finishes the season with four of their last six at Allianz, meaning they should be able to build some momentum should they be in finals contention. 

Expected strengths

*Have speed in the front third with the return of Bernie Ibini.

Bernie Ibini and Graham Arnold at Sydney FC training during the 2014/15 season.

*Key imports Ninkovic and Holosko have a season under their belt and should be even better in 2016/17. And Holosko knows Bobo well after their time together in Turkish club football. That combination could really fire up. 

Potential weakness

*Huge expectations. Can they find a way to win with that pressure always there?

Tactical approach

Arnold likes his teams to dominate possession and back their passing game. That won’t change.

The key is often the speed at which they can do it to help penetrate well-organised defences and, of course, how much quality they can do it with.

Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold on the training ground.

But with the calibre of player recruited, you would expect that to be much better this season. Expect Holosko to play close to Bobo, their understanding and quality will be key at the point of attack. 

While Arnie is generally a flexible coach when it comes to tactics and formations, the Sky Blues are likely to set up in a 4-2-3-1.

Breakout star

George Blackwood. Highly regarded, he has made a strong contribution in his limited opportunities in the Hyundai A-League so far. Still only 19 and a Young Socceroo, he is set to go to a new level as he matures in 2016/17.

Best-case scenario

A return to the finals football is the bare minimum. Time will tell but right now, you’d be feeling good about being a Sydney FC fan.