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2015/16 Sydney FC Season Review - Part 2 - Looking Ahead

The main error, made by Sydney FC twelve months ago, was not re-signing Marc Janko or bringing on board another striker who was good for fifteen goals a season.

There were others, however - the squad was short on leaders while retaining both Mikael Tavares and Milos Dimitrijevic meant one visa midfielder too many, restricting Arnie’s options in other areas of the pitch. Meanwhile, allowing Alex Gersbach to leave mid-season left a gaping hole and Jacques Faty proved a disaster at centreback.

The latter two problems appear to have been rectified. The signings of Michael Zullo and Alex Wilkinson should have the roles of leftback and backline-leading central defender taken care of, though question marks remain around Zullo’s fitness. With Seb Ryall and Rhyan Grant fighting it out for the rightback spot and Aaron Calver offering backup, Sydney still need a reserve left-sided and central defender.

With Ryall also able to play centrally, Arnie could promote the club’s talented NPL2 backline leader, young George Timotheou. The youngster could, however, face stiff competition from another talented left-footer, Hakoah’s big 17 year old Ryan Blumberg. The kid has made his senior breakthrough at NPL1 level and is about to follow in the footsteps of Tom Rogic by representing Australia at the Nike Academy in London.

Between the sticks, Arnie has decided that following a mixed twelve months, Vedran Janjetovic requires greater competition. The club has been linked with Danny Vukovic and even the great Mark Schwarzer, who would be a sight to behold even at his 43 years of age.

Following Tavares’ departure to the Mariners, Sydney’s midfield of Brandon O’Neill, Milos Dimitrijevic and Milos Ninkovic remains the envy of most. Nonetheless, the engine room needs replenishing and Sydney FC are believed to be negotiating with Olyroo Josh Brillante. Another who fits the bill is 28 year old Sydney-born Shrewsbury Town midfielder James Wesolowski while NPL hotshot Daniel Araujo deserves a senior contract.

Disappointingly, the club did not do enough to keep 17 year old local starlet and “next Terry Antonis”, Daniel Arzani, from signing for Melbourne City. The writing was on the wall after Arzani’s recent Manchester City sojourn but a club of Sydney’s stature must do more to keep its best talent.

Out wide and a full preseason should see David Carney become an even better contributor, though perhaps no longer a ninety minute one, while on the other flank, much is expected of marquee Filip Holosko. It appears, however, that with Chris Naumoff cut from the squad and Andrew Hoole unsurprisingly jettisoned, the club needs wide attackers.

A word on Naumoff.

The winger has been inconsistent, reminiscent of Alex Brosque in his early Marconi days, who was also quiet, a touch brittle, missed chances and at times took the wrong option. And, like Brosque at the same age, “Kiki” has now made his move abroad, signing for Spanish Division 2’s Numancia. One hopes to see the starlet blossom and fulfil his prodigious talent.

The next twelve months will tell if young striker George Blackwood has what it takes to deliver on his undoubted potential. He is a very good #9 in the making but needs a meaner streak and a touch of aggression. Blackwood must fight for his spot like never before.

Alex Brosque will be fit going into next season but the much-missed skipper has been injury-prone of late. Can Arnie get a full season from the club legend for one last hurrah?

One hopes that media speculation linking the skipper with a crosstown move is just that. Adored by the fans, Brosque is woven into the club’s very fabric and must end his career in a Sky Blue shirt in front of his beloved Cove. Anything else would stain both club and player and if Sydney need to clear salary cap space by ending its association with Matt Simon and Shane Smeltz, so be it.

The signing of a dominant, goal scoring centre forward remains the club’s greatest priority.

With Tim Cahill appearing a good chance of joining Melbourne City, Sydney could still lure last season’s Golden Boot, Bruno Fornaroli. Meanwhile, the club is also rumoured to be scouring the EPL for off-contract strikers and Stephen Fletcher, Marouane Chamakh, Peter Odemwingie and Victor Anichebe would all fit the bill, while off-contract Spain legend Fernando Torres sounds a dream too good to be true.

Torres, Fletcher and Chamakh would have a phenomenal impact. But how much do the owners want to invest? One senses a certain – understandable - fatigue and frustration in the upper echelons and while David Traktovenko will forever have the fans’ gratitude, perhaps a fresh injection of funds and the new broom that comes with it would help the club the take the next step forward.

Much remains to be done and not all of it on the pitch.

The club is at a crossroads. Beyond its committed, fifteen thousand-strong supporter base, football and general sports fans are disconnected from the club and given little reason to get on board. The total absence of Sydney FC signage and information at park and NPL games screams lack of engagement with the grassroots.

At its best, the club can capture Sydney’s imagination, but at worst, risks becoming marginalised in a city with many choices. Sydney FC must do infinitely more to attract the football and sporting communities and employing someone who understands that fan engagement is achieved by getting out among the community would be a good start.

There is also the question of playing style. While Brisbane, Victory and Adelaide United are easily identifiable by the way they play the game, Sydney FC have lurched, chameleon-like, from one style to another with little thought to a long term philosophy. The club must settle on its signature playing style - it is as important for player expectation as for marketing purposes.

There is no doubt that Sydney FC has its work cut out to improve in all departments but ultimately it is on-field performance that fans care about most. Sydney’s loyal fans just want a weekly beer shower and a title win - six barren years is far too long.

Sydney’s goals for the upcoming season must be a top two finish, Big Blue and Sydney Derby wins and to make the Grand Final.

The club has much to do but - lift a trophy, Sydney FC, and we’ll forgive the rest.

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2015/16 Sydney FC Season Review - Part 1

Written by Michael Safro (@Safrossydney)

After years of stagnation, 2014/15 was a breath of fresh air.

The Sky Blues thrilled their fans and only the team’s occasional naivety cost it the premiership. The fans moved on from the club’s Grand Final defeat, looking to go one better in 2015/16. Instead, what transpired in the A-League was an unmitigated disaster.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Just as Sydney FC made fundamental mistakes following its last title win in 2010 and compounded the problems two years later, history repeated itself in 2015. The club made errors in the wake of its Grand Final loss and these were enough to cost the Sky Blues an entire A-League season.

Playing Style Errors – if Graham Arnold is to be taken at his word, he wanted a “fluid formation” where his forwards could pressure the opposition’s defenders. To that end, Sydney FC let go of A-League top scorer Marc Janko despite his sixteen goals.

An odd way of looking at things and one that ultimately destroyed Sydney’s A-League campaign, scoring just 36 times in 27 matches. In Graham Arnold’s distinguished coaching career, dumping Janko must rank among his greatest blunders.

Continue Reading

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Sky Blue Faith Restored Despite Broken Hearts

Written By Michael Safro (@safrossydney)

Sydney FC’s Asian Champions League campaign that brought a smile to the faces of the club’s long suffering supporters came unstuck in the 90th minute of a tie that had everything.

Everything, that is, except the fairytale ending that would have taken the club into ACL quarter finals – an achievement of which few dared to dream. Instead, it was Shandong Luneng who got to live out a fairytale, substitute Hao Junmin hitting a wonderstrike that was all but unstoppable.

Perhaps only David De Gea could have saved that one.

Perhaps.

Sydney’s display, while far from perfect, was everything their A-League campaign was not. It is safe to say that had the Sky Blues displayed as much quality against Australian opposition in the past six months, their season would have been a successful one.

Unfortunately, it was Iran 1997 all over again, if on a smaller scale and in front of a pitifully small crowd of under 10,000 instead of the 100,000 at the MCG all those years ago. But the home fans were left equally gutted.

Football. Bloody hell.

At the risk of being criticised for suggesting the unthinkable, what cost Sydney at the end was their naivety and a total lack of cynicism. They just don’t have it in their makeup.

A man down and protecting a one goal lead with under ten minutes to play, the Sky Blues were feeling the pinch. Shandong had most of the ball and with fatigue setting in, it was all the home side could do to hold on.

It is at that point that most teams who know how to close out games adopt cynical tactics. A shirt pull or a professional foul to break up the opposition’s momentum. A feigned injury to give their side a chance of a breather and frustrate their opponent. A run to the corner flag to take a few precious seconds off the clock.

It is ugly and some will argue they would rather not win that way. But for every Iniesta there is a Busquets or a Ramos. For every Totti there is a Grosso or a Materazzi.

And they got to lift the World Cup.

If Sydney’s first goal had a touch of fortune about it, their second – less than a minute into the second half – was an absolute peach. Many would have been tempted to think that the rightback’s long-range strike against the Mariners fifteen months ago was the best he’d ever hit a ball again.

Some will have to reassess. Collecting the ball at the edge of the visitors’ penalty area, the fullback hit his shot, missile-like, into the far post and past the despairing dive of Shandong keeper Wang Dalei.

If Grant’s goal was straight out of top drawer, the assist was provided by Sydney’s best player of the night. Milos Ninkovic was sublime, turning his man with ease, spraying incisive passes and keeping his markers guessing throughout the contest. Played a lot higher up the park than he was in the A-League, the fans got to see the best of the Serbian #10 who, Del Piero-like, does his best work at the edge of the opposition box.

O’Neill’s free kick that snuck in off the post was well delivered and the home side were a goal to the good early. Unfortunately, their passing became sloppy upon resumption of play and Shandong took advantage. Drawing out Grant, the visitors had Diego Tardelli running at empty space for the next fifteen minutes. After bringing a good save from Janjetovic on one occasion, the pacy Brazilian freed himself again to cut a cross back to the oncoming Walter Montillo and the gifted Argentine took his finish with some class.

The Uzbek referee and his assistants certainly did Sydney no favours but Matt Simon’s conduct did not help. Displaying the lack of self-control for which he has largely escaped punishment domestically, he was fortunate not to concede a second yellow. And while it was playacting at ten paces from the visiting Chinese whenever Simon was within sight of the ball, an experienced footballer needs to have better reasoning skills out on the pitch.

The match turned on its head with fifteen minutes to go. The penalty and red card were fair enough after Zac Anderson rugby tackled Yang Zu in the box as the latter was shooting for goal. But the replay shows that the Chinese striker was offside at the point that the cross was delivered into the Sydney penalty area. The linesman should have had his flag up, making the rest irrelevant.

Vedran Janjetovic was superb throughout the evening and his penalty save made the fans believe that victory was within sight. But Junmin’s late, late winner broke Sydney hearts.

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A word on the Cove.

Not only did they turn out in force and produce a brilliant tifo but their support on the night was loud, edgy and parochial. And if the atmosphere they created throughout the contest was fantastic, their conduct after the final whistle was even more impressive and the fifteen minute, post-match send-off they gave their heroes had more than one player and fan wiping their eyes.

And so the offseason cull has begun. The next month will be filled with announcements of player comings and goings. More on that another time but one thing is clear - the players who did so well in Asian competition have shown what they are capable of when they get it right.

Most of them remain at the club. If Sydney FC’s domestic campaign gave their fans little to cheer about, their Asian performances have gone a long way towards restoring the faith of the Sky Blue faithful.

With just two or three solid additions to the team sheet, Sydney FC will have what it takes to give the A-League a real shake in 2016/17.

Roll on next season.

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SFCU.com.au Fundraiser & Cove End of Season Party

The Cove End of Season Party will be held at the Bat and Ball Hotel, 495 Cleveland St at 5:00pm on Saturday May 14th.

As always we'll be having a Raffle to raise funds for SFCU hosting costs and we have loads of great prizes this year:

Online Tickets have ended - Purchase Raffle Tickets on the Door!

It costs $150 a month to run SFCU.com.au, so your help would be greatly appreciated.

Lucky door prizes
Captured by Corina has donated some awesome framed photos taken during this season along with a special large framed and signed photo collage of Ali Abbas. 

Prizes:
From The Club 
a/ Complimentary Cove membership for 2016/17 season
b/ Signed 2015/2016 Jersey
c/ Uncatered corporate box for one game in 2016/17 – excl. Wanderers game.

From Marrickvillian
You am I pack: 
Signed Limited edition red vinyl copy of “Porridge & Hotsauce”
“Live Electrified” 3 LP and DVD Live Box Set
Sound As Ever, Hi Fi Way & Hourly Daily on 180 GM vinyl.
3 x 7” singles
A mixed dozen of You Am I Hot Sauce - 6 Chipotle and 6 Verde -handmade in NSW

Ali Abbas donated a jersey 

Zac Anderson Signed boots 

Harbour Snoop
Belvedere Vodka

Southy
3 x Bottles of Captain Morgan Rum

Ash - $100 Woolloomooloo Hotel Bar Tab

Naomi and Simon - Award Winning Tripple Rock Vodka

From APIA and 365 soccer sixes 
2 SEASON TICKETS TO ALL APIA HOME GAMES.

A FULL KIT
-Jersey, Shorts, Polo, Rain Jacket, Tracksuit, and Nike Match Ball.
10% off entry to any 365 Soccer Sixes 2016 competition.

Terry Mcflynn's - Donated a ACL Jersey 

Bat and Ball prizes 
Dinner for 4 plus wines, 
Membership for Dram Club. 
Bottle of Laddie Classic single malt Whisky.
1 x all you can eat wings (redeemed on Mondays)
1 x all you can eat burgers.(Redeemed on Tuesdays)
Steak dinner for 2 and a beer each (Redeemed on Wednesdays) Parmi for 2 plus beer each.(Redeemed on Thursdays)
Big daddy platter for 2 plus beer each.(Redeemed on Fridays) Sunday roast for 2 and a bottle of wine.(Redeemed on Sundays)

http://sfcu.com.au/smf202/index.php?topic=22473.0

Click Attending - https://www.facebook.com/events/463752117146619/permalink/478344312354066/

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ACL: Sydney FC Reach Round of 16 for the First Time

We've reached the Round of 16 in the ACL for the first time ever in the clubs history. Shandong Luneng of China are our opponents for this two-leg match-up and regardless of result we need to give our boys in blue a good showing in our home game on May 25.

Join the event page and invite all your friends, family, and colleagues and let's get our boys in blue over the line! With three weeks away, there's plenty of time to convince the undecided so take action as early as possible.

Facebook Event - https://www.facebook.com/events/1015855395174926/

As usual, pre-game drinks will be at The Bat and Ball Sydney from 5pm with specials to come as we get closer to the date.

Round of 16

sfclogo V shandong logo

1st Leg

Sydney FC v Shandong Luneng

Wednesday 18th May 2016

Venue: Jinan Olympic Sports Centre, Jinan

2nd Leg

Shandong Luneng v Sydney FC

Wednesday 25th May 2016

Venue: Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney 

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