By Saturday night, it will be almost a month since the Sky Blues last won a game.
The stat is hardly an impressive one, reminiscent of Frank Farina’s inconsistent Sydney FC of 2013/14. Ideally, Sydney needed to be in the Top 3 of the A-League competition as they embark on the most gruelling part of their season. Instead, sitting in 5th spot, the Sky Blues have given themselves a mountain to climb.
To right that wrong, the Sky Blues have no better opportunity to pick up a win than on Saturday night at home against Perth Glory, a side that somewhat lacks the class of the teams above them on the ladder.
Only the foolish would dismiss Glory’s chances of recording an upset win, however. The West Australian squad has undergone a massive rebirthing exercise in the January transfer window, selling captain Michael Thwaite to Liaoning in the cashed-up CSL and Antony Golec to Sheriff Tiraspol in Moldova (look it up). These sales followed the departures of underperforming Sidnei Sciola and Guyon Fernandez.
In their place, in comes last season’s controversial but prolific striker Andy Keogh, impressive Hungarian midfielder Krisztian Vadosz, central defender and Perth native Shane Lowry and the talented youngster who somehow slipped through Sydney’s net, Under-17 international Kosta Petratos. Socceroo Adam Taggart has also signed but is unable to take part as FIFA rules ban players from representing more than two teams in one season.
Impressive work by Kenny Lowe in the transfer market then and, together with new Socceroo rightback Josh Risdon, in-form flyer Chris Harold and candidate for Player Of The Season, Spanish leading goalscorer Diego Castro, Glory will feel they have more than a fair chance of upsetting the hosts.
Meanwhile, the visitors’ Sydney connection is strong, with former Sky Blues Richard Garcia, Hagi Gligor and this season’s surprise packet Marc Warren no doubt determined to make a point to Sydney supporters and a few of their former teammates. Things could get heated given Garcia’s volatility and Warren’s penchant for flying into tackles. Filip Holosko would be well advised to watch his legs.
Perth have been adept at scoring goals and have the pace to trouble any opponent but have leaked at the back, opening the way for the Sky Blues to capitalise on their opponent’s defensive frailties. Alex Brosque makes a welcome return from long term hamstring injury while new signing David Carney, impressive in his cameo last weekend, is expected to walk out with the Sky Blue first eleven for the first time in nine seasons. The attacking quartet of Brosque, Carney, Holosko and Milos Ninkovic has the goals in it to put any opponent to the sword.
Wary of being undone on the counter, however, the Sky Blues may not go for broke against a side that likes to attack but remains wildly inconsistent. Coach Graham Arnold is more likely to contain Perth’s attacking threats early before unleashing his forwards to do the business. An early home goal would be nice, however.
Interestingly, Robert Stambolziev receives a call up to the extended squad while Andrew Hoole remains on the outer. The tenacious winger has more to offer the Sydney squad than simply being training fodder in 11v11s and deserves an opportunity to press his case. He does, however, have Carney and Chris Naumoff ahead of him in the pecking order.
Beyond the contest itself and in the face of widespread condemnation, the FFA have finally opted to punish the Western Sydney Wanderers for their flare use, albeit with a mere $50,000 fine and a suspended 3 point deduction. It will be interesting to see if they follow through on their threat to strip the team of three points should the flare issue rear its ugly head once again. One suspects that had the FFA been tougher on the Wanderers last season (and stripped them off points then, which hardly mattered when they were running last on the table), we would not be dealing with this issue today.
Meanwhile, in the fallout from last week’s encounter at Coopers Stadium, serial thug Iaccopo La Rocca has received a three match suspension for his elbow to the face of Sydney’s Matt Simon. Simon is no shrinking violet himself but this column would be prepared to stand by its statement that no player in A-League history has used his elbows as weapons more than the Italian.
No sympathy then, though plenty for his club for their gallant display in the Asian Champions League qualifier against Shandong Luneng – had Marcelo Carrusca brought his shooting boots that night, they could well have made the competition proper.
Could he not have missed that injury time penalty against the Sky Blues instead?
Two pieces of poor defending and a touch of bad luck robbed Sydney of a vital two points last weekend and Arnie will have been drilling the message about concentration throughout the week. Sydney FC simply must get back in the winners’ circle on Saturday night – any further slip-ups will make the Sydneysiders’ title challenge all but evaporate into thin air.
Consistency has been Sydney FC’s Achilles Heel this season but if they play their best football, the Sky Blues should run away with all three points against Glory and get back to winning ways. Perhaps, like Andrew Lloyd reeling in Olympic champion John Ngugi in 1990, Sydney FC will make a late run to blow away the competition.
Every Sky Blue fan certainly hopes so.