Last weekend kicked off the start to the new A-League season. The league has been praised in the past for its competitive nature, and this season ahead doesn’t look too dissimilar.
One of the big differences in the league this season is the fact that FOX Sports has signed an agreement to televise live A-League matches on FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2 and FOX Soccer 2Go. Check your TV guide for matches being played in the early morning hours each weekend.
What can you expect to see in the A-League? In the last three seasons, the A-League’s gone through a change of overall philosophy in terms of coaches, style and players. There are now more homegrown Australian coaches than ever before with up to eight teams fielding Aussie managers. It’s a departure from years gone by when foreign coaches tended to be given the green light to manage in the league.
This season also marks a second for last season’s fairy tale club Western Sydney Wanderers. A club formed only months before the beginning of the A-League season last term went on to reach the exorbitant heights of winning the Premiers Plate trophy and losing in last season’s grand final. However, with the arrivals of Tomi Juric and Matthew Spiranovic, the Wanderers have strengthened what was already a strong side with the likes of Shinji Ono and Youssef Hersi.
Not only will the Wanderers season be an interest to many A-League followers, but the new coaching acquisition for Adelaide United is former Barcelona youth coach Josep Gombau. He’s come into the job with a plan to recreate Adelaide’s style into something resembling his former employers. Eyebrows were raised when the signing of two former Barcelona youth players who had since moved to the lower reaches of Spanish football were signed, but the pre-season form of Adelaide and the signing of ex-Brisbane Roar and Gold Coast United man Steven Lustica from Hadjuk Split show that optimism has grown. Gombau’s credentials have been questioned, although a certain Pep Guardiola’s recommendation hasn’t hurt him find a level of legitimacy.
Another side that has been making shockwaves in the A-League off-season is Ange Postecogolou’s Melbourne Victory who’s been able to go from strength to strength. With the signing of Socceroo and former Newcastle United player James Troisi on loan from Atalanta and the likes of Kosta Barbarouses, Connor Pain, Mitch Nichols and more has created a depth at the Melbourne side that is the envy of many in the competition.
The season ahead might provide a few surprises for many onlookers. A player that looks set to make sure he helps with those surprises is Daniel de Silva, as he impressed in the u-20 World Cup for Australia when he became the youngest goal scorer against a strong Colombia side. Making his debut for Perth Glory at the tender age of 15, he’s already been touted around amongst European heavyweights but remains level headed despite playing under the spotlight.
Another player who may look to make a name this season must be de Silva’s young Socceroo teammate Connor Pain. He’s been plucked from the obscurities of Victorian Premier League side Bentleigh Greens, and has since gone on to play in the final series game with Melbourne Victory, East Asian Cup and against English Premier League side Liverpool during the off season.
Central Coast Mariners duo Anthony Caceres and Mitchell Duke will look to cement places into the Grand Final winners eleven after a mass exodus in the off season. Caceres has been talked about being the next Mariners youth prodigy to make it at Gosford as the likes of Amini and Rogic before him. However, he’s been unable to make a mark in the side as of yet, but with the departures he looks more likely to make a difference this season.
As for Duke, he’s been in good form for club and country in the last six months. He was able to break into the Mariners coach Graham Arnold’s plans, and the exit of Bernie Ibini only strengthens his position in the Central Coast side. And his role in East Asian Cup with a poor Socceroo side has only raised his stock as he was able to trial with London side West Ham United during the off-season.
With that said, here are my predictions for this season:
Grand Final winners: Melbourne Victory
Premier Plate winners: Western Sydney Wanderers
Johnny Warren medallist: Michael McGlinchey
Western Sydney Wanderers
Central Coast Mariners