The 2018/19 A-League season is now upon us and we can look froward to one of the most unpredictable campaigns in recent memory, with plenty of changes across every side.
Sydney FC have been the dominant force the last two seasons, but will struggle to maintain their hegemony following the departure of coach Graham Arnold and star imports Adrian Mierzejewski and Bobô. Steve Corica has been tasted with the new manager position, and it will be interesting to see how he will refashion this side around new star imports Siem de Jong (Ajax) and Adam Le Fondre (Bolton). Sydney will also have to contend with three different home stadiums as Allianz is being rebuilt, injecting a further note of difficulty into their already uncertain season.
Meanwhile, struggling sides Wellington Phoenix and Central Coast Mariners have also had managerial changes, with Phoenix bringing in Mark Rudan and the Mariners investing in Mike Mulvey. Both teams will hope to improve from their 2017/18 bottom of the ladder efforts: Phoenix must improve their dreadful record at home and Mariners must put the potential of Ross McCormack to good use.
Western Sydney Wanderers will also hope their new chief Markus Babbel will help them recover from their disastrous season at the hands of Josep Gombau, but their young squad lacks depth and will have to dig deep for a finals berth.
Player changes and transfers have been in abundance, with some exciting new additions across the league.
Melbourne Victory have signed Japanese superstar Keisuke Honda and Swedish forward Ola Toivonen – both World Cup goalscorers – and Spanish defensive mid Raul Baena on a one-year loan from Granada CF. Victory shapes as the premier team in the competition this year after their unexpected finals dominance, with Honda adding a real X-Factor to a side which threatens to make back-to-back titles a reality.
Perth Glory have added four former Socceroos to their roster under new coach Tony Popovic, adding more depth to an already established side. Glory stand as genuine contenders this year, with a strong. well-rounded team headlined by prodigious attacking midfielder Chris Ikonomidis. The loss of Adam Taggart to Brisbane Roar will hurt.
Newcastle, meanwhile, stand as a quiet threat to take the title under the shrewd management of Ernie Merrick after their ballistic rise from wooden spoon to grand finalists. Expectations have been heightened for the Jets this season and their raft of departures aren’t insignificant, but Newcastle can’t be discounted.
Brisbane Roar are also in contention under John Aloisi, with strong pre-season performance indicating good things to come. The introduction of Adam Taggart will be welcomed, while French import Eric Bautheac will have more opportunity this season to demonstrate his worth. This is the season for the Roar to deliver.
Adelaide United are in good stead under the disciplined eye of Marco Kurz, making up for the club’s lack of budget with astute management and recruitment. They will press this season to improve on last season’s fifth position, with the allure of finals sure to provide plenty of motivation.
After last season’s semi-final loss, finals beckon again for Melbourne City and this season they must ensure they make it all the way. Warren Joyce is a good man to have at the helm, but City will need to be ruthless in their campaign, especially with the massive absence of Daniel Arzani.
Competition will be tough this season in the A-League, with spots in the top six sure to be hotly contested. Victory stand as most likely contenders, but Sydney looms and City and Newcastle have points to prove.