Tonight’s fixture between the Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar will kick off the 2015-16 A-League season.
Given the underwhelming performances of both teams last season, it’s tough to believe that these two sides competed in a Grand Final in May of last year.
After finishing a single point above Newcastle, who finished tenth last season, the Wanderers knew that tough decisions needed to be made and a big turnover of players was on the cards.
Fast forward to the opening round of the 11th season of the A-League competition and the side that will run out onto Pirtek Stadium tonight for the Wanderers is almost unrecognisable to the one that played last season.
Over the off-season, the Wanderers said goodbye to an incredible 18 players, while they welcomed 10 new signings, as well as promoting from within.
One thing that has become very clear very quickly, is the influx of attacking options at Tony Popovic’s disposal, indicating he may be looking at implementing a more attacking game plan.
Last season the Wanderers coach was criticised for relying on a counterattacking style of football that despite previous success, did not work last season.
Despite the presence of the likes of Karem Bulut, Nikita Rukavytsya and Tomi Juric, the Wanderers managed just the four wins in the last campaign, mainly due to their horror record of just 29 goals in 27 fixtures.
The Wanderers have invested both of their marquee spots in attacking options, in the form of Socceroo Dario Vidosic and Italian striker Federico Piovaccari.
Australian marquee Vidosic has 23 Australian caps to his name, as well as 18 goals in the A-League, with a wealth of experience across Germany and Switzerland.
His 31-year-old Italian counterpart Piovaccari has 102 goals in his career and has plied his trade in Italy’s Serie B. He will be relied upon to improve on his return of 6 goals in 28 games at his previous club last season.
Also adding to the squad’s attacking options is the signing of former Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory attacking midfielder, Mitch Nichols.
Nichols, a five-time capped Socceroo, has already provided plenty of attacking flair during the pre-season.
Although he has 27 goals during his time in the A-League, Nichols will be tasked with supplying plenty of opportunities to his marquee men.
His potential combination with the likes of Wanderers squad survivors Mark Bridge, Romeo Castelen and Brendon Santalab will be key in opening up defences to allow Piovaccari and Vidosic to hit the back of the net.
If Popovic is to allow his squad to play a more expansive brand of football, the results should return plenty of dividends in the form of goals.
Of course there is no guarantee that the ACL winning manager will change up his counterattacking ways, but looking at the quality of his incoming attacking options, as well as the remaining threats, it would be a real shame if they were shackled.
Aloisi philosophy the catalyst to return to success?
Tonight, once that opening whistle is blown, all the troubles a club may be suffering off the field are pushed to the very back of players' minds … in theory.
The Roar’s troubles off-field have been well documented and don’t need to again be recounted here, but the players will be hoping they can put some smiles on the faces of their fans.
A tough 2014-15 campaign saw them limp to a finals position by default due to Perth's salary cap breaches and signaled the end of their dynasty of the past few years.
It also saw the appointment of a new manager in the form of Socceroo hero John Aloisi.
Aloisi suffered a turbulent introduction to managerial duties during his time at Melbourne Heart and will be looking to make amends in his new position.
The Roar have made just four signings, so will largely be reliant on the roster that failed to fire last season.
Fans will be hoping the new faces, and a new philosophy brought in with the appointment of Aloisi, will be the catalyst they need to return to winning ways.