The A-League season has begun. Coaches, players and fans alike are dreaming of success for their clubs. But here, Murray Shaw, Executive Producer of Football at Fox Sports, predicts who has a realistic chance of lifting the silverware this season.
In Part 1 of this series, Murray takes a look at five Hyundai A-League clubs, including last year’s champs, Adelaide United.
Overview: The hardest thing to do in sport is to win back-to-back titles. Clubs generally lose their top players to ambitious rivals and motivation to do it all again becomes a difficult path to cross. Adelaide has that tag this season, along with extra commitments of the Asian Champions League. But given the team’s march to the title last season, who is willing to write them off?
Strengths: Guillermo Amor – you get the sense if he dropped steaming hot coffee on his pants he wouldn’t flinch. His composed nature rubs off on his players and seems to inspire them.
Player to watch: Sergio ‘Sergi’ Guardiola Navarro – any player who gets signed by Barcelona must have something to offer. The 25 year old joins Adelaide’s Spanish Armada with just one crucial thing on his checklist: score 20 goals this season.
Overview: While Rome burns around them, John Aloisi somehow manages to shield his players from the off-field distractions and forge them into a competitive outfit. It’s a credit to him and his coaching staff that given everything that’s happened they’re still expected to challenge for the title.
Strengths: A team full of winners – Broich, McKay, North and Theo (formerly Theoklitos) were all integral in the golden period of the Brisbane Roar. While they’re all older they are by no means finished.
Player to watch: Tommy Oar (pictured) – It seems difficult to comprehend now, but two years ago a 22-year-old Oar started in all three of Australia’s games at the World Cup in Brazil. He’s since lost his spot in the Australian squad, but you can guarantee a good season in the A-League will make Ange Postecoglou take notice.
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Central Coast Mariners
Overview: As Yazoo sang ‘The Only Way Is Up’ and if there’s one thing the Mariners can guarantee it’s that this season can’t be as bad as last. There’s the new more-experienced coach, Paul Okon, who instantly demands respect given his playing credentials. Plus he has more experience in the squad following the signing of former Sydney FC trio Jacques Faty, Mickael Tavares and Ivan Necevski.
Strengths: No expectations. Not even the most ardent Mariners fan thinks they can win the title this season, which means Paul Okon can concentrate on getting his side playing with some structure that was severely lacking under the past regime.
Player to watch: Mickael Tavares – it’s fair to say he didn’t see eye-to-eye with Graham Arnold at Sydney FC last season, but it’s also fair to say he was a large part of the reason Sydney FC made the Grand Final the season before.
Overview: What a season this promises to be. The re-signing of Bruno Fornaroli combined with the arrival of Tim Cahill will surely have fans flocking to AAMI Park. Last season’s entertainers, this club doesn’t look like it will lose that crown this season.
Strengths: Tim Cahill. The club’s marquee man brings plenty to Melbourne City both on and off the park. His goals will be invaluable but so will his nurturing of some of the younger members of the City squad.
Player to watch: Michael Jakobsen. If Melbourne City is to prosper this season then, just like last, it won’t be a problem scoring goals, but preventing them will be the factor. Jakobsen is a former Danish international and, with his compatriot Thomas Sorensen behind him in goals, the pair will go a long way to determining how the club finishes.
Overview: The biggest club in the A-League doesn’t settle for second, and after a disappointing 2015/16 campaign, players, administrators and fans know it needs to be much better this season. There’s no Champions League to worry about this time around so no excuses.
Strengths: The band is back together. James Troisi returns from overseas and so does Marco Rojas. They both flourished in their last spells with the Victory.
Player to watch: Marco Rojas – the Johnny Warren medallist from 2013 returns to the Victory with a point to prove after a disappointing overseas venture. His pace and delivery down the right flank will be manna from heaven for the predatory Besart Berisha.
Check out PART 2 of Murray Shaw’s Hyundai A-League season preview to see what he has to say about the other five teams.
About Murray Shaw
Murray Shaw has been the Executive Producer of Football at Fox Sports for more than a decade. Aside from being responsible for all of the football coverage (no small task), he has been a successful talent spotter. Murray has secured well-known pro players as part of his on-air team including Mark Bosnich, Andy Harper, Mark Rudan, John Aloisi and Ned Zelic. Follow Murray Shaw’s football insights on Twitter. Watch all of the Hyundai A-League action live on Fox Sports this season.
Do you have any team or player predictions for the Hyundai A-League season ahead? Share them in the comments below.