A-League: Season Preview

7 October 2011

Written by: Jonathon Wilkinson

It may have been hibernating over the winter months, but Australia’s premier soccer competition, the Hyundai A-League, is back for its seventh season.

It’s been a drama packed off-season with the North Queensland Fury being kicked out of the competition, Newcastle Jets shock sacking of coach Branko Culina and, of course, two of the most notable marquee signings in the A-League’s history with Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton returning home.

Interest in the competition has never been higher, so what can we expect to see from each side this season?

Adelaide United – Predicted Position: 5th

Last season Adelaide finished 3rd in the league, but suffered a surprising 3-2 loss at home to Gold Coast in the semi-finals.

Replacing the A-League player of the season, Marcos Flores, will be Adelaide’s biggest task. United will be relying on last season’s golden boot winner, Sergio Van Dijk, to provide a consistent source of goals.

Adelaide has undergone a number of personnel changes over the winter, with 11 players leaving and 12 new faces coming in. The squad will need to gel quickly if they want to have a successful season.

Brisbane Roar – Predicted Position: 3rd

The Roar were resounding champions last year, losing only one match all season.

However this season may be a different story with influential skipper and FFA Australian Footballer of the Year Matt McKay, as well as key goal scorers Kosta Barbarouses and Jean Carlos Solorzano all on leave.

The creativity and play-making ability of German gun, Thomas Broich, will be incredibly important to the fluidity of Brisbane’s play. The Roar will need Broich to have another big season if they want to go back to back.

Central Coast Mariners – Predicted Position: 1st

Last year’s surprise grand finalists have managed to achieve what most teams haven’t, retaining most of their key squad members during the off-season.

While the Mariners may not be the most talented team in the competition, they certainly have a solid squad. Central Coast is one of the most determined and hardworking teams in the A-League. If they can maintain the same attacking style as last year and be steadfast in defense, the Mariners will be challenging for the top prize again.

Gold Coast United – Predicted Position: 8th

Gold Coast did really well to make finals last year, considering poor crowd numbers and lack of top-level experience, but this year promises to be more challenging.

Coach Miron Bleiberg has implemented a youth policy that will see plenty of local talent thrown into the deep end, and while there may be some talent uncovered along the way, the lack of experience in the side will really hurt, especially up front with the loss of goal machine Shane Smeltz.

Melbourne Heart – Predicted Position: 6th

Having just missed out on a finals berth in its first season, Melbourne will be out to prove a point to cross-town rivals Melbourne Victory.

Last season’s home form was a surprising Achilles heel for the Heart, and is something that Coach John Van’t Schip will be desperate to address. If new signing Fred can revisit the form of his days at Victory, the Heart may be a chance to sneak into the finals.

Melbourne Victory – Predicted Position: 2nd

There has only been one story coming out of the Victory camp in the last few weeks, and that is the huge signing of Socceroos superstar, Harry Kewell. While the Victory has beefed up other positions on the pitch, all eyes will be on the former Liverpool star. Kewell will handle the hype well, so long as he stays injury free, so expect the Victory to have a real crack at the title.

Newcastle Jets – Predicted Position: 7th

The Jets just snuck into finals last season, but will probably miss out this time around. Scoring goals was a huge issue for Newcastle last season, with only Perth and North Queensland scoring less.  While some new faces have been brought into the squad, it doesn’t look like the Jets will have enough quality up forward to trouble opposition teams this season.

Perth Glory – Predicted Position: 4th

The worst case scenario occurred last year for the Glory, racing to the top of the table by round 5, only to pick up a measly 12 points for the rest of the season to finish rock bottom.

They’ve spent big over the break, with the likes of Shane Smeltz and Travis Dodd enhancing the quality of the squad. On paper the Glory are as strong any team in the competition, however they’re success depends on if they will be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together fast enough.

Sydney FC – Predicted Position: 9th

The other huge acquisition during the off-season was Sydney’s signing of Brett Emerton. There is an expectation that the veteran Socceroo will give the Sky Blues a much-needed lift. However fans shouldn’t be expecting any miracles, as Sydney has too many gaps in its roster for one player to make a difference.

Wellington Phoenix – Predicted Position: 10th

The Phoenix did well last year to reach the finals, but Coach Ricki Herbert has endured a terrible off-season with a growing injury list and many key players leaving. All signs point towards a wooden spoon, especially given the Phoenix’s woeful away record last season. If Wellington has any chance of succeeding this season they will have to make the Westpac Stadium a complete fortress, but early signs don’t look good.

Tom Midwood is a first-year student in the Bachelor of Sports Journalism at La Trobe University.  You can read more of his work on his blog, or follow him on Twitter:@tom_midwood