Wednesday, August 15, 2007


A-League Anticipation, Part 4

And so to my own beloved…

Sydney FC

…a.k.a. Sydney United (there are a fair few Edensor Park veterans at the club by now).

The Asian Champions League campaign was very encouraging, and although concerns about the firepower up front and the cover in the full-back positions remain, Sydney FC can look forward to the league with reasonable confidence.

Juninho ticks all of the boxes as a marquee signing, and he should provide plenty of creativity in his favoured playmaker role. The only downside of the Brazilian’s arrival is, as I’ve mentioned previously, that it might be difficult to fit Steve Corica in alongside him in the middle. Corica could therefore either be used from the bench (a pity, since he has been, on the whole, Sydney’s best outfield player over the course of the club’s existence), or on the flanks, where he is nowhere near as effective.

This season will surely be the tester for David Zdrilic, who has done just enough to suggest that he’s worth another chance, despite some painfully blunt performances in the ACL. The striking options beside him do not inspire great confidence; Ben Vidaic is inexperienced at the top level, while Brendan Santalab has apparently not impressed in the pre-season. Perhaps Alex Brosque will end up partnering Zdrilic in attack as a rule, although the partnership is not quite ideal.

In midfield, Ufuk Talay is still there to spread the ball about neatly, and Terry McFlynn is always useful if an enforcer is required. The loss of David Carney does rob the side of some width, but with two promising young flankers in Adam Casey and Adam Biddle now wearing the sky blue, his departure to Sheffield United might not, ultimately, be felt too keenly.

Then there’s the question of Mark Milligan. His outstanding performance against Thailand in the Asian Cup reinforced my belief that he is best used in a central defensive role, and this season he would seem to be the perfect man to play sweeper behind the stopper pairing of Mark Rudan and Tony Popovic, both of whom are dominant in the air, but lack pace.

This leaves the full-back, or wing-back, positions. Ruben Zadkovich, often used as a right-back or right wing-back by Terry Butcher, is not entirely comfortable with the role; Robbie Middleby may prove a better first-team choice in that capacity, but Zadkovich is a handy reserve. On the other flank, I think Nick Tsattalios has done enough to suggest he could grow into a left-sided role. Although raw, he has energy and enthusiasm in abundance, and decent skills to boot.

With Juninho and/or Corica providing the ideas in attack and Rudan, Popovic and Clint Bolton holding the fort at the back, I expect Sydney FC to make the finals once more. Not too much should be read into their abysmal pre-season performances, in which they have lacked plenty of key players.

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