Sunday, September 05, 2010


Champions' Curse

Rarely, if ever, have Sydney FC been so badly outplayed at home as they were against Adelaide last night.

Sydney's midfield play was stilted and unfocused, their movement up front predictable and easily countered. Adelaide, by comparison, looked smooth, organised and dangerous, especially when the opportunity to play in Matthew Leckie on the right presented itself. Adelaide's newest young star looks set for Europe within a year or two, although his coach observed at the post-match presser that "a few details" needed to be sorted out before Leckie was ready for the next level.

There is no doubt that the hosts badly missed both Alex Brosque and Terry McFlynn, neither of whom are apparently certain to start (or even be on the bench) next week. But their dismal start to the season cannot be put down solely to a couple of significant injuries. The A-League champions' curse, which afflicted Melbourne so badly in 2007/08 and Newcastle the year after, seems to have alighted on the harbour club.

Sydney's championship hangover, in my view, has much to do with some mediocre off-season recruitment. Scott Jamieson has been stuck in third gear since his breakout season, and he has been poor for Sydney so far. The signing of Hirofuni Moriyasu remains a complete mystery to me: on the few occasions I saw him in action for APIA-Leichhardt, he was solid and intelligent in midfield but nothing more; certainly not a state league standout. To surrender one of your allotted overseas slots to a player who can offer little more than, say, Sam Munro or Neil Jablonski, makes little sense.

Lastly and most importantly, the failure to sign a proper centre-forward to replace the Melbourne-bound John Aloisi (not to mention Chris Payne) has really hurt. Without an alternate target-man it was very clear that Sydney were one injury away from trouble, and a "trouble period", as Vitezslav Lavicka dubbed it last night, has arrived. Bruno Cazarine's CV gives ample cause for concern - a journeyman is one thing, a frenzied club-hopper quite another - and Kofi Danning is no-one's idea of a central striker.

Whether the Bridge-Brosque partnership can stop the rot, and start gelling with the immensely talented but still unpredictable Nick Carle, will depend on Lavicka's ability to restore the side's self-belief after a miserable start to the campaign. He proved a shrewd operator in 2009/10, but never during that campaign were Sydney at such a low point as they are now.

It is amazing how one or two changes can make such a difference. Sydney this year lack the creativity going forward that they had last year and when you add the fact they look less certain at the back makes for a dangerous situation.

The biggest issue is they didn't replace Simon Colosimo, he held that backline together last season with him gone they are a rabble and to be honest I can't see them fixing it.

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