Filip Holosko (Besiktas), Milos Ninkovic (Evian), Andrew Hoole (Newcastle Jets), Matt Simon (Central Coast), Zac Anderson (Central Coast), Brandon O’Neill (Perth Glory), Riley Woodcock (Perth Glory), Alex Mullen (Mars Hill University), Jacob Tratt (youth team)
In 2014-15 Sydney FC traded “Del Piero Mania” for Graham Arnold’s underdog mentality and the results were outstanding. Sydney FC climbed from 5th to 2nd on the table, finishing just 3 points behind Premiers Melbourne Victory. They also suffered defeat in the Grand Final to Muscat’s men. Sydney were reliable on the road – the 3-0 Grand Final disappointment was their only loss away from home all season. Star striker Marc Janko was the league’s top scorer with 16 goals, while versatile attacker Alex Brosque chipped in with 10, back-up forward Shane Smeltz with 8 and winger Bernie Ibini 7. Only Melbourne Victory (56) scored more goals than Sydney (52) last campaign. These achievements came despite a form slump where the Sky Blues won once in 10 games, and the season-ending injuries suffered early on by Sasa Ognenovski, Corey Gameiro, Nick Carle and Ali Abbas.
This season the challenge for Sydney FC is to go one step further in both the league and the finals, despite losing key players such as Janko and Ibini. Importantly, Milos Dimitrijevic has re-signed with the Sky Blues, and they have added real quality with creative midfielder Milos Ninkovic and their new marquee, attacker Filip Holosko. Central Coast favourite Matt Simon has joined former mentor Graham Arnold’s crusade for the Golden Toilet Seat; he is expected to provide the back up for last year’s back up forward, Shane Smeltz, who will now lead the line full time. A question remains on who will partner Jacques Faty in central defence – either the much-maligned Matt Jurman, or another former Mariner in Zac Anderson. The left back spot is up for grabs too, with Jurman one candidate, and youngster Alex Gersbach another.
Purely from a results perspective, Sydney’s pre-season has been abysmal. All four encounters with A-League opponents have ended in defeat – twice at the hands of Adelaide United (2-1 after extra time in the FFA Cup, and 2-0 in a behind-closed-doors friendly), and a pair of 3-1 losses to Wellington and Central Coast.
Smeltz and Chris Naumoff have top scored with 3 each, though neither found the net against A-League teams. However, Sydney regularly fielded under-strength line-ups, and they handily dispatched all of their lower league opponents. Perhaps it’s all just part of Graham Arnold’s plan to downplay his side’s chances once again. Regardless, they are expected to be the biggest challengers to the Victory’s bid for a back-to-back double, so you can pick Sydney’s big guns with plenty of confidence that they will perform when the real stuff starts.
Sydney FC likely first-choice XI (4-3-3)
NB: Alex Gersbach may miss Round 1 through international duty
You should consider…
Whoever plays out of Zac Anderson (DEF, $125k) and Matt Jurman (DEF, $150k). With the cap being rather tight this season, cheap defenders in good teams are invaluable. Including possible Round 1 absentee Alex Gersbach (DEF, $150k – see below for why he may be unavailable), Sydney provide us with 3 well-priced players who will all be in the mix for a spot in the best XI. If you are going to take a small risk and pick one of Anderson and Jurman for Round 1, make sure you have cover on the bench in case your choice misses out. It’s possible both may start if Gersbach misses out, with Jurman capable of playing at left back.
There will be a lot of burden on Shane Smeltz (FWD, $275k) to score goals this season. However, as he showed last season (even in limited minutes), he’s still quite dangerous. He has had issues with injuries over the last few seasons, so be wary of him breaking down at any time.
Marquee Filip Holosko (FWD, $275k) is a replacement for Ibini rather than Janko – though given his pedigree, it’s fair to expect him to produce good scores for a winger at a reasonable enough price. Just don’t expect him to be Janko mark II and score 16 goals, because he (probably) won’t.
Milos Ninkovic (MID, $300k) is rather pricey but should be one of the top midfielders this season. He could be a handy inclusion as a point-of-difference.
You should avoid…
Milos Dimitrievic (MID, $300k), who is massively overpriced for someone who will provide solid scores (5.5 points per game in 2014-15), at best. Pick the other Milos if you want a $300k Sydney midfielder, or get a star from another club at around the same price.
Ali Abbas (MID, $200k) is coming back from a long-term injury and really isn’t what you’d call a fantasy football-type anyway.
Mickael Tavares’ (MID, $225k) 2.6ppg last season reflects the role he plays in the team – he’s an important player in the Sydney machine, but he’s no help at all in fantasy football. This also applies to Rhyan Grant (MID, $200k, 2.5ppg); don’t be fooled by his long-range goal against Adelaide in the FFA Cup.
Andrew Hoole (MID, $250k) and Chris Naumoff (MID, $175k) will miss Round 1 through Olyroos duty, so don’t include them in your starting squad. Despite both players having a lot of potential, it’s likely they will have to make do with a spot on the bench at first anyway.
As mentioned above, Alex Gersbach could also be absent for Round 1, depending on how much of a role he plays in Australia’s quest to qualify for the AFC Under-19 Championships, with the Aussies playing 3 games from October 2nd to 6th in Laos. Sydney play City on the 10th so there is a chance he could play, especially if he does not feature against Japan in the final game. There’s also no guarantee he will be Sydney’s starting left back, but if he is playing that price is easily good enough for us to consider him.