Season Preview: Hyundai A-League
The Reds provided the rest of the football community with plenty of amusement in the off season, as they were nearly duped into signing a “South American superstar” who turned out to be a DJ with a vaguely similar name to former Ajax epitome of mediocrity Mauro Rosales. After getting over that considerable embarrassment, they did manage to sign an actual football playing Argentine, Jeronimo Neumann, upon whom they are pinning most of their playmaking hopes. His role could be even more important if last season’s top scorer Sergio Van Dijk leaves the club, as is looking increasingly likely.
Prediction – 8th
The biggest challenge for the reigning champions will be dealing with the loss of coach Ange Postecoglu, which is why they’ve sought to change as little as possible by promoting Rado Vidosic from within to take over the reins. To that end, it’s been fairly quiet on the transfer front, with the club concentrating on holding on to their star players such as Erik Paartalu and Besart Berisha. The Roar are still undoubtedly the team to beat this season.
Prediction – 1st
Central Coast Mariners
The most consistent side in the history of the league, the Mariners have had a busy off season. The losses of captain Alex Wilkinson and Mustafa Amini will hurt, but Nick Montgomery comes with a great reputation from Sheffield United, while ex-Socceroo Mile Sterjovski will be hoping to improve on his previous stint in the A-League. As ever, the Mariners look like a solid outfit, but not quite champion material.
Prediction – 4th
After finishing above their more illustrious city rivals last season, the pressure is on new coach John Aloisi to build this time around, but it won’t be easy. Richard Garcia could prove to be an inspired signing, but the Heart lost some significant players in the transfer window. Once again, all hopes will probably lie on the performances of Brazilian midfielder Fred.
Prediction – 7th
A disastrous season last time around has led to big changes at the Victory. Mark Milligan and Spase Dilevski are clever signings, but all the talk has been around Marcos Flores, who was a revelation during his time with Adelaide. A lot of familiar faces such as Grant Brebner, Ante Covic and Carlos Hernandez have left, so the speed with which their new signings adapt will be key to the Victory’s success.
Prediction – 5th
Jets fans will just be happy to have a team to support this season after it looked like madcap mining magnate owner Nathan Tinkler was ready to pull the plug on the side after last season. His financial situation is still dubious at best, but the club looks like it will remain stable for the foreseeable future. The other big news in Novocastria is the arrival of the footballing colossus that is Emile Heskey. Opinion on his worth is divided. Some feel his reputation as being, well, a bit shit is unjustified. This, after all, is a man who went to the last World Cup. Others, like yours truly, fail to see where his goals will come from, given his notorious lack of scoring ability when surrounded by better players than he will find at Newcastle.
Prediction – 10th
Glory fans are still seething over the penalty decision that saw Brisbane claim the grand final at the death last year, and while they might justifiably be somewhat aggrieved, the truth is that while Perth displayed a lot of courage last season, they also relied on a lot of luck to get to the final. No other team is as reliant on one player as they are on Kiwi international Shane Smeltz, and if he can stay fit all season, the Glory will be contenders. They will need some more luck to win anything though.
Prediction – 3rd
It’s all about Alessandro Del Piero. The Italian legend caused an unprecedented amount of hysteria when he touched down in Sydney, making the front page of the cities’ newspapers, one of which even printed the front page of the sports section in Italian in his honour. Considering that he played a decent role in helping Juventus win Serie A last season, this is the first time the A-League has attracted a player that can legitimately claim to be good enough to be playing in one of Europe’s top leagues. If the Sky Blues can exploit Del Piero’s full potential, he could break all sorts of records.
Prediction – 2nd
The Nix have been fairly quiet in the off season, but the signings of Stein Huysegems and Jeremy Brockie are shrewd acquisitions. With Nick Ward being the only major loss, Wellington’s have largely kept faith with last season’s squad, and while they will always make life difficult for their opponents at home, don’t expect them to cause any serious trouble to the title contenders.
Prediction – 6th
Western Sydney Wanderers
The newest club in the A-League has been incredibly busy in the last two months, as Tony Popovic has tried to build a competitive squad in no time at all. Shinji Ono’s arrival gives the team a star presence (after talks to sign Michael Ballack fell through), and other A-League stalwarts such as Tarek Elrich, Ante Covic and Nikolai Topor-Stanley should ensure that they remain competitive. On top of that, St. Mirren legend Aaron Mooy will no doubt set the league alight.
Prediction – 9th