Football Alive

A-League Season Preview 2017/18

Our writers take a look at how the 2017/18 A-League season will play out!

Champions

Nick: Brisbane Roar. This is a make-or-break season for John Aloisi. Most are predicting he’ll break, but I think this will be the making of him. Missing the Premiers’ Plate by one point in 2015/16 gave Johnny a taste for silverware, and he’s recruited well enough to do the double in 2017/18. Massimo Maccarone’s record in Italy speaks for himself, and his experience should pair brilliantly with a youthful and eager-to-fire Corey Gameiro. Fahid Ben Khalfallah will give his all for the club, and Éric Bauthéac is a quality replacement for Tommy Oar. Pundits are worried about the age of Brisbane’s side, but complementing these experienced new signings are quality youth players such as Joe Caletti, Dane Ingham, Corey Brown, Mitch Oxborrow, Peter Skapetis and Nick D’Agostino. Plus, in my humble opinion Luke DeVere is the best centre-back in the competition, and just as Mathieu Delpierre did a few seasons ago, he is more than capable of propelling his side up the table. I think Brisbane Roar are the team to beat in 2017/18. 

Will: Have a feeling it’s going to be a close competition this year but I can see Sydney winning it back to back. Or the Wanderers if the team can continue without Popa.

Wooden Spoon

Nick: Wellington Phoenix. Where do you start? A manager who’s yet to have a successful top-flight season. A group of misfits and rejects from other A-League sides. The loss of some of their most exciting attacking players. A disinterested fanbase. This seems like a star-crossed year for the Phoenix, and I can’t see them escaping the bottom two.

Will: Nix. Uninspiring signings in a league where everyone has signed well. Lost a few key players too.

Best New Signing

Nick: Daniel De Silva. A star of the league a few seasons ago, De Silva is back as a fitter, stronger and more determined player. Expect him to hit the ground running, and to set the league alight in a similar way to Marco Rojas last season. He fits perfectly into Paulo Okon’s system and will propel the Mariners back into the Top 4. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he’s earns a Socceroos callup or two during the season, and he may even factor into Ange’s World Cup plans (assuming we make it – touch wood).

Will: Oriol Riera. Adds a lot of what the Wanderers missed last season.

Most Improved

Nick: Central Coast Mariners. Paulo Okon showed us plenty of potential last season, which his side will build on this season. Daniel De Silva will be a star for him (see above), and he should link up brilliantly with a now experienced, but still youthful, Connor Pain. Alan Baro and Antony Golec provided much needed stability at the back, whilst Josh Rose will provide a great link between defence and attack. Two big questions remain though for the Mariners, and in my opinion will prevent them climbing higher than 4th. Firstly, I question Ben Kennedy’s ability, relative to the other starting A-League goalkeepers, and wouldn’t be surprised if Tom Glover manages to prize the number one jersey from him. Secondly, the Mariners have lost a major source of goals in Roy O’Donovan. Okon has three attackers in his squad with a point to prove, in Blake Powell, Trent Buhagiar and Asdrubal, and is betting that they will step up and provide goals. I believe they will, but that they will still fall short of replacing Roy’s output in the past couple of seasons.

Tim: Central Coast Mariners. Great recruitment over the off-season, with a good mix of youth and experience in the side. Will make finals and a possible dark horse too.

First Coach Sacked

Nick: Warren Joyce. You have to question if the City Football Group truly care about their Australian franchise, after appointing the man who relegated Wigan from the Championship last season. No one doubts his usefulness as a member of a team’s coaching staff, but plenty of questions remain about Warren Joyce’s capacity to be a head manager. He’s been brought in by CFG to toughen up a side filled with flair and big egos, and I can’t see it ending well.

Will: Apart from Hayden Foxe who is only a caretaker, I can’t see anyone sacked this season.

Tim: Hayden Foxe, if he counts.

Johnny Warren Medallist

Nick: Milos Ninkovic. There’s no doubting it, Sydney FC are a formidable side in 2017/18, and Milos Ninkovic will be even better this season as he tries to propel his side to back-to-back championships. I simply can’t see him slowing down, and I can’t see him being challenged by any player other than Diego Castro, who will once again fall short in my opinion.

Will: Roly Bonevacia. I believe he will be instrumental in the Wanderers attack. If it’s not him, it’ll be Diego Castro who is always a standout.

Golden Boot

Nick: Besart Berisha. With no international football to play, and continued great service from James Troisi, along with pace on the wing from Kosta Barbarouses and class on the wing in the form of Leroy George, he will have plenty of opportunities and score plenty of goals. Factor in his penalty scoring ability and the departure of Jamie Maclaren, and you have your Golden Boot winner.

Will: Besart Berisha or Oriol Riera. Bes is easily the best striker the A-League has seen.

Tim: Berisha or Riera.

Biggest Shock of the Season

Nick: Ross McCormack’s contract with Melbourne City expires in January, when Bruno Fornaroli returns from his injury. It’s hard to see Championship managers offering him contracts so soon after he’s left the league, but, especially if he shows promise in the first half of the season, A-League managers will likely be lining up for his services. I see Ross continuing his Australian adventure at another club, perhaps even across town at the Victory, and I see him scoring and celebrating against Melbourne City too.

Will: Newcastle Jets making the top 4 and Melbourne Victory just scraping into the 6.

Ladder Prediction

Nick:

1. Brisbane Roar
2. Perth Glory
3. Sydney FC
4. Central Coast Mariners
5. Melbourne Victory
6. Adelaide United
7. Western Sydney Wanderers
8. Melbourne City
9. Newcastle Jets
10. Wellington Phoenix

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