18/04/2024

Can Sydney FC make another play for the top two in 2021/22? (Photo: Sydney FC)

After going through heartbreak in last season's grand final loss, will it be business as usual for Sydney FC with another top two charge?

Falling just short of both the Premiers Plate (by only two points) and the Championship last year in a heartbreaking grand final loss, Sydney FC will be looking to get back to winning ways and add some more silverware to the ever-growing trophy cabinet in Sydney’s east.

Last Season:

Second (13 wins, eight draws, five losses)

Biggest In

There is not a whole lot to talk about on this front for the Sky Blues, as they have done a lot of their business on multiple year deals over the last couple of seasons. Some of the biggest ins for Sydney FC are Max Burgess, James Donachie, and Elvis Kamsoba.

James Donachie has bounced around quite a bit with stints at Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory in the A-League Men, Jeonnam Dragons in the K-League, as well as FC Goa in the Indian Super League.

Donachie should play a massive role with Sydney, where it’s expected he’d be partnering up with Alex Wilkinson in the centre of defence due to the departure of Ryan McGowan.

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Biggest Out

The biggest departure which leaves a massive hole in the centre of defence is that of Ryan McGowan, but as mentioned above, his replacement will likely be James Donachie.

Expect Ben Warland to make a push for that starting role ahead of Donachie, but Warland might have to wait on the bench for a while before getting that chance.

Donachie goes about his duties in a similar nature to Wilkinson and doesn’t give away too many yellow cards, amassing only 30 in 193 senior games. Only once has he amassed more than five yellow cards in a season, which was the 19/20 season with Melbourne Victory.

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What to expect

It can only be expected that Sydney FC will finish in the top two, most likely in in second place for the second consecutive season. Melbourne City has recruited well and got stronger since last season, as have Sydney, although notably less so when compared to City.

The last time that the Sky Blues finished outside the top two was in the 2015/16 season, where they missed the finals completely.

Two of Sydney’s biggest challenges this season will be having an over-flux of talent in certain positions, and Steve Corica’s apparent unwillingness to change the line-up unless forced to by injury.

The first one is always a good problem to have. You want there to be competition for spots, which helps the whole team get better as they compete in training to impress the coach.

The second one is not a good problem to have. It leads to players becoming frustrated and restless that no matter what they do, they might not get a look-in. A perfect example of this happening in recent years with Sydney is Marco Tilio.

Tilio was stuck sitting behind Milos Ninkovic and became frustrated at not being given enough of an opportunity to prove himself in match-minutes. As a result, he made the jump to Melbourne City, where he has gone on to shine and became an integral part of the City squad that did the double last season, recently signing a new contract.

It’s not so much a suggestion that Tilio should have been ahead of Ninkovic, but a lack of opportunity to even get a chance to prove yourself can lead to frustrations. Players like Burgess and Kamsoba have not come to Sydney to sit on the bench and will want game time to showcase their talents.

Will Corica change the approach this season, especially with what could be a travel heavy schedule after the first six weeks due to the front-loaded NSW run of fixtures because of COVID-19, or will he stick with the methodology applied in recent seasons?

Predicted Starting XI

The predicted starting XI for Sydney FC. (Images: Sydney FC, Design: Will Cuckson)

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