24/05/2024

The Inner Sanctum 21/22 A-League Men's Season Review: Sydney FC (PHOTO: Sydney FC/Design: Will Cuckson)

The 2021/22 season was a disappointing one for Sydney FC as they failed to secure a finals spot for the first time in since 2016.

The 2021/22 season was a disappointing one for Sydney FC as they failed to secure a finals spot for the first time in since 2016.

Despite starting the 2021/2022 campaign in a fairly solid manner, Steve Corica‘s team failed to keep up with the Melbourne sides and eventually dropped out of the top six.

The mid-season arrivals of Socceroos midfielder Mustafa Amini and ex-PSV star Luciano Narsingh didn’t help the cause as well, with the former struggling to replace the injured Luke Brattan.

The Highs

After a slow start to the season, the Sky Blues stabilized their form at the back end of 2021 and went on a six-game streak, during which they won two games, drew two times, and lost only twice.

A lot of these positive results were a consequence of the good form of wide attackers Elvis Kamsoba and Anthony Caceres.

Caceres, in particular, was very productive during January, scoring four goals in the same number of games, and providing one assist.

Another positive was the emergence of young full-back Callum Talbot. Following the departure of Joel King, Talbot got his chance to shine down the left-hand side and proved that he is just as capable as his predecessor.

The 3-2 win in the ‘Sydney Derby’ and the 5-0 beating over the Mariners, at the start of April, also deserve a mention, although, in the end, they weren’t enough to get the Sky Blues up to the top spots.

The Lows

There were a lot of disheartening moments for Sydney throughout the campaign. Luke Brattan‘s ACL injury, the FFA Cup (now Australia Cup) semi-final loss to Central Coast and the group stage exit from the Asian Champions League are just a few of them.

But the biggest disappointment of all was the failure to qualify for the A-League Men’s Final series for the first time in six years.

Corica and his men managed to win only eight out of their 26 league games, ending the season with 31 points, their lowest point tally since 2011, when Vitezslav Lavicka was still the head coach.

One of the reasons for their record-low finish was their lacklustre attack. Despite having some of the greatest attackers in the history of the A-League, Sydney scored only 37 league goals, underperforming its xG by a total of 3.8.

Le Fondre was Sydney’s top goalscorer with 10 goals in all tournaments (PHOTO: Sydney FC)

The defence wasn’t particularly strong as well. Alex Wilkinson and co conceded 44 goals and kept only five clean sheets, the second-lowest in the league.

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MVP

Anthony Caceres was one of the most improved players in the league in 2022 and by far the best performer for his team.

Despite Sydney’s struggles, Caceres enjoyed a very productive period, especially in terms of goals and assists. This season, the 29-year-old scored five goals and made five assists in 24 appearances. A better return than what he managed to produce in his previous three seasons combined.

The former Melbourne City player, also deservedly won the Player of the Year award at the club and finished joint top for the Alex Tobin Medal.

Breakout Player

Having not registered an appearance in the A-League Men’s competition last year despite impressing in the NPL side, Patrick Yazbek got his chance to shine this season.

The Olyroo had 25 outings across all competitions, accumulating a total of 1,456 minutes, scoring one goal, and impressing greatly in the double-six role.

Final Word

Though struggling for most of the 2021/22 season, it’s not all doom and gloom for Sydney as it prepares for next season.

The club has given Steve Corica the license to conduct the rebuild of the squad and assemble a new, younger side that is capable of challenging the Victorian teams for the silverware.

The likes of Kosta Barabaraouses, Luciano Narsingh, Trent Buhagiar, Mustafa Amini, Harry Van der Saag, Callum Talbot, and Calem Nieuwenhof have already left the club, while leaders Luke Brattan and Andrew Redmayne have signed new deals and will be part of the future at Allianz Stadium.

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