The A-League Men season is just around the corner, kicking off on Friday, November 19.
With the draw for the first six rounds of the 2021/22 season taking place in what is essentially a hub or conference format with all the New South Wales (NSW) based teams together and everyone else being lumped together, The Inner Sanctum takes a look as to where each team will enter round seven on the ladder.
Note: As there is no goal difference being provided, teams that are tied are points will be sorted by alphabetical order.
12th – Western United (2 points)
Expect Western United to be at the bottom on two points.
With its first season under John Aloisi, and a schedule that sees them go against good teams from last season (City, Brisbane, and Adelaide), an early season struggle would not be surprising.
The saving grace is United plays Melbourne Victory twice, but we see them losing their opener against Melbourne and drawing their second, with a draw against Perth.
11th – Wellington Phoenix (2 points)
Tied at the bottom after six rounds with Western United is the Wellington Phoenix.
We think they’ll draw against the Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners but suffer defeats in their other four games.
They’ll be on the road again in what has become their second home in Wollongong, in addition to the fact that they have lost some key players such as Tomer Hemed, Ulises Davila, Cameron Devlin, and Steven Taylor who will prove very hard to replace.
10th – Newcastle Jets (3 points)
A tough draw for Newcastle to open its season, it can look for draws against the Central Coast Mariners, Wellington, and the Western Sydney Wanderers.
With a new coach in Arthur Papas and some new recruits in key areas, expect Newcastle to start the season off slow before gaining momentum as the team gels together in a way that can only happen from playing competitive match minutes with each other.
9th – Perth Glory (4 points)
Only one game at home out of the first six will likely see the Glory have a repeat of last season, with long stretches on the road and long stretches at home due to current COVID restrictions with Western Australia.
Perth Glory beating Melbourne Victory and drawing against Western United through their first six isn’t that tough of a task.
They have the talent to perform better than this through the opening six games, especially with the Daniel Sturridge signing, but we see the extended road trip taking a massive toll on the squad which will impact the on-field performance.
8th – Melbourne Victory (4 points)
It’s set to be a rebuilding season from one of the most decorated teams in A-League Men history.
Having been the first team to finish in 12th place after the Macarthur expansion, new coach Tony Popovic will have a mammoth task ahead of him to turn things around.
We have the Victory beating Western United in the opener and drawing in their rematch in round six to achieve their four points. Similar to the Newcastle Jets, there’s every chance of Victory struggling early as a new team looks to gel together under a new coach.
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7th – Macarthur FC (9 points)
New recruits in Ulises Davila, Daniel De Silva and Jordon Mutch will add some creative and attacking depth in the middle of the park to replace Denis Genreau.
Along with the likes of Craig Noone and Tomi Juric up front, Macarthur should see a strong start to the season with victories against Wellington to open, a few losses, before following with wins against Newcastle and Sydney in rounds five and six respectively.
Macarthur will look to make Campbelltown Stadium a stronghold, and with NSW stadiums at full capacity, its fans will hopefully come out in full force to help them follow up an exit in the semi-finals in their inaugural season.
6th – Central Coast Mariners (10 points)
The Mariners have retained the bulk of their squad from last season, so the biggest change is on the coaches bench with Nick Montgomery coming in for the departing Alen Stajcic to lead the squad.
They should be able to pick up victories against Wellington (Round 2) and Macarthur, with draws against Newcastle, Sydney FC, Wellington (Round 6), and the Western Sydney Wanderers. A strong start last season allowed them to make the finals, and they can do the same again this season if they get the building blocks in early.
5th – Western Sydney Wanderers (11 points)
After a disappointing start to Carl Robinson’s tenure at Wanderland and being given the keys to build the squad he wanted, there will be no excuses for the Wanderers to miss the finals again this year.
Bringing in the likes of Steven Ugarkovic late last season, along with Tomer Hemed, Terry Antonis, Dimitri Petratos and Ramy Najjarine should be enough see the Wanderers get off to a very strong start with victories against Newcastle (Round 2), Wellington, Macarthur and draws against the Central Coast Mariners and Newcastle (Round 6).
A strong start will be crucial for the Wanderers, or else Robinson could find himself going the same way of Markus Babbel with a mid-season sacking.Embed from Getty Images
4th – Sydney FC (13 points)
Having mostly kept the bulk of the squad from last season, expect a seamless transition into the 2021/22 season for the Sky Blues.
With a point to prove after getting rag-dolled by Melbourne City in last season’s grand final, Sydney FC will have something a lot of the teams lower on the table will not have, and that is the cohesion that comes from playing together for so long.
Pencil in Sydney to pick up wins against the Wanderers in its season opener derby, Macarthur, Newcastle, and Wellington, with a draw against the Central Coast Mariners. Sydney will be looking to remind everyone that it can compete with any team in the league, and that last season’s grand final was an anomaly.
3rd – Brisbane Roar (13 points)
Brisbane should have a strong start to the A-League Men season, and picking up all three points against Victory, Adelaide, Western United, Perth Glory, with a draw against Melbourne City (Round 6) will be a good building block to start its season.
With new recruits including youth player Luke Ivanovic from Sydney FC and league veterans Matti Steinmann and Nikola Mileusnic, but key departures in Jamie Young and Dylan Wenzel-Halls, this could be an interesting season for the Roar. A strong start will help them make the finals for the third straight season.
2nd – Adelaide United (13 points)
A very youth-heavy squad that impressed last season, expect Adelaide to continue its form into this season.
With a lot of key players retained, expect the squad to gel well together and dominate early. Wins against Perth (Rounds 1 and 6), Melbourne Victory, and Western United with a draw against Melbourne City will go a long way to setting up a strong season for the Reds as they look to bring league silverware back to the City of Churches.
1st – Melbourne City (14 points)
The reigning Premiers and Champions will be looking to bring their form from last season which saw them win league silverware for the first time ever into the 2021/22 season.Embed from Getty Images
Being on top after six games with wins against Brisbane (Round 1), Western United, Perth, Melbourne Victory and draws against Adelaide and Brisbane (Round 6) will put City in a good position to go back-to-back.
The opening six rounds will be a good opportunity for new recruits Mathew Leckie and Manuel Pucciarelli to impress as City look to add more silverware to their trophy cabinet.
Full predicted ladder after six rounds:
- Melbourne City (14 points)
- Adelaide United (13 points)
- Brisbane Roar (13 points)
- Sydney FC (13 points)
- Western Sydney Wanderers (11 points)
- Central Coast Mariners (10 points)
- Macarthur FC (9 points)
- Melbourne Victory (4 points)
- Perth Glory (4 points)
- Newcastle Jets (3 points)
- Wellington Phoenix (2 points)
- Western United (2 points)
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