A-League 2017-18 season preview part two: the outside chances | Jonathan Howcroft

The second of our team-by-team guides looks at three sides with bags of talent but hamstrung by obvious frailties

Perth Glory

Ins: Mitch Nichols (Wanderers), Scott Neville (Wanderers), Jacob Poscoliero (Mariners), Jake Brimmer (Liverpool), Andreu Guerao (Aris Thessaloniki), Xavi Torres (Sporting Gijon).

Outs: Dino Djulbic (Felda United), Kosta Petratos (Jets), Richard Garcia (retired), Josh Risdon (Wanderers), Aryn Williams (NEROCA FC), Rhys Williams (Victory), Lucian Goian (Mumbai City), Nebojša Marinković (released), Mitchell Oxborrow (Roar), Rostyn Griffiths (Pakhtakor Tashkent)

Perth Glory’s troupe of madcap entertainers promise more of the same in 2017-18 with a blistering attack allied with a porous defence set to again make Kenny Lowe the most distracting touchline presence in the competition. The front three of Diego Castro, Andy Keogh and Adam Taggart should be even more potent after a season learning each other’s habits, and that trio have been joined by the returning Nichols to add his considerable A-League nous.

Perth Glory
Perth looked second best to NPL outfit Heidelberg United in the FFA Cup. Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

The midfield will be a new all-Spanish affair. The recruitment of former Wanderer Andreu looks a smart piece of business and he has been joined by Xavi Torres, a 30-year-old with a decade of experience in Spain’s top two flights. They will need to strike up an understanding from the off because behind them is the most unreliable defence in the competition, and on paper it has only weakened in the offseason. Out have gone Risdon, Williams, Djulbic and Griffiths with existing squad players trusted with filling the gaps.

Pre-season form hasn’t been great. Glory looked second best to NPL outfit Heidelberg United in the FFA Cup while they lost their only A-League friendly to Sydney FC. That match finished 3-2 to the Sky Blues, exactly the kind of scoreline Glory can expect to feature in during the course of what is sure to be an entertaining campaign.

Strengths: With that devastating forward line Glory will go through phases of scoring for fun. And they will need to bag plenty, because...

Weaknesses: Glory’s defence looks no better than last year’s version that conceded the most goals in the competition.

Who to watch: Diego Castro is one of the greatest players in the history of the A-League. Enjoy him while you can.

Predicted finish: sixth. But come April and an autumnal burst of Castro magic they will again be the dark horse the top two sides want to avoid in the finals.

Brisbane Roar

Ins: Fahid Ben Khalfallah (Victory), Corey Gameiro (City), Massimo Maccarone (Empoli), Mitchell Oxborrow (Glory), Peter Skapetis (Dover Athletic), Emilio Martínez (Wanderers), Éric Bauthéac (Lille)

Outs: Thomas Broich (retired), Brandon Borrello (FC Kaiserslautern), Jamie Maclaren (SV Darmstadt), Manuel Arana (FC Goa), Cameron Crestani (released), Joey Katebian (released), Nathan Konstandopoulos (released), Tommy Oar (APOEL), Kye Rowles (Mariners)

Massimo Maccarone
Massimo Maccarone arrives in Brisbane having captained Empoli in Serie A last season. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Brisbane Roar haven’t missed the finals since 2010 but this season looms as their most difficult for some time following the dismantling of the club’s forward line. The increasingly influential Dimitri Petratos left midway through last season and the incomparable Broich retired at the end of the campaign as expected. Those departures were compounded by the loss of youthful trio Maclaren, Oar and Borrello who have all left to pursue opportunities in Europe.

Only marquee man Brett Holman remains of John Aloisi’s preferred attacking unit from last season and such is the intricacy of the Roar way – patient and possession based with neat interplay in the final third – it may take time for the new unit to establish the same level of understanding.

There’s no shortage of quality among the recruits though. Maccarone’s CV is worthy of marquee status, but at 38 it’s understandable eyebrows have been raised. He joins 35-year old Ben Khalfallah and 30-year old Bauthéac in a squad not lacking in experience. However, if pre-season is any gauge it could be 22-year-old Skapetis who steals the headlines. The Victorian, who has spent most of his career hidden in the English system, has found the back of the net in six matches since arriving on trial.

The other question mark for Brisbane is the impact of the Asian Champions League. Clubs fight tooth and nail to qualify for the competition but the burden of an extra game per week and continental travel can take its toll. With so little to choose between a logjam of mid-ranking clubs, this distraction could count against them domestically.

Strengths: Aloisi could practically select two A-League standard defensive units, so deep are his stocks in that area of the pitch.

Weaknesses: It may be stretching things to call it a weakness but Roar’s age profile cannot go without mention. Nine of the likely starting XI are at least 30 and there are 11 30-somethings in the squad. Roar have done their fair share of heavy lifting when it comes to developing young players, and the departure of so many young forwards overseas is a credit to their system, but it’s not a great reflection on the A-League, a competition that should surely contain a development component if it’s satisfying its broader objectives.

Who to watch: Maccarone captained Empoli in Serie A last season, scoring five league goals during the campaign. In each of the two prior seasons in Serie A he played over 30 games and reached double figures in goals. On those statistics alone he should dominate in the A-League. The problem is Maccarone is now 38, and with that comes a level of scrutiny (however ageist and unfair) that will stalk him throughout the year. It could be an inspired piece of recruiting, but there’s no getting away from the risk attached.

Predicted finish: fifth. Life after Broich should be solid if unspectacular at Suncorp Stadium. As an aside, if Roar fans perfect a Maccarone/Macarena chant, they may warrant their own piece of silverware at the end of season awards ceremony.

Melbourne City

Ins: Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide), Scott Jamieson (ITK Göteborg), Iacopo La Rocca (Adelaide), John Roberts (FFA COE), Ramy Najjarine (Wanderers), Stefan Mauk (NEC – loan), Bart Schenkeveld (PEC Zwolle), Marcelo Carrusca (Adelaide), Marcin Budziński (Cracovia) Ross McCormack (Aston Villa – loan)

Outs: Corey Gameiro (Roar), Steve Kuzmanovski (released), Josh Rose (Mariners), Nicolás Colazo (Boca Juniors – loan ended), Thomas Sørensen (retired), Paulo Retre (Sydney), Ivan Franjic (Daegu FC), Anthony Cáceres (Al Wasl)

Melbourne City and Brisbane Roar
Melbourne City kick off the new A-League season against Brisbane on Friday night. Photograph: Tracey Nearmy/AAP

It’s been another curious offseason for City, one that again leaves a sense of frustration that an organisation with so many advantages can continue to underwhelm. The appointment of new coach Warren Joyce is a case in point. A well-credentialed development coach, he is not the archetypal figurehead of a club with the riches of the City Football Group behind it.

Player recruitment has followed a similar pattern. Budziński was a late arrival and adds grist to the mill in the debate over the purpose of marquee funds. City’s scouting network has proven to be excellent but is Budziński – a man yet to play outside his native Poland – the kind of character to put bums on seats and generate increased media attention? Colazo was a disappointment last season and for a club with all the money in the world to spend you’d think they would be able to attract a poster boy with more mainstream appeal.

The rest of the squad building looks solid if unspectacular. Galekovic and Jamieson improve the starting XI, while La Rocca, Mauk and Carrusca add proven A-League quality to the squad. All five also happen be ex-Adelaide United players, bringing the total in the squad to eight former Reds, along with significant Adelaide influence behind the scenes.

Pre-season form has been mixed, including friendly defeats to Adelaide and Newcastle, as well as a miserable display against Sydney FC in the FFA Cup. City’s cup campaign also witnessed a serious injury to the club’s most important player, Bruno Fornaroli. The Uruguayan is expected to be out of action until after Christmas after suffering a fractured ankle. City have relied on Fornaroli’s goals in the past two seasons so coping without their talisman will not be easy. He has been replaced in the short-term by Ross McCormack, a proven goalscorer in England’s second tier.

Strengths: City’s squad is deep and versatile giving Joyce plenty of options as he establishes his best XI and preferred strategic approach.

Weaknesses: After two seasons of Aaron Mooy-led excellence, City lacked fluency in possession and transition last season, failing to convert frequent dominance of the ball into penetrating football. There is enough quality in the squad to compete for honours if Joyce can find a formula that isn’t so stodgy.

Who to watch: The City Football Group have made no secret of their use of Melbourne City as an incubator for young talent to then transfer to Europe for profit. Looking at the current squad Daniel Arzani could well be the next cab off the rank. The 18-year-old made six substitute appearances last year but has featured more heavily in pre-season, scoring twice. A Centre of Excellence graduate, the natural playmaker can play across midfield and attack and has stated he’s looking for a “breakthrough season”.

Predicted finish: fourth. There’s enough talent to compete for silverware if Joyce can establish his best XI and get them playing how he wants.


Jonathan Howcroft

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
A-League 2015-16 season preview part II: the mid-table hopefuls
Continuing our A-league preview series, our football writers give their verdicts on the five teams they believe will be among the mid-table melee

Paul Connolly, Jack Kerr and Pete Smith

05, Oct, 2015 @7:30 PM

Article image
A-League season preview part III: Melbourne City, Wanderers, Victory
Big-spending Melbourne City and Tim Cahill have attracted the media spotlight, but our writers still prefer Western Sydney and rivals Victory

Jonathan Howcroft and Richard Parkin

05, Oct, 2016 @7:30 PM

Article image
A-League team-by-team report card: two out of 10 for quality
At the midpoint of the season, Sydney’s dominance puts them in a rosy light, but suggests almost every other team is coming up short

Ante Jukic

03, Jan, 2018 @6:00 PM

Article image
A-League opening round starts with a bang, record crowds, and a few red cards
Between DeVere’s stunning equaliser, the Mariners’ rousing revival and Sydney’s thumping derby win it’s been a busy round

John Duerden

09, Oct, 2016 @7:30 PM

Article image
Sturridge, City slickers and a race for the spoon: your A-League Men guide | Joey Lynch
All the ins, outs and in-betweens – and a bit of John Keats – as 12 clubs go for glory in the 2021-22 season

Joey Lynch

16, Nov, 2021 @4:30 PM

Article image
A-League 2018-19 preview part two: Newcastle Jets to Western Sydney Wanderers
Sydney FC have recruited well, Perth and Newcastle are contenders, but a long season awaits Phoenix and Wanderers

Jonathan Howcroft

17, Oct, 2018 @5:00 PM

Article image
A-League 2017-18 season preview part three: the title contenders | Jonathan Howcroft
Western Sydney Wanderers, Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory are the clear favourites for A-League honours in 2017-18

Jonathan Howcroft

04, Oct, 2017 @5:00 PM

Article image
A-League: what to look out for in the final home-and-away round | Paul Connolly
Victory’s unfair advantage; credit to Kevin Muscat; the all important second spot; Brisbane rest players again; and City’s test run against finals rivals

Paul Connolly

23, Apr, 2015 @11:50 PM

Article image
A-League: what we learned in round eight | Words: Pete Smith
Intensity in Melbourne; new Roar similar to old Brisbane; intimate derby appeals; Phoenix rising; and shared respect for a tragedy

Pete Smith

30, Nov, 2014 @10:34 PM

Article image
A-League: five things we learned from round 17 | Pete Smith
A referee has kept alive Sydney FC’s title hopes, Brisbane Roar are rediscovering some form and the top six may already be set

Pete Smith

15, Feb, 2015 @9:00 PM