Can the Wanderers buck last season’s nightmare and get back to the A-League’s summit? FourFourTwo breaks it down…
Western Sydney may only be three seasons old but they have high expectations and simply didn’t meet them in the 2014/2015 A-League campaign. An eighth-place finish was easily Tony Popovic’s worst at the club with little going right.
The likes of Aaron Mooy and Shinji Ono were never properly replaced and the team struggled to back up its historic Asian Champions League triumph. There has been more turnover in the playing ranks now as Popovic seeks to rebuild with a new group. There is belief that the Wanderers juggernaut can rise again.
Brogan Renshaw: “After coming off the back of an awful season, the pressure will be on Popa early for the team to some signs of life. We will really need our marquee man Federico Piovaccari to lead the line this season. If he fires we can succeed, if he doesn’t we will struggle as we don’t necessarily have much back up in the front third to compete with Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory.
“I like what I have seen in pre-season. They seem to be settling in well and should provide the backbone of the team this year. It was disappointing in the off-season for the club to not sign a recognised number one and I hope that either Redmayne or Bouzanis can make the step up and stamp their authority on the position. After losing Juric and Bulut, we really do need someone that excites, scores and gets the crowd on their feet.”
Why they’ll do well
Popovic is a fantastic and intelligent coach, who won a premiership, got to two grand finals and won a continental crown in just three years. It’s heady stuff. Last season’s disappointment will have niggled away at him greatly and he will be fired up to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
There has been some decent signings and a sprinkling of quality across several positions. Andre Guerao, Dimas Delgado and Alberto Aguilar could be exciting Iberian additions and Federico Piovaccari has the experience. Western Sydney also has the loudest and most passionate fans in the A-League. While they had little to sing about in the first half of 2015, they will be back to cheer their boys on and create an intimidating atmosphere for visitors to Pirtek Stadium.
Why they’ll do badly
The exits of two Socceroos and one mercurial attacker in Tomi Juric, Matt Spiranovic and Kerem Bulut leaves the Wanderers severely lacking in quality. Spiranvoic was one of the best players in the A-League, Juric an X-factor player while Bulut provided goals and aggression. It remains to be seen if their replacements are adequate. All up 17 players have left the club, which is far too many to remain a stable outfit. Apart from those three previously mentioned, the loss of Ante Covic, Mateo Poljak, Iacopo La Rocca and Labinot Haliti also leaves Western Sydney light on leaders and experience. With Covic and Spiranovic gone, the Wanderers’ defence could be shaky.
The big questions
Are their Spaniards any good?
Western Sydney’s chances of success this season may rest with their Spanish trio. Dimas, Alberto and Andreu have all had decent careers in the European country, some with time at big clubs, but will need to produce Down Under.
Has Tony Popovic lost his way?
For the first two seasons everything went the Wanderers way, barring the slightest of margins in two grand finals. They had a magical run including their Asian trophy. But Popovic’s reputation took a battering during the last campaign and he needs to show he can do what he did in the beginning – build and unite a squad, install his system and get the players willing to run through walls for him. His future at Pirtek depends on it.
Who will be their goalkeeper?
Ante Covic was a colossus in goals for Western Sydney for three years. Now that he is gone, the Wanderers have two keepers battling for his spot. Dean Bouzanis and Andrew Redmayne have both been largely back-ups for the majority of their careers so far. One needs to step up and fill Covic’s big boots.
Key player: Dario Vidosic
The Socceroo has done well in Switzerland and has been around the block a few times. The former Brisbane Roar and Adelaide United forward knows the A-League, knows what is expected and wants to force his way back into national team contention. A strong season with the Red and Black will help him do that. Vidosic can play in a number of positions – in the hole, up front, on the wings, as a second striker – and his versatility and vision will be important for Popovic to utilise.
What we’ll be saying come April
Tony Popovic has rediscovered his magic touch.
Back into the finals – 5th.
Alberto Aguilar (free)
Dimas Delgado (free)
Scott Jamieson (Perth Glory)
Andreu Guerao Mayoral (Racing Santander)
Scott Neville (Newcastle Jets)
Mitch Nichols (Cerezo Osaka)
Jacob Pepper (Newcastle Jets)
Federico Piovaccari - international marquee (free)
Andrew Redmayne (Melbourne City)
Dario Vidosic - marquee (FC Sion)
Kerem Bulut (released)
Ante Covic (released)
Antony Golec (Perth Glory)
Labinot Haliti (released)
Tomi Juric (released)
Nick Kalmar (released)
Steve Kuzmanovski (Melbourne City)
Iacopo La Rocca (Adelaide United)
Adrian Madaschi (released)
Yianni Perkatis (released)
Mateo Poljak (released)
Nikita Rukavytsya (released)
Matthew Spiranovic (Hangzhou Greentown)
Yojiro Takahagi (FC Seoul)
Yusuke Tanaka (released)
Jason Trifiro (released)
Nick Ward (released)comments