A-League season 2015-16 preview

AAMI Park: red sails in the sunset.

AAMI Park: red sails in the sunset.

Last year we published our A-League predictions in May… five months before the season started.

This season we asked fans of each A-League club the important questions. We asked about players, coaches, rivalries, and hopes for the season. And food.

Well, every club except Brisbane Roar. We know whose fault that is, don’t we.

Adelaide United – Justin Civitillo

Can Guillermo Amor ever replace Gombau in Adelaide supporters’ hearts?

Sure – by leading the Reds to the toilet seat. But, generally speaking it will be difficult. Amor is a legend at Barcelona, however it’d be safe to assume many sports fans in Adelaide wouldn’t know him. His reserved demeanour doesn’t help his case. I think a big part of why Gombau was so beloved was his larger than life personality. There’s something to be said for coaches who can maintain their cool – look at Ernie Merrick’s success at Victory, for example – but here in Adelaide we like our leaders to have a bit of fire in them. We cop a lot of crap in SA, particularly from the Eastern states, so perhaps that plays a part. We want someone who will stand up for the players, show a real passion for the club and the city, and hurl any rubbish we get back – in spades. And Gombau certainly fit that notion, as did Kossie. Josep was exceptional in dealing with fans too, more so than any other Reds boss. It’s hard to see someone like Amor being so close to the supporters or firing up the crowd during games with his antics. So Amor’s Adelaide would have to be an overwhelming success for there to be any hope of him surpassing Gombau in the hearts of the Reds’ faithful.

Are Mate Dugandzic and Iacopo La Rocca good signings for the club?

From what I could see, the response to both signings was quite mixed. I think Reds fans always have a hope that we’ll lure a star name against the odds, so it can feel quite underwhelming when reality sets in and we bring in players that other clubs couldn’t find a spot for. Neither Mate nor Iacopo are bad players though, and they both have experience and some qualities that can help the squad. La Rocca is seen as someone who can bring a bit of toughness to the defence. We really did lack that at times last season and certainly will need it in the Asian Champions League, should we qualify. Dugandzic gives us a bit more depth in the wide forward positions, and is someone who will probably fit in well with our system once he becomes accustomed to it. I don’t think he directly addresses any issue with the squad, though – he’s not the lethal finisher that we really needed in that role. So I’d say they are both solid signings with the potential to be good signings depending on how well they gel with the team and if they can work their way into the starting XI.

The travelling support was being taunted by three skinny 14-year-old kids. The bloke in the middle doesn't seem to think much of the whole situation.

The bloke in the middle doesn’t seem to think much of the whole situation.

What do you think about matches being played at Adelaide Oval?

The main issue I have with Adelaide Oval is that regardless of where you sit, you’re quite far away from the action – which is a massive contrast to Hindmarsh, where you can get up really close. It hurts the atmosphere considerably too, even if we somehow managed to pack it out. So my preference is to play at Hindmarsh, unless the club can gain significantly more revenue from playing a game at Adelaide Oval. The oval is great for cricket and Aussie Rules, I can say that from experience being a member for both sports there. But Adelaide Oval is simply not a football venue, while Hindmarsh is perfect for viewing and for generating an intimidating atmosphere for our opponents.

Where’s the food better – Adelaide Oval or Hindmarsh?

I’d have to say Hindmarsh. It’s cheaper; I think Adelaide Oval actually puts some of the prices up for football games. And unless they bring the local food trucks to Adelaide Oval, which they most likely won’t for football, the range is probably better too. Granted, it’s all ‘stadium food’ regardless and if you want a proper meal before or after a game Adelaide Oval certainly has many more restaurants, pubs and cafes nearby.

Is Adelaide a contender for the toilet seat?

We can win it, but we’ll need a fair bit of luck and luck is something that has typically eluded us when it matters in Adelaide. There’s enough quality in the squad – Carrusca, Isaias and Cirio are all stars in this league, and there can be improvement through players like Goodwin, Jeggo and McGowan. I think we should be a top 4 team again, with top 2 possible if things go for us and against others. Victory are surely the team to beat again this season and we can’t seem to win against them at the moment. They totally outclassed us in the FFA Cup Quarter Final so we can see that there’s a lot of work to do, and a lot that needs to go right for us, if we’re going to knock them off. But if we can upstage them at Adelaide Oval, that might be what sparks us to having a season ending in gilded toilet seat glory.

One third of the trio dressed as sauce bottles

A typical Mariners supporter

Central Coast Mariners – Josh Howe

After a pretty disappointing 2014-15, are there green shoots for this coming season for CCM supporters?

I believe so. Last season was very disappointing and all fans became disillusioned with Moss very quickly. His style of football was one that didn’t suit us at all. Success of this season depends on the style of play Walmsley wants and whether the players can adjust to it. New signings need to fire for us. O’Donovan and Austin have looked ok in pre-season. We’ll see if they can translate that into the league. So long answer short, we’ll have a better season but how much better I’m not entirely sure.

CCM has palm trees, a brass band, and giant sauce bottles. Would moving to north Sydney kill off the unique atmosphere?

Moving to North Sydney would be a disaster as it’s already had an effect on pre-existing members and NSO is very old fashioned and not made for football. There’s no chance we’ll play there again.

Where do you think the team will finish the season?

I think we could sneak into the finals if we play to our abilities. 7th looks likely though.

David Williams Melbourne City

Melbourne City – Natalie Tosh

Were you mystified by the Sorenson signing, or does it make sense?

Yes, personally I was mystified by the Sorenson signing. I thought we’d be fine with Tando as our number 1 keeper and sign another young Aussie keeper as back up. I didn’t really see the point of signing Sorenson seeing he was 39, and took up a visa spot, which could have been used for a striker or other position we need more. It felt like it was harsh on Tando who’d had a good season, and also signing Sorenson doesn’t really seem to be planning for the future. I think in the ALeague, if you have a good defence, a keeper like Tando is totally adequate.

Do you think the summer signings have made the squad stronger overall?

The new signings have definitely made the squad stronger. Replacing players like Hoffman, Ramsay, and Dugandzic with players like Franjic, Zullo and Gameiro will make a big difference. Fornaroli has also looked very promising in pre-season. The overall quality of players in the squad had increased, which helps with the depth of the squad. Also, if we can reduce the number of injuries we’ll have a good mix of experienced and younger players which can help us improve on last season.

Villa-flight

Moments later, David checked in online.

How did fans feel about the David Villa debacle? Does the lack of a “razzle dazzle” signing give fans more optimism about this season?

The David Villa situation wasn’t a good thing for the club. It felt like we had been misled and that the club had been dishonest just to get new members to sign up. Of course it was exciting to have him come and play any games for us at all, and I was at Sydney away when he scored his first goal for us and it was amazing to witness. But when the rumours came out that he’d be leaving after only four games it just took the gloss off his guest stint and it kind of felt like he didn’t enjoy his time and didn’t want to be here. It seemed like it was a distraction for the players. Not having a big name short-term guest player this season is a good thing, and we can focus on just getting on with winning our games.

Melbourne City's Aaron Mooy

Pictured above: the reason Melbourne City will win games.

Is City a realistic contender for the toilet seat this year?

While it’s certainly possible for us to win the toilet seat, I personally don’t think it will happen this season. There have been a lot of changes in players since last season and I think it’ll take another season for them to gel. We were quite fortunate to make the semi final last season, and I think finishing in the top three or four would be a good achievement this season. Unfortunately it’s hard to see anyone but Victory winning the toilet seat this season. However we do have a strong squad and once you make finals, anything can happen!

Despite only recently joining the team, even Bez had heard Archie tell this joke before.

Melbourne Victory – Marissa Lordanic

Will Bozanic be able to fill the hole left by Mark Milligan?

I’m so pleased with the signing of Ollie Bozanic. I think he’s an absolutely fantastic Australian marquee and I think he will do really well in the midfield. I think he’ll fill the hole left by Milligan but not as a like-for-like replacement. Bozanic will be a lot more influential in our attack, and we’ve already seen glimpses of that at some of the Victory’s pre-season hit outs as well as against Adelaide in the FFA Cup. His strength lies in his versatility – he’s an everywhere man. He’ll be able to partner Valeri in the holding midfield role, he will be able to general the midfield from the centre of the park with his passing ability. I reckon he will strike up a nice little relationship with Gui Finkler and if his stint in Switzerland is anything to go by he’ll be getting his name on the scoresheet a few times as well.

Is Danny Vukovic the answer for Victory in goal?

I’m a fan of Vukovic and I think he’ll do really well for us this season. But in saying that Lawrence Thomas was so great during the finals series and I would love to see him get a few games as well. Ideally they should be really testing each other and pushing each other to do better.

Does Victory have the right squad to succeed in the Asian Champions League?

For the most part, yes. Asian Champions League has definitely been an area the club has not excelled in but I really believe in the squad we have at the moment. Matthieu Delpierre is going to be massively influential, presuming he stays fit. I believe the biggest test we will have is selecting the right players for the squad, particularly up forward. The ACL regulations stipulate we can only have three foreigners and our usual front four are all from overseas so that’s a bit problematic.

What’s the biggest rivalry for you: Adelaide United, Sydney FC or Melbourne City?

I’m going to sit on the fence and say they are all huge in different ways. There’s a reason our rivalry with Adelaide is branded as the original. It’s been there since the league’s inception and it’s been a very successful rivalry for us. As for Sydney, I feel like that extends beyond the football – it’s just always going to be Melbourne versus Sydney irrespective of what the contest is. Losing the 09-10 grand final to the Sky Blues in Melbourne definitely intensified the rivalry for me (I was sitting above the Sydney supporters at Etihad and they were unbearable during that penalty shootout). At the end of the day there’s nothing better than beating Sydney. As for City, it’s undoubtedly a huge rivalry because it’s so localised but it’s still so new – rivalries don’t just appear out of nowhere, they grow and this one is still growing. Ultimately, as long as Victory are beating all three teams it’s good.

The crowd showed Melbourne Victory's Kevin Muscat a lot of love.

Kevin Muscat gave up socks for a week.

Muscat is very keen on giving the fourth official an opinion on refereeing decisions. Should the fourth official be issued with earplugs or a notebook to take down Kevin’s constructive criticisms?

I’d just like to point out that Muscat is not the only coach giving the fourth officials some friendly advice about certain decisions. But you do feel for the fourth officials, they cop it from coaches regularly and it’s not like they’re making the decisions. Just give them all soundproof booths.

The half-time entertainment at AAMI Park is pretty average. What can be done to improve it? Public floggings?

Floggings might be a little bit excessive. But truthfully, does anyone even pay attention to the half-time entertainment? I’m not really paying attention the KFC Colonel’s goalkeeping abilities, I’m on twitter for that 15 minute period. Just give us free wi-fi and play some good music.

Newcastle Jets – Todd Blackwell

Fans sit on the grassy knoll.

Fans sit on the grassy knoll.

What’s morale like among supporters with the ongoing ownership situation?

The FFA and NNSW Football ran a series of Community Forums here shortly after the “Tinkastrophe”. The result is a new culture with an amazing amount of interaction between the club, from the head coach and his staff, to the players and the Newy Faithful. At today’s Season Launch, David Eland, acting CEO, said the new owner had agreed to terms and will take over sometime during the season. A lot of smiling faces in Newy this arvo, Morale, the highest it’s been in years.

Who was the most important signing in the off-season?

Hard to single out a single player, so many new players this season, really tight player group, the two new imports, Brazilian playmaker Leonardo and Serbian striker Miloš Trifunović both looked good at training this week. l like ex South Melbourne forward Andy Brennan as a wild card

Where do you expect Newcastle to finish this season?

I don’t think a top six finish is out of the question, a few people are going to get a surprise this season, the Newy Jets are back.

What’s your verdict on the food at Hunter Stadium?

You just can’t beat a game day Chiko from the in-stand fast food outlet. Good range of all usual football paddock cuisine as well. Henny Penny, the original Hunter Junk Food, is within walking distance of stadium as well.

Newcastle's hooligans start young. High on caramel milkshakes, they run rampant through the town, doing blowfish on strangers' cars and making fart noises with their armpits.

Newcastle’s hooligans start young. High on caramel milkshakes, they run rampant through the town, doing blowfish on strangers’ cars and making fart noises with their armpits.

Should every A-League ground have a hill?

For sure mate, essential part of the Newy Jets home ground experience, nothing like seeing Socceroos Active Support on the Southern Hill this year during the Asian Cup.

Perth Glory – Jon Turner

Andy Keogh is a real loss for Perth – where will the goals come from this season?

Andy Keogh is a massive loss for the Glory, so it’ll be a case of who is ready to step up to the plate. There are decent wraps on Castro and Fernandez to link up together, but a new country and environment may see them take time to settle. It’s a make-or-break year for Chris Harold, he’s got to find form and goals, as well as the right position to thrive. Need to see more from Sidnei as well, should chip in with a few if he wants to earn an extension on his time in Australia. So overall, I think it’ll be a case of a few boys chipping in with the goals, but mainly Fernandez and Castro.

What do you think about the addition of Covic to the squad?

Ante Covic from my point of view is a great short-term option, he’s very consistent and one of the best keepers in the league along with Vukovic, Janjetovic and Galekovic. In terms of the options available, he’s been a solid pickup, and there’s a lack of real quality and experience in young Aussie keepers currently. We missed out on Birighitti, and Nathan Coe – another option at the time – was looking for clubs in Europe. So for this season, he’s a good signing, but the club needs to either mature Tyson or hunt for a target for 16/17.

Now that Gombau has gone, is Kenny Lowe the most entertaining manager in the A-League?

Kenny is certainly the most animated of the bunch, and has the best celebration. But I would still put Muscat or Arnie having a rage at the ref as my no 1 choice. Here’s hoping he shines managing the club this season.

Where will Perth Glory finish this season?

I think the Glory will just fit in the Top 6, however I wouldn’t be surprised if they were knocked out first week of the finals. Keeping the CB pairing was massive for the Glory for 15/16, and I think the club will be challenging for spots 5-8. I think they’ll sneak in, or at least fall agonisingly close. It’ll come down to form at nib Stadium, so here’s hoping a few more join up. 4.5k+ currently members, you’d be hoping 5k+ by round one, an achievement if that happens.

Lastly, will the “you fat bastard you’re shit” chant survive the season?

This is interesting. One of the Glory regulars since NSL days declared to Peter Filopoulos (the new CEO) at the fan forum that the “Shed was finished”. I’m doubting that’s the case but there will certainly be a few less in the end next season until things are on the up again. I think it’ll dissipate, but still be chanted every now and again as it winds down.

Melbourne City Kew Jaliens

Sydney FC – Dale Roots

What will make Graham Arnold smile?

Is this a trick question?

Umm…

In all seriousness, Arnie will be happy with a lot of things heading into this A-League campaign – not least amongst him the experience and technical nouse he’s added with Ninkovic and Holosko signing deals, as well as the progress a lot of the youth players have made together in pre-season. He might even crack a smile if Ivan Necevski ever goes on holiday only for everyone to change the locks at the club’s training base on him.

Are you secretly delighted whenever WSW fans complain about police treatment?

I’m not touching the Wanderers fans with a barge pole. Let’s just hope for the best, whatever that is.

What excites you most: Matt Simon playing up front, or Zach Anderson’s hair?

Matt Simon is essentially a net gain – he’s a serviceable, old-fashioned bustling niggly centre forward who will only see limited game time, and he’s far enough away from our defenders that surely he can’t stuff things up too badly (can he?). Zac Anderson, however, is going to be very interesting; the battle for a starting spot next to cult hero and all-round nice guy Jacques Faty will most boil down to him and perennial defensive turnstile Matt Jurman after Nikola Petkovic refused to get out of the team bus before last year’s grand final. That partnership in itself causes some fans a little heart murmur, but I’m sure by mid-season Arnie will have them firing on at least three cylinders like an ‘89 Pulsar.

Are you happy with the off-season signings? Any standouts?

Holosko and Ninkovic are the easy answers, but Dimitrijevic coming back and Hoole signing on for two years really excite me. Dimitrijevic is the metronomic beating heart of the team and his partnership with Tavares was a huge part of why the team made it so far last season; Hoole looks hungry and fiery, and that added touch of pace and passion could go some of the way to filling a Corey Gameiro-sized hole this season. Also, keep an eye on Jacob Tratt this season – I’ve never seen someone so happy to score a 90th-minute goal in a freezing pre-season game, and that kind of attitude is very rarely a bad thing.

Can Sydney FC go one better this year?

In all honesty, it’s going to be very, very tough to beat Melbourne Victory this season – they’ve recruited well and kept the core of the double-winning team together. Even with extra games in Asia and the signing of a few new players, I think we have a good shot at winning the league, but it’s going to take an almighty effort from everyone at the club.

A WSW fan doing what he's told - sitting down, eating in-stadium food, wearing official merchandise.

A WSW fan doing what he’s told – sitting down, eating in-stadium food, wearing official merchandise.

Western Sydney Wanderers – Tatiyana Shaba

There was a big clear-out after last season. Will you miss seeing the likes of Juric and Bulut leading the line?

I think I will definitely miss the way they got under oppositions’ skin. I quite like a little bit of that in forwards but I’m very happy with how the team has shaped up – and now with the signing of Vidosic I’m excited for the season to start.

Do their replacements have bogan blood running in their veins?

Like with many things, pre season can only show us so much, I’m yet to determine the extent of their boganness.

What do you think of the signing of Piovaccari?

I’m keen to see what he can bring to the squad. What I really want to see him bring are goals. Lots and lots of goals. It might sound like an elementary answer, but its the truth, I’ve missed them.

How long will Mitch Nichols stay with Wanderers?

I’d like to see him at least see out his 2 year contract.

Should the Sydney derby be moved to Olympic Stadium?

Absolutely not. I hate watching football at ANZ. They would be sacrificing atmosphere for more ticket sales – which would be more disappointing than surprising from the FFA to be honest.

Will Wanderers make the finals this season?

This new squad definitely has the potential to do it, but a lot of A-League teams have picked up some fantastic signings. It’s going to be a tough season.