Friday, October 4, 2013

A-League Season 2013/14 preview

Season 2013/14, the 9th A-League season, is set to kick off in a week’s time, so it’s time to look ahead and see just what the season has in store for us.

Kiwi sports fans will be looking towards the Wellington Phoenix to see how the side will stack up after some disappointing times is recent seasons.  The biggest change for the men in yellow and black has been the change in coach with former Melbourne Victory mentor Ernie Merrick in the driving seat for the new season.
The biggest challenge Merrick will face in the opening few rounds is his predecessor Ricki Herbert plundering his kiwi players for All Whites duty, but after that Merrick has his work cut out to take the struggling side and make it into the winning squad it could so easily be.

There has been a raft of squad changes as well with Merrick not afraid to drop the axe on underperforming players or those who don’t fit his style of play. Those released from the squad include Tony Lochhead, Alex Smith Dani Sanchez, Jimmy Downey and Lucas Pantelis.  Custodian Mark Paston has retired while Isaka Cernak has gone to Perth Glory and Solomon Islands international Benjamin Totori has moved to the Oakleigh Cannons in the Victorian Premier league.

New members of the squad include some former and current a-league players a few other international competitions and a couple from domestic leagues.  The headline signing is livewire midfielder Carlos Hernandez who returns to the A-League from Prayag United in India to link up with his former Victory mentor.  Defender Luke Adams joins the club from English League 1 side Derby, while forward Kenny Cunningham joins the team from Club the Strongest in Bolivia.  The current a-league players joining the Phoenix are goal keeper Lewis Italiano from Perth Glory and defender Reece Caira from Western Sydney Wanderers.  Alex Rufer makes the move to the big time from Wairarapa United and Josh Brindall-South moves from the warmth of the QLD NPL at Moreton Bay United to the cold and wind of the NZ capital.

Wellington will be strong through the middle of the park with Hernandez linking with established players like Bertos, Huysegems, Brockie, Ifill, Lia, Sigmund, Muscat, Durante and Fenton and with Moss in goal this could be a very strong starting line-up, especially with the likes of Boyd on  the bench.

Other Kiwi players around the A-League include the return to the A-League of former Brisbane Roar and Wellington Phoenix livewire and current All White Kosta Barbarouses. Barbarouses will join former Roar mentor Ange Postecoglou at Melbourne Victory.

Looking through the off-season transfer lists for all clubs, Melbourne Heart have signed some big names and should look to massively improve their showing in the competition.  Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC & Brisbane Roar have all been shrewd in their signings with the three coaches building on their form at the end of last season, with Mulvey at the Roar and Farina at Sydney marking themselves on their sides in their first off-season.  The squad I think that has been decimated the most in the off-season window and who still have to work hard to maintain their showing is undoubtedly the Central Coast Mariners who have been victims of their own success with a raft of their young talent heading offshore.  However this will be tempered slightly with the return to the club of Matt Simon.

My pre-season prediction for the end of year ladder is.
  1. Melbourne Victory
  2. Brisbane Roar
  3. Western Sydney Wanderers
  4. Wellington Phoenix
  5. Sydney FC
  6. Melbourne Heart
  7. Central Coast Mariners
  8. Perth Glory
  9. Adelaide United
  10. Newcastle Jets
This wasn’t an easy prediction with a lot of the mid field table looking very similar (4-7) I expect the bottom 3 teams to struggle and the top three are also interchangeable in those positions.

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