The reset button has been hit in the West in the wake of the Glory’s Salary Cap breaches last season. A new CEO along with litany of new playing personal means a whole new Glory is expected this season.
Kenny Lowe’s men looked like Premiership contenders for most of last season until the FFA uncovered serious Salary Cap breaches and expelled them from the Finals Series. A mass exodus of players followed with Perth looking very different to how they did that the start of last season.
Danny Vukovic, Danny De Silva, Rostyn Griffiths, Scott Jamieson Youssouf Hersi, Jamie MacLaren and Andy Keogh have all headed for the exit at nib Stadium in a massive squad shakeup. Perth will no doubt struggle to properly recoup those losses with each of those names first-team players. Any club would be in serious trouble with such a turnover of big players in just one offseason. The loss of Griffiths will prove most costly.
Former Western Sydney Wanderers trio Ante Covic, Antony Golec and Jerrad Tyson have joined the club along with Internationals Diego Castro, Guyon Fernandez and Gyorgy Sandor. How the new foreigners adapt to the A-League will be a big indicator for the Glory this season. Fernandez looks a great acquisition with a great pedigree in the Eredevisie and a reputation as a flashy player. Could prove to be the buy of the season if the below footage is anything to go by.
Key man: Nebojsa Marikovic
Decided to stick around despite seeing so many teammates head for the exit. One of the best passers in the league and a genuine deal ball specialist. Will play a big part in the Glory’s resurgence.
One to watch: Chris Harold
The former Gold Coast United man has been one to watch for a while but expect him to take his game to a new level this season. Proved a successful support act to Keogh last season and with the Irishmen gone Harold will have more room to move and shine.
Glory are a well-coached side and were one of the best sides last season until the Salary Cap drama engulfed the club, but the player turnover is huge which will see them struggle. Glory has always been their own worst enemy with a history of self-imploding due to factors of their own doing. Has the ability to push for finals but will fall just short.
United fell just one match short of the Grand Final last season, going down to a rampant Sydney FC in the Semi Final. This season was seen by many as the one that United finally broke through and make the next step after falling at the last hurdle so many times before. That optimism has dimmed slight with manager Josep Gombau leaving his post during the offseason. Barcelona great Guillermo Amor has taken over the role with an apparent change of style also looming for United.
Gombau spent the last two seasons implementing a style of play not seen before in this country. The Barca ‘tikka-takka’ play was mesmerising to see in action as was Gombau’s eccritic managerial style.
It looks as though Amor will go down a different route with new signings looking like a new style of play is imminent. Former Wanderer Iacopo La Rocca and Socceroo Eli Babalj don’t necessarily fit the bill of the play set by Gombau.
While Amor is Barcelona great and considered one of the most important figures in the clubs history, he is largely untested as a head coach.
Star man: Sergio Cirio
The Spaniard has been the star player in the A-League since arriving two seasons ago. Technically one of the best in the league and can both score and create goals. An important cog in United’s attack.
One to watch: Bruce Kamau
Will replace the departing Awer Mabil and has the pace and ability to match the winger. Has shown glimpses of talent but with more game time expected this year will show his worth even more.
Much relies on how Amor handles the step up for the main role in the dugout. He joined the club in a behind the scenes role at the start of 2015 but is now tasked with the big job. Their strong squad has remained pretty much unchanged from last year. While they have stayed largely the same, teams around them have become stronger. Loss of Gombau will prove telling.
The Phoenix impressed last season with a top-four finish but ruined their good work with a disappointing finals exit to Melbourne City at home. Former Victory manager Ernie Merrick developed the Nix into a great attacking team last season lead by Socceroo Nathan Burns. Burns was the standout player in the A-League last season earning a spot in the winning Asian Cup squad and bagging the Johnny Warren Medal.
Wellington will be without Burns this season after leaving the club for FC Tokyo and will prove a big loss. Burns was a star for the Nix last year who revelled in the opportunity to return to regular first team football after a couple of lean seasons abroad.
In his place comes in former Dutch youth international Jeffrey Sarpong, adding to the influx of Eredivisie players to the A-League. Sarpong comes the Wellington from NAC Brada and has played in the top flights of Spain and Holland. An expert dribbler with a mean left peg has the potential to tear it up in the league.
Despite losing Burns Wellington have kept largely the same side as last season. Roly Bonevacia is back after a stellar first season in the A-League and joined by Albert Riera and Michael McGlinchey in an impressive midfield. Ageing defence could prove a problem.
Star man: Michael McGlinchley
The former league winner with the Mariners excelled with Wellington last season in his first year at the club. A key cog in the midfield diamond set-up will once again play a big part in Merrick’s side with his creativity and vision.
One to watch: Roy Krishna
The Fijian showcased his talents last season and proved he has what it takes to be a star in the A-League. Should see more game time this season.
The loss of Burns will be a difficult one for the Nix to cover. The Socceroo was their main attacking threat last season and was given the award as the league’s best player. Merrick will be hoping Sarpong can fill that void. Not the youngest side but still full of talented players. Will feature in the finals but may struggle to push for the championship.
The Wanderers have the largest change of squad for this season with a mammoth 18 players exiting after a disappointing 2014/15. Their ins and out are just too long to name but it will be Socceroo duo Matthew Spiranovic and Tomi Juric they will miss most. Tony Popovic has recruited well picking up Mitch Nichols and Scott Jamison from Perth and also convincing Dario Vidosic to return to the A-League. All three men are proven A-League performers and are more than handy pickups.
Popovic didn’t look too far past Spain when looking at International players with Spanish trio Dimas Delgado, Alberto Aguila and Andreu Guerao Mayoral joining the 2014 ACL champions. The three may not possess the best-reading CV after mainly toiling around in the lower divisions of their home country and have shown in the preseason they have the talent to compete in Australia.
Italian striker Federico Piovaccari is in to replace Juric and will be a solid target man for the likes of Nichols and Vidosic to aim at.
Wanderers have no doubt recruited well bringing in some talented players but how they all adapt in such a short time will be a key factor.
Key man: Romeo Castelen
One of the few players to survive Popovic’s axe and the only international to remain at the club. Arrived underdone and late to the fold last year and struggled with injuries. Despite that former Dutch International showed his worth and impressed enough to stick around for another year. Will be much better with a full preseason under his belt.
One to watch: Jaushua Sotirio
The Australian Youth international got his go at first team football last year and impressed. Has turned into an important part of the Olyroos setup and is definitely one to watch for the future.
It’s hard to see Western Sydney have a worse year than they did last year. Their recruitment was way off the mark as was their decision not to get rid of players when they should have. They have righted those wrong and do have an impressive squad. A change of style is expected to a more possession-based play compared to their previous counter-attacking method. Whether that comes off will be a big factor in Wanderers having success. Definitely has the squad to challenge.