Believe the hype, Melbourne City has arrived. A mixed first year under the City moniker will be forgotten this time around with a strong squad. The balance was all wrong for City last year in their first full season of City Football Group ownership. Despite the best intentions of new owners, the side still lacked quality with deadweight from the Heart days still being carried over plus the distraction of what turned out to be David Villa’s disappointing stint in Melbourne.
That has all changed this time around with the club making some impressive signings. Goalkeeper Thomas Sorenson and defender Aaron Hughes come to the club with a bunch of Premier League experience and dramatically improve what was previously a very average defensive unit. Those two men along with marquee Robi Koren give City 921 games of Premier League experience. They may not be the biggest of names but that experience will prove invaluable.
Harry Novillo looked dangerous during his spell at the club last year and joins as a permanent signing. Uruguayan Bruno Fornaroli hardly has an impressive goal-scoring record in his career but has shown glimpse in the FFA Cup he has what it takes to perform in this level.
City have also lured home two Socceroos in Ivan Franjic and Michael Zullo. Franjic is one of the best right backs to have ever played in the A-League and will also help improve City’s defence. Zullo can play anywhere on the left flank and will link very well with the rest of the squad.
John van ‘t Schip has a balanced squad at his disposal with a good mix of experience and youth. After seven years and a change of name, this could well be the time Melbourne’s second team delivers.
Star man: Aaron Mooy
Mooy proved a genuine A-League star in his first season in the club and was been rewarded with marquee status this campaign. Now a Socceroo regular the midfielder has developed into an elite midfielder and judging by his FFA Cup form is in for another big season.
One to watch: Wade Dekker
Dekker has risen from the youth ranks of City after a stint in the Victorian State League to earn a spot in the first team. Dekker was an important part of City National Youth League title last year and capped off his first team debut with a goal against Wellington in the FFA Cup.
Year number two as City will be the year they push for the title. A side full of EPL experience is balanced with plenty of A-League talent. Expect their march up the ladder this year.
Blown away by a dominant Melbourne Victory in the season decider, Sydney will be looking to go one better this year with some handy new faces. The loss of Golden Boot winner and marquee man Marc Janko is a big loss but one they have seemed to fill quite well.
Slovakian international Filip Hološko is the new marquee and is joined in a fresh front-third including Miloš Ninković and former Jet Andrew Hoole. Hološko is play more as a wide man compared to Janko but still has an eye for goal. Sydney’s re-signings this seasons are just as big as their new acquisitions. Mickael Tavares and Jacques Faty have been retained after joining midway through last season while holding onto reigning player of the year Miloš Dimitrijević after looking like leaving the club during the offseason.
Sydney adapted brilliantly to Graham Arnold’s coaching last season in reaching the Grand Final. Despite a retched run of injuries that saw three players go down with serious knee injuries in the early stages of the season, the Sky Blues challenged for the title all year only to fail on the big stage.
Arnold has managed to keep most of last year’s squad together beside Janko and will be a key player this year. Their balance looks spot on and will be improved with their new signings.
Key man: Miloš Ninković
A Serbian International who was in the squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, lining up against the Socceroos in South Africa. Ninković will likely be deployed as a central attacking midfielder for Sydney and will be an important link between the midfield and attack. Quality player with an elite passing game.
One to watch: Andrew Hoole
Hoole was the one standout in a disappointing season for the Newcastle Jets. He leaves his hometown side for Sydney and will likely flourish in a big side. Many expect the 21-year old to be a future Socceroo and a big year in Sky Blue will only enhance that.
Same spot beckons for Sydney FC this year. Even with losing Golden Boot winner Janko the Sky Blues have managed to improve their squad while keeping the core of last year together. Will no doubt challenge again in 2016.
Only Victory can lose their championship winning captain and a Socceroo midfielder and still manage to be the strongest side in the league. Mark Milligan has off to the Middle East with Bani Yas and is replaced for fellow Socceroo midfielder Oliver Bozanic who joins Victory as the clubs new marquee.
The big player movement for the champs lies with the recent acquisition of former Perth Glory ‘keeper Danny Vukovic who slots straight into the number 1 position.
Kevin Muscat’s men were dominant last season as they claimed the double. Their devastating Grand Final win over Sydney FC showed just how good of a team they are.
Possessing arguably the best bunch of foreign players than any other side in the league, it’s hard to see anyone overtaking Victory this season.
Star man: Besart Berisha
One of the leagues best marksmen, Berisha proved last season he could do it outside of Brisbane as he claimed a third championship in four years.
One to watch: Giancarlo Gallifuoco
Olyroo defedner Gallifuoco has gone through the youth systems of Tottenham and Swansea and won a U/21 title with the Welsh side last year as captain. Highly touted with many observers keen to see how he will go in the A-League.
Even with Milligan gone no other club comes close to Victory in terms of squad quality. The goalkeeping position has always been a big issue for Victory with Nathan Coe prone to a calamity. That has all changed with Vukovic now between the sticks. Expect the club to go back-to-back this season.