The view from Australia

Sydney FC left feeling blue

October 28, 2013
By Rob Brooks
(Archive)

Sydney FC left feeling blue

After turning in another disjointed display against Western Sydney Wanderers in the derby, Sydney FC again find themselves at the wrong end of the table, and feeling the disappointment of their fans.

The Wanderers' Shinji Ono exposed Sydney FC's weaknesses at the back.
GettyImagesThe Wanderers' Shinji Ono exposed Sydney FC's weaknesses at the back.

How different things might be if they had signed Graham Arnold some 18 months ago.

With Ange Postecoglou -- who departed Melbourne Victory a winner against his former club Brisbane Roar at the weekend -- moving on to lead the Australian national team, never has there been a higher value placed on getting the best local coach. Sydney FC blew that chance when they failed to land Central Coast boss Arnold, who must now be considered the most complete coach in the A-League.

Arnold took the Mariners all the way to the title last season on the back of solid defensive structure, tight-knit club culture and making the most of small opportunities at either end of the pitch, particularly at set pieces.

Sound familiar? These are the issues which plague Sydney FC, and have done for a number of years, in truth.

Certainly Frank Farina's side will be all the better for having Alessandro Del Piero return from a calf injury, and the likes of Corey Gameiro, Pedj Bojic, Terry Antonis and Peter Triantis will also make a significant impact, but it's hard to estimate the value of a coach like Arnold. Surely not going the extra mile to seal that deal will be a decision Sydney will rue for some time to come.

That's not to take away from the Wanderers, however. In front of a sell-out crowd creating an intense atmosphere, Tony Popovic's men played out their game plan to perfection, keeping the Sydney FC players in front of them and pressing fiercely through midfield. Throw in the class of Shinji Ono -- who scored a goal and set up another in the 2-0 win -- and it's hard not to see them near the pinnacle again this campaign.

As if to emphasise the point 24 hours after Postecoglou moved on, Arnold's Mariners were clinical once more in their 1-0 defeat of Adelaide United.

Meanwhile, alongside Farina in the 'coaches under pressure' column is the Newcastle Jets' Gary van Egmond. Though opponents to sacking a coach early in the season do make a fair argument; it's not too late for the team to turn around its form and enjoy success. Look at the Wanderers' run to the Grand Final last season as evidence.

What must be worrying for the Jets, though, is that this early-season form has carried on from last term. True enough, the Jets have not scored a goal and sit bottom of the table this season, but they've also only won four of their past 24 games, scoring just 19 goals in that time.

The Jets 0-0 draw away to Wellington seems a decent result in isolation, and hopefully a little confidence is picked up by the entire squad from it. Time will tell.

A new ball game

How differently do we experience football now than our ancestors? Even rewind a decade or so and the way in which fans interacted with their favourite clubs and players was so different. Social media and new technology has affected so much of the modern world, not least the sport we love.

At the weekend, Perth Glory's new marquee signing William Gallas sat at Terminal 5 in London's Heathrow Airport watching his new team-mates carry out a 1-0 home victory over Melbourne Heart. How do we know this? He was tweeting about it as he waited to board his flight to Australia.

It's brilliant that the former Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham defender could interact with the club's supporters from the other side of the planet as they enjoyed the win together.

Only in recent years has world football become so accessible, with information on players and clubs seemingly at everyone's fingertips. There is the risk that this familiarity can breed contempt, though, and that this remarkable knowledge can be seen as commonplace.

It's at times like these that it's important to reflect for a moment on how recent, and extraordinary, this phenomenon is. Ten years ago the ability to chat with the likes of Gallas from the other side of the world did not exist.

Indeed, the A-League did not exist, and teams in Australia were playing in front of a few thousand fans. Now, in a newly refurbished stadium, the club has a chance to build on Sunday's victory, and crowd of 13,856, as it welcomes a player who but a few months ago graced the pitches of the Premier League and Europa League.

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