Adelaide United made history last season with the most dramatic mid season turnaround we have ever seen. They were glued to the bottom of the ladder for a significant portion but Guillermo Amor was able to turn the tables with his team going on an incredible run to capture their first ever A-League crown. Their title defence will be a tough one with the chasing pack all making significant additions to their squads. The Wolf breaks down all 10 teams and their chances this year to give us his best bets and season predictions.
The Reds were remarkable in the second half of last season but defending their A-League title will not be easy following several key departures. Craig Goodwin received the clubs Player of the Year award last season but they will not have his services on the wing this time around following his move to Europe. Perhaps even a bigger loss is that of Pablo Sanchez who had a A-League record 7 goals as a substitute. Add Djite to this seasons absentee list and you can see that Adelaide will have to remodel their attack.
Recent addition Sergi Guardiola could be the buy of the season. Initially signed by Barcelona in late 2015 his contract was canned due to a social media incident where he had previously insulted the club. He has a lot to prove and will get the perfect opportunity when he spearheads the Reds attack. He has a great touch, explosive speed and a silky left boot. He will look to form a combination with ex Brisbane striker Henrique but with the additional ACL commitments the Reds are definitely short when it comes to depth.
Amor deserves a heap of credit for their performance last season but sustaining that with the other sides improving may be beyond them.
Odds To Win A-League: $8.00
Transfers In: Kye Rowles (Palm Beach, NPL QLD), Connor O’Toole (ADL Youth), Jacob Pepper (WSW), Thomas Kristensen (ADO Den Haag, Netherlands), Joey Katebian (MVC), Nathan Konstandopoulos (ADL), Brett Holman (Emirates Club UAE)
Transfers Out: Devante Clut (NEW), Shane Stefanutto (retired), James Donachie (MVC), Steven Lustica (WSW), Corona (Almeira, Spain), Henrique )Negeri Sembila, Malaysia), Jean Carlos Solorzano (Rochedale Rovers, Brisbane), Javier Hervas (CD Mirandes, Spain)
Starting XI: Hingert, Bowles, DeVere, North – McKay, Kristensen, Broich – Holman, Oar, Maclaren
The Roar spent more time at the top of the ladder last season than any other team. They were never lower than 4th in the standings and blew a 3-0 lead in the preliminary final against the Wanderers. Aloisi defied his critics and this year will be another test following the losses of Corona, Donachie and Henrique who were critical parts of the Roar spine last season.
Socceroos Holman and Oar should have big seasons and with Devere back from injury they will be right in the mix. Kristensen should add plenty of steel in the middle of the park but the key rests with Tommy Oar. Still just 24, he can have as big an impact on the Roar as Aaron Mooy had for Melbourne City last year. The trio of Holman, Oar and MacLaren will be one of the most potent offences in the comp and as we have seen in the past goals translates into points. Contenders.
Prediction: 48 points (2nd)
Top 6 ($1.36)
Top Australian Goalscorer – Jamie Maclaren ($3.60) Central Coast Mariners
Odds To Win A-League: $41
Transfers In: Jacques Faty (SYD), Mickael Tavares (SYD), Ivan Necevski (SYD), Connor Pain (MVC), Blake Powell (WEL), Kwabena Appiah (WEL)
Transfers Out: Mitch Austin (MVC), Josh Rose (MCY), Dan Heffernan, Francesco Stella, Tomi Uskok
Starting XI: Neceski – Roux, Poscoliero, Faty, McDonald – Taveres, Montgomery, Pain, Ferreira – Powell, O’Donovan
Last year was the season from hell for the Mariners. A total of 13 points was a shock and they showed no fight in the second half of the season collecting just a single point from their final 10 matches. Paul Okon has taken over the coaching role but for a club in complete shambles one month prior to the start of the season is hardly enough time to set some building blocks.
The club has picked up cousins Tavares and Faty from Sydney FC along with Blake Powell from the Phoenix but despite how they look on paper they have all been discarded by their former clubs. They conceded 70 goals last season and turning that around won’t be easy. They need to start with the basics and the first one is fighting for 90 minutes in every game of every match!
They can only improve on last year but don’t expect much. Spoon.
Prediction: 22 points (10th)
Bottom 4 ($1.22)
Wooden Spoon ($2.40) Melbourne City
Odds To Win A-League: $5.00
Transfers In: Bruce Kamau (ADL), Manny Muscat (WEL), Daniel Arzani (FFA Centre Of Excellence), Luke Brattan (Man City), Ruon Tongyik (ADL), Neil Kilkenny (Preston North End, England), Fernando Brandan (Atletico Temperley, Argentina), Tim Cahill (Hangzhou Greentown, China), Josh Rose (CCM), Michael Jakobsen (Esbjerf fB, Denmark), Braedyn Crowley (Northcote City, NPL Victoria)
Transfers Out: Alex Wilkinson (SYD), Patrick Kisnorbo (retired), Michael Zullo (SYD), Ben Garuccio (ADL), Harry Novillo (Manisaspor, Turkey), Aaron Mooy (Man City, England), Jack Clisby (WSW), Jacob Melling (WSW), Jason Trifiro, Wade Dekker, Marc Marino, James Brown, Aaron Hughes (Kerala Blasters, India)
Starting XI: Sorensen – Rose, Malik, Jakobsen, Muscat – Kilkenny, Brandan, Brattan – Fornaroli, Cahill, Colazo
They were the team to beat from early on last season but had their worst performance of the season against the Reds in a 4-1 preliminary final loss. They set a new A-League record with 63 goals but what hurt them last season may also play its part again this time around.
Aaron Mooy was spectacular for them and his loss will be extremely difficult to overcome. His vision and passing ability will be sorely missed and despite adding Tim Cahill they will encounter several obstacles. Just like Mooy, Cahill will miss several games die to Socceroos commitments and even worse is unlikely to be a 90 minute player on a weekly basis.
Their defensively line has been completely scrapped and despite adding more than a handful of classy players we could see them struggle to find their feet early in the season. They will improve as the season goes on and have more strike weapons than anyone else but whether they can get it together remains to be seen.
Prediction: 46 points (3rd)
Highest Finish Victory v City: City ($1.82)
Top Goalscorer: Bruno Fornaroli ($4.50) Melbourne Victory
Odds To Win A-League: $6.00
Transfers In: Stefan Nigro (MVC Youth), James Donachie (BRI), Mitch Austin (CCM), Alan Baro (Ponferradina, Spain), James Troisi (Liaoning Whowin, China), Marco Rojas (Stuttgart, Germany)
Transfers Out: Thomas Deng (PSV, Netherlands – loan), Matthew Delpierre (retired), Gui Finkler (WEL), Kosta Barbarouses (WEL), Connor Pain (CCM), James Makarounas (ADL), Danny Vukovic (SYD), Joey Katebian (BRI), Archie Thompson (Heidelberg, NPL Victoria)
The Victory were dominant in 2014/15 doing the double (minor premiers and A-League Champions) but were very disappointing in their title defence. They closed out the season winning just 3 of their last 11. The ACL was a distraction while the loss of Valeri for the bulk of the season was a hill to big to climd especially after the exit of Milligan.
All signs point to some improvement with Troisi and the returning Rojas but Barbarouses and Finkler and significant losses. Muscat has the ability to instill passion in the squad but The Wolf has question marks over his technical knowledge and ability to adapt the teams style depending on the opponent. Too many losses in key areas could see this turn into a season of transition. If they are to exceed The Wolf’s expectations it could be on the back of a huge season from Rojas.
Prediction: 46 points (6th)
Finishing Position: 6th ($7.00)
Johnny Warren Medal: Marco Rojas ($15) Newcastle Jets
Odds To Win A-League: $41
Transfers In: Devante Clut (BRI), Daniel Alessi (WSW), Wayne Brown (Sinajoen Jalkapallokerho, Finland), Aleksandr Kokko (RoPS, Finland), Andrew Hoole (SYD), Jack Duncan (Randers FC, Denmanrk), Ivan Vujica (Dinamo Zagreb U19, Croatia), Andrew Nabbout (Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia)
Transfers Out: Mark Birighitti (Swansea, England), Leonardo Santiago (retired), Enver Alivodic (FK Novi Pazar, Serbia), Cameron Watson, Ryan Kitto (ADL), Brandon Lundy, Josh Barresi, Braedyn Crowley (Northcote City, NPL Victoria)
Starting XI: Kennedy – Mullen, Boogard, Jackson, Hoffman – Poljak, Brown, Hoole, Clut – Kokko, Nordstand
This may be hard to believe but the Jets 30 points last season exceeded expectations and they will again surprise people. They are the wooden spoon favourties but The Wolf says they have enough quality to avoid finishing last.
The duo of Brown and Kokko are quality additions and they have strengthened the squad across all areas with Vujica at the back and Nabbout in the front line. The sacking of coach Miller one month out from the season came as a surprise and the appointment of Mark Jones is hardly one to get excited about if you are a Jets fan. He has had prior roles within the club and has appointed Clayton Zane as his assistant.
The Wolf is trusting the fighting spirit of the Novocastrians – a spirit that saw them beat Melbourne City twice last season. There is a certain balance about the squad and with a few unknown foreigners they could raise plenty of eyebrows this season.
Prediction: 28 points (9th)
Bottom 4 ($1.22)
Finishing Position: 9th ($3.20)
Odds To Win A-League: $6.50
Transfers In: Rhys Williams (Middlesbrough), Joseph Mills (Oldham Athletic), Nick Feely (free agent), Liam Reddy (WSW), Rostyn Griffiths (Roda JC, Netherlands), Milan Smiljanic (Maccabi Netanya, Israel), Joel Chianese (Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia)
Transfers Out: Ruben Zadkovich (retired), Jerrad Tyson (WSW), Ante Covic, Diogo Ferreira, Hagi Gligor, Gyorgy Sandor, Kristzian Vadocz (Mumbai City, India)
Starting XI: Reddy – Lowry, Dulbic, Risdon, Mills – Williams, Griffiths, Smiljanic, Marinkovic – Castro, Keogh
The success of the Glory is heavily reliant on Johnny Warren Medal winner Diego Castro. They were away very slowly last season with Castro unfit but came home like a steam train. Have lost the solid Hungarians but really impressive ins with Williams, Mills, Griffiths and Smiljanic adding serious steel to go with big pick-ups of Lowry and Taggart at the end of last season.
They will be solid at the back and well organised in the middle but will rely heavily on Castro and Marinkovic to give them that creative edge. Keogh is a proven goal scorer in the A-League so look for him to be right up there in the goalscorers chart.
Prediction: 47 points (3rd)
Top 6 ($1.25)
Finishing Position: 3rd ($5.50) Sydney FC
Odds To Win A-League: $6.50
Transfers In: Alex Wilkinson (MCY), Michael Zullo (MCY), Josh Brilliante (Fiorentina, Italy), Danny Vukovic (MVC), Bernie Ibini (Club Brugge, Belgium), bobo (Gremio, Brazil), George Timotheou (SYD Youth)
Transfers Out: Jacques Faty (CCM), Mickael Tavares (CCM), Ivan Necevski (CCM), Andrew Hoole (NEW), Zac Anderson (Emirates Club, UAE), Robert Stambolziev (Kidderminster Harriers, England), Ali Abbas, Anthony Bouzanis, Riley Woodcock, Jacob Tratt, Alex Mullen, Chris Naumoff (retired), Shane Smeltz (Kedah, Malaysia)
Starting XI: Janjetovic – Zullo, Wilkinson, Jurman, Ryall – Dimitrijevic, Brilliante, Ninkovic – Brosque, Holosko, Bobo
The Sky blues are shaping as the big improvers for the upcoming season. Graham Arnold has addressed key areas most notably defence where he has added City duo Wilkinson and Zullo. Brilliante will strengthen the centre of the park and if pre-season form is anything to go by Bobo shapes as an absolute star!
Sydney were also victims of the ACL last season as they struggled for both balance and consistency. This time around they will have the likes of Ibini and Carney coming off the bench which is a testament to their depth.
Can only improve on last season but their ceiling is hard to predict with so many key changes. A lot may depend on the Brazilian but the starting XI looks strong and a top 4 finish looks the most likely result.
Prediction: 46 points (4th)
Top 6 ($1.25)
Johnny Warren Medal – Bobo ($13) Wellington Phoenix
Odds To Win A-League: $15
Transfers In: Gui Finkler (MVC), Kosta Barbarouses (MVC), Marco Rossi (Perugia, Italy), Adam Parkhouse (Manly United, NPL NSW)
Transfers Out: Ben Sigmund (retired), Albert Riera (retired), Manny Muscat (MCY), Blake Powell (CCM), Kwabena Appiah (CCM)
Starting XI: Moss – Durante, Rossi, Fox, Doyle – Alex, Bonevacia, Finkler – Barbarouses, McGlinchey, Krishna
After finishing 4th two seasons ago hopes were high for Wellington last season. Those hopes didnt last long as they had a stretch of 9 games where they tallied just 2 points and closed the season with four straight losses. Defensivley they couldn’t get it right, Krishna missed a lot of football and the international rounds also had an adverse effect.
They have however made three key signings. Italian Marco Rossi has been brought in to add some steel to the defensive line while the former Victory duo of Finkler and Barbarouses will carry a lot of the weight in attack. The Wolf still has concerns over their defence but their starting XI is strong. Expecting significant improvement but will need to avoid injuries if they are to crack the top 6.
Prediction: 40 points (8th)
Finishing Position: 8th ($5.00)
Western Sydney Wanderers
Odds To Win A-League: $7.00
Transfers In: Lachlan Scott (WSW Academy), Mario Shabow (WSW Academy), Jerrad Tyson (Per), Stevem Lustica (BRI), Bruno Pinatares (Cerro, Uruguay), Aritz Borda (Deportivo Alaves, Spain), Jumpei Kusukami (Cerezi Isakam Japan), Robert Conrnthwaite (Selangor, Malaysia), Jacob Melling (MCY), Jack Clisby (MCY), Kerem Bulut (Iraklis, Greece), Nicolas Martinez (Olympiacos, Greece)
Transfers Out: Mark Bridge (Chang Rai United, Thailand), Liam Reddy (PER), Jacob Pepper (BRI), Roman Castelen (Suwom Samsung Bluewings, Korea), Scott Jamieson (IFK Goteborg, Sweden), Andreu Guerao, Alberto Aguilar, Gol Gol Mebrahtu, Federico Piovaccari, Matt Sim, Daniel Alessi (NEW), Alusine Fofanah, Shayne D’Cuncha
Starting XI: Redmayne – Neville, Cole, Borda, Topor-Stanley – Pinatares, Dimas, Nichols – Kusukami, Martinez, Bulut
Beating the Wanderers at Pirtek is some task and a stretch of 1 win in 4 games in the later rounds cost the the Premier’s Plate and home ground advantage in the Grand Final.
It’s been another off-season of mental squad turnover which have been the common theme in recent seasons. Castelen, Bridge, Vidosic and the two Spaniards will be sorely missed but on balance they look to have improved. Four foreigners have been added to go with Cornthwaite and the return of Bulut. Nulut was outstanding in his first stint for the club and is a huge upgrade on Piovaccari he couldn’t get it done up front.
The big question mark will be the ACL. It really hurt them last time but lessons will have been learned and the squad is much deeper this time around. They could be extremely tough to beat.
Prediction: 48 points (1st)
Finishing Position: 1st ($7.00)
Combined Points Sydney v Melbourne: Syd FC & WSW ($2.05)