Clarke's Guide To 2014/15 A-League Season

TattsBet Brekky Show soccer expert James Clark
TattsBet Football Expert James 'Hamez' Clark previews the new A-League season

2014/15 A-League Season

This season marks the very proud 10th anniversary of the Hyundai A-League. The unprecedented growth of soccer/football in this country is mirrored by record crowd participation which is helping 'the world game' become a very popular fixture on the Australian sporting landscape.

Lets take a brief look at each club and their key signings, and play a sporting version of Nostradamus by attempting to predict where each club will finish at the end of Round 27.

The big news to grace the league is the addition of David Villa to the newly branded Melbourne City franchise for the opening 10 weeks of competition. The news follows on from the exit of immensely popular imports ADP, Shinji Ono and Emile Heskey. Villa is very much at the peak of his game and his enormous pulling power will ensure healthy crowds gather to watch the former Spain, Valencia, Barcelona and Athletico Madrid star in the flesh.

Adelaide United

Spanish coach Josep Gombau’s second year at the helm will hopefully see the fruits of his labour in converting the club to a possession/tiki-taka branded philosophy. Losing star striker and crowd favourite Jeronimo Neumann to the Newcastle Jets will put the focus squarely on the shoulders of new recruit Pablo Sanchez Alberto and club stalwart Bruce Djite to help deliver a positive goal differential and a top four birth or better. I’m looking for big things from the Reds this season.

Prediction: Fourth

Brisbane Roar

Last season’s Premiers and Champions are never short on confidence and self-belief, and is the reason they are the most successful club in the A-League. The loss of enigmatic Albanian striker Besart Berisha to the Victory has plenty of fans wondering if incoming Macedonian import Mensur Kurtisi can help fill the net with some of the 13 goals from 20 games Berisha delivered last season. The loss of Ivan Franjic to Torpedo Moscow is immense, but the experience of Smith, Mackay, and Henrique, paired with the best import player this country has seen in Thomas Broich, ensures the Roar will again be the benchmark of the competition.

Prediction: Second

Central Coast Mariners

Despite their impressive on field successes over the past four seasons, the Mariners are always underrated in terms of predicting where they will finish each season. A strong club with a wonderful culture, the off-field financial murmurings often dominate the headlines. The dressing room and its management have always driven the club, and this year will be no different. In nine seasons, the club has only missed finals football twice, and has played in four Grand Finals, tasting victory in 2012/13.

Prediction: Sixth

Melbourne City

The off-season has seen a new owner, new name, new jersey and one of the biggest names in world football agreeing to terms for a 10 weeks stint. Melbourne City are hoping David Villa fills stadiums across the country, but more importantly delivers a winning culture to a club in desperate need of success. The problem isn’t in how the new City story begins, but how it ends in season 10. That ultimately pleases the growing fans base and their wealthy owners.

Prediction: Seventh

Melbourne Victory

Kevin Muscat took over from Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou and one could probably consider him unlucky of not going further last season. Signing Besart Berisha is a huge plus, but the combination (Muscat and Bersiha) could be more potent than nitro & glycerine. If the mix works on the pitch, Muscat can deliver the proud club its third Champions and Premiers title. Muscat has brought in giant French defender Matthieu Delpierre to strengthen the back four, but his height could also add some tall timber to the all-important set pieces.

Prediction: First

Newcastle Jets

The Jets have a new look aircraft configuration and pilot to fly them this season, with a squad virtually unrecognisable compared with seasons past. Their Golden Boot winning striker Adam Taggart has shifted to English Championship side Fulham, plus they've lost defenders Connor Chapman and Josh Mitchell. However, the key signings of Marcos Flores, Jeronimo Neumann and Edson Montano will fill the void. The big question mark facing new manager Phil Stubbins is how long will it take for his new band of merry men to sing from the same song sheet? I hope they prove my prediction wrong, as this fertile footballing nursery needs the Jets winning.

Prediction: Ninth

Perth Glory

They say you need to reach rock bottom before you start your march back to the top, and last year certainly proved a difficult one for the fans, players and coaching staff alike. Some great acquisitions in Youssef Hersi, Mitch Nichols and Republic of Ireland International striker Andrew Keogh could be just what the doctor ordered for a team that haemorrhaged badly last season with their fair share of on and off-field dramas. A poor away record always weighs this club down as they load up on frequent-flyer miles, but their distance away from the Eastern seaboard often helps them operate in their own protected bubble.

Prediction: Eighth

Sydney FC

By far the club under the most pressure and expectation by fans and their own board is Sydney FC. With the departure of ADP and the constantly under siege former manager Frank Farina, the Sky Blues are now looking to the expertise of experienced man manager Graham Arnold to guide the club to their second Championship/Premiership double since the success of the 2009-10 season. Shane Smeltz, Marc Janko, Bernie Ibini and Alex Brosque will all add starch to the forward line, but will it be mid-field defensive fragilities of the past that again haunts goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic at the back. I’m guessing with Arnie in charge they will improve on last season’s overachieving fifth spot.

Prediction: Third

Wellington Phoenix

I would love to see Wellington Phoenix play finals football this season, but a disastrous away record coupled with a home ground that visiting teams enjoy rather than fear, I’m at pains to predict them not holding the wooden spoon this season! But with a strong manager in Ernie Merrick, and the experience of Nathan Burns up front, they can often be a thorn in the side of teams needing points to qualify for finals football. 

Prediction: Tenth

Western Sydney Wanderers

The Wanderers are the envy of many clubs with wonderful fan support and an impressive Asian Champions League Final berth in only their second season. Tony Popovic has overseen a change in personnel that sees a great balance between youth and experience. The addition of talented Brazilian midfielder Vitor Saba may add more spice to an attack that has lost the likes of Youssef Hersi, Shinji Ono and the defensive experience of Michael Beauchamp. Write the Wanderers off at your own peril, as it will still take a quality side to take three points off them each week, especially in front of their passionate home fans.

Prediction: Fifth

James Clark

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