Last season’s finish: 4th (eliminated in semi-finals)
This season’s predicted finish: 7th
The star: Riley McGree. New coach Gertan Verbeek’s first signing brings an X-Factor (remember THAT scorpion kick?) – but the 20-year-old needs to perform week-in-week-out for Adelaide to succeed this season. In 30 appearances for Melbourne City last year, McGree banged in eight goals and four assists. If he can prove himself capable of leading this Adelaide side, he will almost certainly earn a maiden Socceroos cap.
The boss: Brutally honest, Gertjan Verbeek is the latest in a long line of Dutch masterminds to grace Australian football. Don’t let his dishevelled appearance fool you – Verbeek has previously coached players such as Klaas Jan Hunteelar, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Aussie Brett Holman in a storied coaching career. Expect tactical flexibility, a big focus on youth development, and relentless perfectionism.
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Signings to look out for: Veteran striker Kristian Opseth arrives from Norway and is known as an opportunistic poacher in the box. Adelaide were weak in midfield until they landed hometown Socceroo James Troisi from rivals Melbourne Victory just one week before the season started. But youngster Al-Hassan Toure (promoted from the youth side) is perhaps the biggest find of all – having already scored four times in four FFA Cup matches.
The question: A new coach, a new captain, and the signing of a pair of hometown heroes. Will it come together or will it collapse?
Last season’s finish: 9th
This season’s predicted finish: 9th
The star: Roy O’Donovan is expected to bring the sort of attacking firepower this Roar side were lacking last season. The Irishman arrives in Brisbane from Newcastle with an expectation to score plenty of goals – no pressure, Roy.
The boss: Despite having a brief stint at a professional club in Thailand, taking charge of the Brisbane Roar will be Robbie Fowler’s biggest touchline task to date. Without a single minute of football being played, it’s understood the former Liverpool sharpshooter has already made an immediate impact in the Queensland capital by cutting the dead-weight and implementing a gritty philosophy. With Fowler at the helm, the Roar could be a tough team to beat.
Signings to look out for: Off-season recruit Tom Aldred has a big role to play in this young team. The 29-year-old Brit was immediately made captain when he was signed by Fowler and has been tasked with tightening things up at the back for Brisbane. Under John Aloisi and Darren Davies last season, the Roar conceded 71 goals – the most out of any A-League side. Now, with Aldred in the heart of defence, shot stopper Jamie Young has an experienced centre-back to provide cover.
The question: They had the worst defensive record in the A-League last season, can they tighten things up?
CENTRAL COAST MARINERS
Last season’s finish: 10th
This season’s predicted finish: 11th
The star: Tommy Oar’s return from a long injury lay-off will put a smile on the faces of the Central Coast faithful – and the majority of Aussie fans. If the former Socceroo can stay fit, he’ll be expected to link-up with a number of young players in Jordan Murray, Daniel De Silva, Samuel Silvera and Abraham Majok.
The boss: Last year’s drama with the Matildas is a distant memory for Alen Stajcic. Following the sacking of Mike Mulvey in March 2019, Stajcic was appointed as caretaker manager for the club and was eventually made head coach on a 3-year contract until the end of the 2021–22 A-League season. Although results did improve, Stajcic was unable to stop the Mariners from collecting their second successive wooden spoon last term.
The signings to look out for: The Mariners have been shopping during the break. Scotsman Ziggy Gordon was brought in from Hamilton Academical, South Korean anchor Kim Eun-sun was recruited from Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Milan Duric was pinched from Serbian outfit Vojvodina. The same core of the Mariners is still there (Of course, we’re talking about Matt Simon) but they’ve parachuted in some extra reinforcements with the hope of snapping their abysmal last-place record.
The question: They’ve picked up the wooden spoon for the last two seasons, can they finally avoid it?
Last season’s finish: 5th
This season’s predicted finish: 1st
The star: For many, Craig Noone is the type of signing that proves the A-League is moving in the right direction. A player who is still young, has an abundance of pace and skill, and has the top-level experience to match. The former Brighton, Cardiff and Bolton winger’s name is on every A-League fan’s lips at the moment – and no supporter base is keener to see him in action than Melbourne City’s.
The boss: With over 30-years of experience in the dugout, Erick Mombaerts could be the man that finally delivers Melbourne City an A-League title. The Frenchman has recruited well, kept his star players fit and will undoubtedly implement an attacking, free-flowing style of football.
Signings to look out for: Last season, the side lacked an attacking flair which only saw them score 39 goals in total. But that’s set to change with the arrival of Uruguayan imports Javier Cabrera and Adrian Luna. With the South American pair supporting the forwards, Joshua Brillante buzzing around the midfield and Richard Windbichler bossing the defence, City have a re-structured spinal cord capable of becoming champions.
The question: There’s plenty of expectation riding on this season – can big-spenders City deliver?
Last season’s finish: 3rd (eliminated in semi-finals)
This season’s predicted finish: 3rd
The star: If there’s one thing Ola Toivonen knows how to do, it’s find the back of the net. The super Swede netted 13 times in 20 A-League appearances last season and could very well lead this Victory side to gold this term.
The boss: When Marco Kurz packed up his bags and left Adelaide for Melbourne, there was uproar in South Australia. While the German boss did manage to deliver the Reds the FFA Cup in 2018, the task of bringing the ‘toilet seat’ trophy to Coopers Stadium remained unfulfilled. His well-structured Adelaide side fell at the final hurdle in their pursuit of A-League gold in an agonising penalty shootout loss to Perth Glory in the semi-final. Now, Kurz is back for more and has adopted a side more-than-capable of challenging for the title.
Signings to look out for: Victory’s front three is, quite frankly, scary. Toivonen is joined by recruits Andrew Nabbout and Robbie Kruse. The Socceroos duo arrive in Melbourne with a wealth of A-League and international experience under their belts and will undoubtedly put the ball on a silver platter for their No.9 to tuck away (if they can stay fit). International signings worth keeping a close eye on are German defender Tim Hoogland, former 35-capped Dane Jakob Poulsen and Albanian ace Migjen Basha.
The question: With their talismanic leader Kevin Muscat gone, can Kurz instil a belief in this Melbourne Victory side?
Last season’s finish: 7th
This season’s predicted finish: 8th
The star: Former Premier League and Championship veteran Wes Hoolahan is one of the best signings Newcastle have made in some time – but a cruel injury blow will keep him on the bench until January. Expect him to lead a late-season charge.
The boss: Ernie Merrick has more A-League experience than anyone, and a pair of Championship-Premiership doubles with Melbourne Victory in 2006/07 and 2008/09 show his pedigree. He has to contend with a limited budget this season, but he has a habit of getting the best out of his players.
Signings to look out for: The Jets poached right back Matt Millar from fierce rivals Central Coast Mariners, and he could line up against his old side in a second-week F3 derby. Just 23, he managed one goal and eight assists in 23 appearances for the Mariners last season – and we’re expecting him to improve on that tally this season. Their left back is equally promising – 20 year old Northern Irishman Bobby Burns. Expect both to cause havoc down the wings.
The question: The Jets went from the Grand Final two years ago to missing the finals last season – and lost top-scorer Roy O’Donovan in the off-season. Can they bounce back?
Last season’s finish: 1st (lost in the Grand Final)
This season’s predicted finish: 4th
The star: Chris Ikonomidis was voted as the winner of the Harry Kewell medal this week and he is expected to make the step up again this season, forming a lethal strike force with Diego Castro and Bruno Fornaroli.
The boss: In Tony Popovic, Perth have got a man vastly experienced in guiding teams through an A-League season. Having had a stellar spell at the Wanderers he is looking to go one step further than he did last season with Perth after finishing as Premiers but missing out on a penalty shootout at home in the Grand Final. He also has the challenge this season of juggling the AFC Champions League.
Signings to look out for: The Glory poached two hot young talents in Nicolas D’Agostino and Dane Ingham from Brisbane Roar while they beat a host of other A-League sides for the signature of Osama Malik. Versatile defender Soo-beom Kim arrived from the K-League to add some much needed AFC Champions League experience with 1.92m tall Swiss centre back Gregory Wuthrich also signing to bolster Popovic’s defence.
The question: For the first time in the club’s history, Perth have AFC Champions League games on their fixture list and, with so many experienced players departing, how can they cope balancing both competitions?
Last season’s finish: 2nd (won the Grand Final to become A-League champions)
This season’s predicted finish: 2nd.
The star: Sydney FC have plenty to choose from but Milos Ninkovic will again be the key man for the champions this season. He adds that real touch of class to the squad and has the creative ability to make something out of nothing. The way he links with Adam Le Fondre and Kosta Barbarouses will be crucial to Sydney’s fortunes.
The boss: Steve Corica has built a strong squad here having continued the work of Graham Arnold and now has the target of going back-to-back this season. He has recruited well but will have a different type of season to last year as he looks to experiment a little bit more with the new players.
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Signings to look out for: Kosta Barbarouses’ arrival will surely bring plenty of goals, while Alexander Baumjohann’s crossing of Sydney from the Wanderers will stoke the flames of the already fiery derby and help fill the void left by Alex Brosque’s retirement. Ryan McGowan also joins and makes his A-League debut.
The question: It’s only be done once in the history of the A-League, by Brisbane Roar at the turn of the decade, but can Sydney FC go back-to-back and become champions again?
Last season’s finish: 6th (lost 3-1 to Melbourne Victory in elimination finals)
This season’s predicted finish: 11th.
The star: Steven Taylor. A former Premier League defender and arguably the A-League’s best centre-back. Phoenix scraped into the finals last year despite conceding seven more goals than the seventh-placed Jets – it is up to Taylor to tighten up the Nix defence this time around.
The boss: Ufuk Talay is taking charge of a senior side for the first time in his career. He was assistant coach at Sydney FC last season under Steve Corica, helping guide them to the A-League Championship. And he has a long history coaching youngsters in the national level – which will be vital when dealing with Phoenix’s young squad.
Signings to look out for: To call it a rebuild is an understatement – this was taking a wrecking ball to the squad and starting again from the very foundations. At one stage, they had just seven senior players on the books. David Ball’s experience in England’s Championship, League One, and League Two should help to replace the outstanding goal production of the departed Johnny Warren Medallist and golden boot winner Roy Krishna. Mexican Ulises Davila brings flair, while New Zealand international keeper Stefan Marinovic has the tough job of replacing last year’s keeper of the year Filip Kurto.
The question: They’ve lost young star Sarpreet Singh to Bayern Munich and the league’s top scorer in Roy Krishna to India. Can a very young side replace the goals?
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS
Last season’s finish: 8th
This season’s predicted finish: 5th
The star: With Radoslaw Majewski facing a season-ending knee injury, the Wanderers are in need of a player who can step up and fill the Polish star’s rather-large shoes. And that player could come in the form off-season recruit Daniel Georgievski. The 31-year old former Jet has looked electric during the pre-season and has given Western Sydney fans a glimpse of what he’s capable of if he’s given the freedom to play out wide on the left flank. His link-up play with fellow new boys Alexander Meier and Pirmin Schwegler could be a deadly combination for the men in red and black.
The boss: Failure is not something Markus Babbel is used to. Last season, the Wanderers only managed six wins out of their 27 games – a dismal ratio that simple isn’t to the standards of the former Bayern Munich and Liverpool tough-tackler. As a result, the German tactician has undergone a huge squad overhaul during the off-season, bringing in countless new (and old) faces. If Babbel’s off-season recruitment strategy is anything you to go by, his ambitions for the upcoming season should be crystal clear.
Signings to look out for: If there’s one thing the Wanderers lacked last term, it was an out-and-out goal scorer. But that will soon change with marquee man Alex Meier poised to light up the A-League. The 6ft 5in German target man amassed an incredible 119 goals in a 14-year career with Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga and looks set to give opposition defences nightmares. Also worth keeping an eye on is former Swiss international Pirmin Schwegler, ex-Socceroos duo Matthew Jurman and Dylan McGowan, and 21-year-old ace Nick Sullivan.
The question: The Wanderers have undergone huge change. Can all the new faces gel?
Last season’s finish: N/A
This season’s predicted finish: 6th
The star: There’s plenty of hype surrounding the A-League’s newest team. And the majority of eyes will be locked on the club’s inaugural marquee star Panagiotis Kone. The former Greek international arrives in Melbourne with a wealth of experience having had stints in France, Italy, Spain and his country of birth. This guy should light up the A-League in a green and black shirt.
The boss: We know all about Mark Rudan. What he did in his first season with the Phoenix was something to be admired – taking the club to their first finals appearance in donkey’s years. Now, the former Sydney FC and Adelaide defender has his sights set on silverware with the A-League newcomers. While the majority of the club’s first signings were made before Rudan’s highly-anticipated arrival, the 44-year-old still has a clean slate to work with and is tipped emulate last season’s individual success.
Signings to look out for: They may be the youngest team in the A-League, but there’s plenty of familiar faces in this star-studded squad. The front three of Besart Berisha, Alessandro Diamanti and Kone are expected to give opposition defences nightmares. Up the other end of the pitch, the likes of Aaron Calver, Andrew Durante, Brendan Hamill, Ersan Gulum and Josh Risdon should provide solid cover for shot stopper Filip Kurto.
The question: The Wanderers became Premiers in their inaugural season – can Western United do the same?