Scott Galloway (def) Wellington Phoenix; Michael Jakobsen (def) Melbourne City; Ben Halloran (mid) V-Varen Nagasaki; Mirko Boland (mid) Eintracht Braunschweig; Ken Ilso (att) Penang; Craig Goodwin (mid) free agent;
Ersan Gulum (k) (def) Hebei China – end of loan; Benjamin Garuccio (r) (def) Hearts; Tarek Elrich (r) (def) Western Sydney Wanderers; Jordan O’Doherty (sp) (mid) Western Sydney Wanderers; Daniel Adlung (r) (mid) Greuther Furth II; Johan Absalonsen (r) (att) Sonderjyske; Dzengis Cavusevic (sp) (att) released; Mark Ochieng (def) Adelaide Comets;
In the off season Adelaide lost 3 of their 4 regular starters in defence, Gulum returned to his parent club and both full-backs left, which forced coach Kurz to rebuild at the back. The other two significant departures were of the main ball-handler in midfield Adlung and the talented, but prone to injuries, striker Absalonsen. The latter scored a goal every 124 minutes on the pitch last season, but as he had three different spells out injured he was not very influential overall.
Coach Kurz already promoted through the ranks several very talented youngsters and after his breakthrough senior campaign last term it seems that now Strain will be playing regularly in defence where the gaffer also signed two new players. Both Jakobsen and Galloway are seen as important additions.
In midfield Kurz replaced Adlung with another German midfield in Mirko Boland and with Isaias and Lia around him, plus three-four very talented younger players the Reds are expected to dominate possession in many of their matches. Kurz likes possession-based football and he always encourages his players to keep control of the ball.
Adelaide should carry greater threat down the wings this season as the signings of the vastly experienced wingers Halloran and Goodwin suggests. Up front a lot of responsibility is focused on the new Danish forward Ilso, who can play equally well as a secondary striker and as a target man. Of course, in his third season with the Reds Diawara hopes to finally stay fit and when he is available the centre forward is usually very effective goalscorer.
Overall the team’s balance looks good, with the main issue being the shortage of forwards and also the uncertainty as to how good defensively things will be after 3 of the 4 starters from last season left.
Adelaide hope for a top three finish of the regular season and at least semi-finals in the play-offs, but there are better teams than them on paper and the more likely position of the Reds will be between 4th and 8th. Making the play-offs is the main goal!
Stefan Nigro (def) Melbourne Victory; Alex Lopez (mid) free agent; Stefan Mauk (mid) NEC Nijmegen; Tobias Mikkelsen (mid) Nordsjaelland; Adam Taggart (att) Perth Glory; Dylan Wenzel-Halls (att) Western Pride;
Michael Theo (r) (gk) released; Jade North (r) (def) released; Ivan Franjic (r) (def) Perth Glory; Massimo Maccarone (k) (att) Carrarese; Corey Brown (sp) (def) Melbourne Victory; Mitchell Oxborrow (sp) (mid) Broadmeadow; Corey Gameiro (sp) (att) Central Coast Mariners;
Coach Aloisi tried to refresh the oldest squad in the A-League over the summer, several veterans departed, but still Roar remain the team with highest average age in the competition and also the gaffer hasn’t shown ability to improve and mix the displays or the formations very well in the last few campaigns.
Roar lost two full-backs this transfer window, while their only new arrival in these positions was the inexperienced Nigro and it is obvious that the Tangerines are very short on options for the wide defensive positions.
The team’s main incoming transfer was striker Taggart, who will definitely be the main figure in attack, but after missing more than half of last season due to two different injuries (knee and hamstring) he is far from certain to stay fit all campaign now and Roar don’t have quality cover options in attack.
The health of numerous other players in the squad was an issue last term, with veterans Holman, McKay and Kristensen unlikely to remain fit all campaign as they haven’t managed to do so for several years now. Just like last term a lengthy injury list could spell problems as the campaign progresses.
Newcomers Mauk and Lopez are fresh alternatives for the heart of the midfield, youngster Akbari could also be getting much more playing time this season. In the wide attacking positions all 4 options are veterans, none of them is younger than 32, while in stark contrast only one of the full-backs is older than 21. With this in mind Aloisi might try something different and several times in pre-season wingers Ben Khalfallah and Bautheac were tested as full-backs. This hardly brought any success though, but it comes to show that Roar struggle for balance in their squad.
Roar might have refreshed their squad over the summer in attempt to challenge for a top three finish, but there are positions in which the team look very thin at the minute and also the advanced age and questionable health are concerns that most likely will again see Roar desperately fighting just to make the top six. Their chances to make the play-offs this season seem to be rated as 50/50 by most pundits at the minute.
Central Coast Mariners
Jonathan Aspropotamitis (def) Western Sydney Wanderers; Jack Clisby (def) Western Sydney Wanderers; Matt Simon (att) Sydney FC; Corei Gameiro (att) Brisbane Roar; Mario Shabow (mid) Newcastle Jets; Michael McGlinchey (mid) Wellington Phoenix; Tommy Oar (att) APOEL Nicosia; Joe Gauci (gk) WT Birkalla; Matthew Millar (def) South Melbourne; Josh MacDonald (att) Wolves FC (AUS); Jordan Murray (att) APIA (AUS); Kalifa Cisse (mid) free agent; Ross McCormack (att) Aston Villa – on loan; Aiden O’Neill (mid) Burnley – on loan;
Tom Glover (sp) (gk) Tottenham U23 – end of loan; Joshua Rose (r) (def) end of career; Alan Baro (k) (def) Olot (SPA); Wout Brama (r) (mid) Twente; Blake Powell (r) (att) Ceres-Negros; Daniel De Silva (r) (mid) Sydney FC; Trent Buhagiar (sp) (att) Sydney FC; Lachlan Wales (sp) (mid) Melbourne City; Storm Roux (sp) (def) Melbourne Victory; Harry Ascroft (sp) (def) Balzan (MAL); Liam Rose (sp) (mid) Ararat (ARM); Jacob Poscoliero (sp) (def) released; Peter Skapetis (sp) (att) released; Josh Bingham (att) released;
After 3 very tough years in a row Mariners desperately need a good season with Okon’s two unsuccessful campaigns in charge coming to an end last spring. Strangely in search of fresh start Mariners turned to coach Mike Mulvey, the man who led the team to their first ever last place finish 3 season ago.
At least Mulvey was given the funds to refresh the squad and despite the fact that 5 regulars left this summer Mariners were very active on the transfer market and they added 14 new faces to their ranks, could be 15 if Usain Bolt signs his first professional football contract after spending more than a month on trial.
With or without Bolt Mariners have better depth this season and at least in midfield and attack they look stronger. New strikers Gameiro and Simon are likely to provide supporting role for McCormack, who showed good potential during his time with Melbourne City last term. In midfield the coach added two experienced options for the wide positions, Oar and McGilnchey are tested A-League players, which suggests that this season Hoole might be used more often through the middle, a role that seems to be suiting him much better.
Dutchman Hiariej remains key figure in the heart of the midfield, but after the departure of his countryman Brama this summer he will now have to form new partnership in the double-six role with one of Cisse or O’Neill.
The main worries remain in defence where the quality seems to be low and Mariners will need to excel at the back in order to improve on their poor ‘goals conceded’ record from previous years.
Mariners desperately want to return to the play-offs after 3 very hard years, but despite the serious change in personnel they still seem not good enough to challenge for a top six finish and are more likely to find themselves between 7th and 10th spot yet again.
Mark Birighitti (gk) NAC Breda; Curtis Good (def) free agent; Lachlan Wales (mid) Central Coast Mariners; Florin Berenguer (mid) Sochaux; Michael O'Halloran (mid) Glasgow Rangers; Anthony Caceres (mid) Manchester City – on loan; Riley McGree (mid) Club Brugge – on loan; Ritchie De Laet (def) Aston Villa – on loan; Kearon Baccus (mid) Western Sydney Wanderers;
Dean Bouzanis (r) (gk) PEC Zwolle – on loan; Denis Genreau (mid) PEC Zwolle – on loan; Stefan Mauk (r) (mid) NEC Nijmegen – end of loan; Oliver Bozanic (r) (mid) Hearts; Daniel Arzani (r) (att) Manchester City; Bruce Kamau (r) (att) Western Sydney Wanderers; Ruon Tongyik (sp) (def) Western Sydney Wanderers; Nicholas Fitzgerald (sp) (mid) Western Sydney Wanderers; Michael Jakobsen (sp) (def) Adelaide United; Marcin Budzinski (sp) (mid) Cracovia Krakow; Hernan Espindola (mid) Hume City – on loan; Chris Cavallo (def) released;
On paper City lost several regulars over the summer, but they strengthen very well and the common opinion is that the squad is much stronger and with greater depth this season compared to last.
Coach Joyce will start his second year in charge and after already making City very solid at the back he now targets to improve the scoring record of his team. This shouldn’t be too hard with captain and arguably the best centre forward in the entire A-League Fornaroli fit and raring to go. The Uruguayan missed the majority of the regular season last term when he was injured, but a year earlier he broken all kinds of records in the A-League when fully fit and if this is the case again City will be scoring lots of goals.
Goalkeeper Bouzanis might have left this summer, but Birighitti was signed to replace him, plus City are probably the only team in the competition to have two vastly experienced shot-stoppers as veteran Galekovic is also an option.
In defence Schenkeveld was a revelation last season, as well as youngster Atkinson who proved to be very effective both as a right-back and right winger, but City added two more very good players for their back line over the summer. Good is a solid centre-back, while De Laet is a right-back, which suggests that this term Atkinson will be used higher up the pitch.
Caceres and McGree arrive on loan to boost even more the impressive options in midfield, Brattan and Vidosic already have certain starting roles there. City also refreshed their options down the wings where Berenguer, Wales and O’Halloran were signed to replace Arzani and Kamau.
Using 4-2-3-1 as a formation seems the most obvious choice for City, with the key for them being the health and form of their captain Fornaroli, who already established as the most effective player in A-League history with his major contribution (goal or assist) every 76 minutes he spends on the pitch.
Melbourne City hope that this will finally be the season they will be crowned champions for the first time and with most of the elements already in place the Citizens might just about achieve that. In any way it is hard to see them finishing outside the top three and also missing on the Grand Final.
Georg Niedermeier (def) Freiburg; Nick Ansell (def) Tondela (POR); Storm Roux (def) Central Coast Mariners; Corey Brown (def) Brisbane Roar; Keisuke Honda (att) Pachuca; Ola Toivonen (att) Toulouse; Raul Baena (mid) Granada – on loan;
Rhys Williams (r) (def) Al Qadishiyan; James Donachie (r) (def) Jeonnam Dragons; Leroy George (r) (att) Baniyas (UAE); Besart Berisha (k) (att) Sanfrecce Hiroshima; Stefan Nigro (sp) (def) Brisbane Roar; Matias Sanchez (sp) (mid) San Martin (ARG); Cameron McGilp (mid) Birmingham U23; Christian Theoharous (sp) (att) Borussia M’gladbach II; Pierce Waring (att) Cerezo Osaka; Mirch Austin (sp) (mid) released;
After becoming the first team to win the title after finishing the regular season outside the top two Victory showed everyone that they are the Dynasty of Australian football at the minute and the Royal Blues never lack confidence when they step on the pitch.
The off-season was tough though with some crucial players leaving. Both main centre-backs joined other Asian teams this summer, but also Victory parted ways with the A-League top goalscorer in history Berisha and last season’s Assist King of the league George.
Coach Muscat did his best to replace the last two by signing the vastly experienced Japanese Honda for the left wing, it must be said that Honda has been used mostly as a right winger or inner midfielder throughout his career and he might need some adjustment to this new role, plus veteran striker Toivonen. The Swede is tall typical centre forward and as he is the only natural striker in the current squad his health and contributions will be key.
The main concerns for Victory this season might be in defence though as the returning to the club Ansell and the German veteran Niedermeier will have to quickly form solid partnership in the heart of the back four. However, what worries most pundits is the lack of quality in the full-back positions. Both new arrivals Roux and Brown were not regular starters even for their previous clubs – Mariners and Roar – and they are yet to show proper quality in the A-League. This suggests that the natural centre-back Deng might continue starting on the right side of the defence as he was forced to do so numerous times last season with mixed success.
In midfield Victory continue to have impressive quality with all of Antonis, Valeri and Troisi proven A-League talents. Also the signed on loan Baena is expected to have an anchor role in front of the back four, which should give the other three even more freedom to venture forward.
Losing all of their supporting strikers on top of Berisha is a concern and at 32 Toivonen might be physically challenged to start every game both in the A-League and the beginning in February Asian Champions League, but by then Victory can be expected to sign one-two new forwards and their transfer activity should be monitored closely.
Defending their title is the logical goal and if everyone stays fit will once again have formidable starting XI, but in terms of depth Victory lack behind several other serious contenders and it seems more likely that they will finish somewhere between 3rd and 6th place.
Newcastle United Jets
Lewis Italiano (gk) Wellington Phoenix; Matthew Riddenton (mid) Wellington Phoenix; Mitch Austin (mid) Melbourne Victory; Kaine Sheppard (att) Avondale FC; Jair (att) free agent;
Jack Duncan (r) (gk) Al Qadisiyah; Riley McGree (sp) (mid) Club Brugge – end of loan; Wayne Brown (sp) (mid) Sutton United; Mario Shabow (mid) Central Coast Mariners; Patito Rodriguez (sp) (att) Moreirense;
Jets not only made the play-offs for the first time in 8 years last spring, but they went all the way to the match for the title and were really close to lifting the trophy. Having excellent first year in charge coach Merrick, the manager with most A-League wins to his name, lost only goalkeeper Duncan from his main squad this summer and Jets look stronger than they were last season.
Two players were brought from Phoenix, Merrick’s ex-club, plus an explosive Victory winger trying to resurrect his career after a year on the sidelines and also two new centre forwards to provide cover for O’Donovan. With them Jets are the only A-League team to have 4 centre forwards available in their ranks and unlikely many others their depth in attack is impressive.
Playmaker Vargas had the bad luck to break his ankle early last season, but before the injury and late on after his recovery he showed great talent and if he is to stay fit all year this term Jets will definitely be looking even stronger.
With settled squad and nice mix between youth and experience all over the pitch Jets look very well balanced for the start of the season and if the health of the few key players remains good throughout the campaign Blue and Reds are expecting to improve on their number of wins and goals scored from last year.
Ugarkovic and Champness were just two of several youngsters that had breakthrough seasons last term and both of them are expected to continue their progressive developments this year. Dmitri Petratos is another one flourishing under Merrick and the fact that he is given complete freedom in the number ten role brings out the best of him. It is also worth mentioning that Jets were the strongest attacking team from set pieces last season and this is likely to continue with Petratos really good with dead-ball situations.
Newcastle hope to challenge for the title again and despite not looking like a team capable to win it at the minute Merrick’s men should be able to secure another top four finish and with a bit of luck they could even reach their second Grand Final in a row.
Tando Velaphi (gk) Wellington Phoenix; Matthew Spiranovic (def) free agent; Tomislav Mrcela (def) Jeonnam Dragons; Jason Davidson (def) HNK Rijeka; Ivan Franjic (def) Brisbane Roar; Juande (mid) Spezia Calcio; Christopher Oikonomidis (mid) Lazio; Fabio Ferreira (mid) Sydney FC; Brendon Santalab (att) Western Sydney Wanderers;
Joseph Mills (r) (def) Forest Green; Xavi Torres (r) (mid) Elche; Adam Taggart (r) (att) Brisbane Roar; Jeremy Walker (def) released; Andreu Guerao (sp) (mid) released; Joe Knowles (att) released;
After five years of Lowe in charge Perth Glory decided the time for change had come this summer and after his very unsuccessful and short stint in Europe Tony Popovic returns to management in the A-League.
The new boss saw three of last season’s regulars departing even before he took charge, but ever since Popovic was appointed no other major player has left Perth, suggesting that the atmosphere in the team is improving. The most significant departure was that of striker Taggart, which means that now two veterans will be responsible for the goals. Keogh’s good A-League record and Santalab’s regularly impacting appearances off the bench should give Glory enough firepower up front to at least cause problems. Still without Taggart the team’s front line is definitely weaker.
Last season Glory had the poorest defensive record and not surprisingly Popovic focused his main efforts in sorting that. The signings of two new centre-backs and two new full-backs suggests that Glory could easily have a completely revamped back four this term. The fact that 3 of the 4 newcomers play regularly together for the national team hints that their mutual understanding will be good and for the first time in very long time Glory seem to look much stronger defensively than going forward.
In midfield Castro remains key figure, but Kennedy could be very important too as ever since joining last February he has played very well for Glory as box-to-box midfielder. Newcomer Juande and Wilson are likely to be battling for the right to start next to Kennedy.
The main worry for many pundits is the fact that 10 of Glory’s players are aged 30 or over, 4 of them 34 and older, plus several of the main squad members have history of injury problems and this could also affect the season in negative way once summer is in full swing and the playing conditions become difficult.
Glory are very likely to improve significantly on their defensive record from previous years, but in terms of challenging for more than decent play-off presence the Violets will find it hard. Any finish between 4th and 6th place seems most likely for Glory, with this suggesting that making it past the play-offs semi-final stage will be hard.
Daniel De Silva (mid) Central Coast Mariners – on loan; Trent Buhagiar (att) Central Coast Mariners; Jop van der Linden (def) AZ Alkmaar; Siem de Jong (mid) Ajax – on loan; Adam Le Fondre (att) Bolton;
Jordy Buijs (k) (def) V-Varen Nagasaki; Adrian Mierzejewski (r) (mid) CC Yatai (CHN); Bobo (k) (att) Alanyaspor; Luke Wilkshire (sp) (def) Wolves FC (AUS); Fabio Ferreira (sp) (mid) Perth Glory; Matt Simon (sp) (att) Central Coast Mariners; David Carney (sp) (mid) released; Anthony Kalik (sp) (mid) Hajduk Split – end of loan;
Failure to defend their title last spring made Arnold’s decision to leave his role as manager and take charge of Australia’s national team easy. As his replacement the Sky Blues appointed Steve Corica, who will be making his first steps in the A-League this year.
This was not the only change though with Sydney also losing three key players from their squad over the summer. Defender Buijs, wide midfielder Mierzejewski and the A-League’s Golden Boot winner Bobo were significant departures that forced rebuilding process to begin.
Fascinated by the technical abilities of the Dutch players and their cheap price-tags Sydney once again shopped in Holland extendedly. Van der Linden was signed to become the new main partner for experienced Wilkinson in the heart of the defence, plus Siem de Jong arrived on loan and he is an extremely talented inner midfielder that can also score goals and provide crucial passes in the final third.
Le Fondre was signed from the English second tier to replace Bobo up front and he will have to be providing the goals if Sydney are to be successful. The new boss also added to the squad two young talents from Mariners and at least Buhagiar enjoyed excellent pre-season in his new role as a striker, with his electric speed likely to hurt many defences this season.
The main right-back Grant spent pretty much the entire last season injured, but when fit he is one of the best in his role in the A-League and in general Sydney continue to have very solid squad and decent depth. That said lack of experience, just 4 players in the squad are aged 30 and over, might prove crucial in key fixtures, just as it did last season.
Especially in attack Sydney are one of the many Australian teams short on numbers and putting all their hopes in the legs of just one player. If Le Fondre gets injured, he had injury issues in all of the last 4 seasons, Sydney not only lack other quality goalscorers, but the oldest replacement option Lokolingoy is just 21 and he is yet to score an A-League goal.
New era begins for Sydney and despite the fact that once again they are likely to be amongst the contenders they most likely won’t reach the Grand Final and will also struggle to finish the regular season in the top two. Still a top 4 finish seems guaranteed!
Filip Kurto (gk) Roda; Steven Taylor (def) Peterborough; Louis Fenton (def) Melbourne Knights; Michal Kopczynski (mid) Legia Warsaw – on loan; Mitch Nichols (mid) free agent; David Williams (att) Haladas (HUN); Max Burgess (mid) Sydney Olympic; Mandi (mid) Almeria;
Lewis Italiano (r) (gk) Newcastle Jets; Matthew Riddenton (r) (mid) Newcastle Jets; Scott Galloway (r) (def) Adelaide United; Marco Rossi (r) (def) Siena; Goran Paracki (r) (mid) Neftci Baku; Matija Ljujic (r) (mid) Belenenses; Andrija Kaludjerovic (r) (att) NK Olimpija; Tando Velaphi (sp) (gk) Perth Glory; Michael McGlinchey (sp) (mid) Central Coast Mariners; Logan Rogerson (sp) (mid) Carl Zeis Jenna; James McGarry (mid) Willem II; Adam Parkhouse (sp) (mid) released; Keegan Smith (sp) (gk) Tasman United;
With their A-League future on the line Phoenix start third consecutive season with a new manager, with this probably the last campaign in which the Kiwis could claim extension of their presence in this competition. They badly need vastly improved audience numbers and play-off presence, goals which could be achieved only by winning matches. Mark Rudan is experienced boss and as he has worked with many U21 and U23 squads in recent years Phoenix are expected to be hub for young talents this season.
This will be needed as currently the Kiwis have the smallest squad in the A-League after 12 players left and only 6 new ones were signed so far. That said just recently the A-League changed their transfer rules allowing players under 21 to join other A-League teams on loan and immediately 6-7 high-profile names were linked with possible switch to Phoenix for the season, which if it happens will give the team depth.
As many as seven regular starters from last season left, Rudan released all Serbian and Croatian players his predecessor brought, but it must be said that that few signings Phoenix made were quality ones. New Polish goalkeeper and Polish holding midfielder bring European experience with them, while the proven A-League striker David Williams joins Krishna and Burns up front, with the trio one of the best forward lines in the entire division and likely to bring lots of goals.
The main issues at the minute are in midfield where Phoenix have exactly 4 natural midfielders. Two of them youngsters Rufer and Singh are expected to have breakthrough year as regular starters. The main hope for creative spark lies in Nichols, who is one of the most talented Australian-born playmakers, but he must stay fit if Phoenix are to challenge for a top six finish. Things got better in midfield even before the season starts with Phoenix adding two more players in that area. Burgess is young Australian attacking midfielder that will be providing cover for Nichols, while Spaniard Mendi comes from La Liga to very likely create a formidable European partnership with Kopczynski right in front of the back four. With these two transfers Phoenix suddenly look well balanced and potential contenders for the play-offs.
In defence Phoenix seem to have enough cover and their mix of veterans and youngsters is expected to help the likes of Carace and Fox to grow as players.
Phoenix badly need a top six finish, but it could be achieved only if the squad size increases. In terms of starting XI the Kiwis have impressive squad and if everyone stays healthy a return to the play-offs could happen. Any finish between 5th and 10th place for Phoenix won’t surprise many.
Western Sydney Wanderers
Danijel Nizic (gk) Morecambe; Patrick Ziegler (def) Kaiserslautern; Tarek Elrich (def) Adelaide United; Jordan O'Doherty (mid) Adelaide United; Ruon Tongyik (def) Melbourne City; Nicholas Fitzgerald (mid) Melbourne City; Bruce Kamau (att) Melbourne City; Rashid Mahazi (mid) Moreland Zebras; Alexander Baumjohann (mid) Vitoria (BRA);
Jack Clisby (sp) (mid) Central Coast Mariners; Jonathan Aspropotamitis (r) (def) Central Coast Mariners; Michael Thwaite (r) (def) Gold Coast; Steven Lustica (r) (mid) Inter Zapresic (CRO); Alvaro Cejudo (r) (mid) Racing Santander; Brendon Santalab (sp) (att) Perth Glory; Christopher Oikonomidis (sp) (mid) Lazio – end of loan; Kearon Baccus (sp) (mid) Melbourne City;
Wanderers are glad to have the dramas from the beginning of last season behind them, emblematic coach Popovic resigned a week before the start of the 2017/18 campaign to move to Europe, and the appointment of Markus Babbel in charge this summer was welcomed very well by everyone at the club. The German, ex-Champions League winner with both Bayern Munchen and Liverpool, brings fresh tactical ideas with him and it seems that Wanderers will be using the fluid 4-3-3 formation a lot this season.
The first thing Babbel did since taking charge was to transfer Bonevacia from the heart of the midfield to the left wing and based on the excellent personal contributions from the Dutchman in pre-season this will be a winning formula.
Wanderers allowed several aging players and a few others that struggled to fit in Babbel’s possession-based style of play to leave this summer and the only departure that the gaffer was against was that of the wide Spanish midfielder Cejudo. That said it was because of him leaving that Bonevacia was moved to the left wing and it seems that this is already forgotten.
Babbel brought two of his countryman to the squad, Ziegler is solid centre-back that seems to struggle with injuries too often, while Baumjohann is vastly experienced playmaker that comes from Brazil’s top flight and he shouldn’t have problems with the weather conditions in Australia as he has already adapted to hot and humid weather.
Last season Riera was Wanderers’ top goalscorer without receiving very good service, with the Spanish striker expected to be even more effective this term in his second year in the A-League. To improve the quality of the crosses towards the very dangerous in the air striker Babbel not only moved Bonevacia out wide, but he also signed wingers Kamau and Fitzgerald, with another newcomer O’Doherty also capable to play out wide.
Stretching the pitch and using overlapping runs from their full-backs already emerges as a pattern for Wanderers this season, but they also have Baumjohann making constant solo runs through the middle and in general the forward actions under Babbel are expected to be very fluid.
The main concern is the defence where Wanderers are short on centre-backs and if Ziegler struggles with injuries Red and Blacks might have to improvise. Elrich joined the squad as a versatile full-back, he can play both left and right of the defence, but the experienced player might be used as a centre-back as well if needs must.
Wanderers aim to return to the Grand Final and despite being short on numbers in defence they have the overall quality in the squad to be at least considered serious contenders. Top 4 finish should be easily achieved, with Babbel’s progressive tactics making Red and Blacks one of the team’s to watch in the title race as if his players respond well Wanderers would be very hard to beat.