The legacy of Graham Arnold’s contributions to Australian soccer keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. With two rounds to spare, the Sydney Football Club are Hyundai A-League Premiers and are in good position to win the A-League Championship ring. Currently, the Sky Blues are 19-5-1 (62 points), with their only loss coming against in-city rivals Western Sydney Wanderers (more on them in a bit).
Bobo has been a revelation for Sydney, with 14 goals to his tally, while Alex Brosque‘s 10 goals have added a balanced look to their scoring attack. The contributions from Milos Ninkovic (eight goals) and Filip Holosko (seven goals) aren’t too dang shabby either.
Through 25 matches, Kevin Muscat’s Melbourne Victory are 14-3-8 (45 points) are close to locking up up a spot in next year’s AFC Champions League second preliminary round (Sydney will be in the group stage). The Big V hasn’t been big on form, with a significant amount of their eight defeats coming against the current premiers.
It should not come as a surprise that Kevin Muscat’s reign as gaffer could be in serious jeopardy if they do not win the championship. While Bobo has been a boom, Alan Baro has been a bust, and the over reliance on Besart Berisha (18 goals) combined with a preseason snub of the club by Michael Essien had made this an otherwise forgettable season by Victory’s lofty standards. As for the other teams in position for Finals Series placement, the scenario is not so secure.
John Aloisi’s Brisbane Roar look to be locked in on a Finals Series sport at 10-9-6 (39 points) and can use the rest of the season to prepare for the first phase of the postseason. Jamie Maclaren has had a strong year with 18 goals this campaign. The Roar may have to settle for third even if they win out the rest of the season due to a difference in goal differential compared to the Victory (+17 for MVC, +7 for BRI). But after their 5-1 demolition of Central Coast in Round 25, there is reason to believe that they can catch them.
Meanwhile, Michael Valkanis’s Melbourne City have dropped in form after the departure of John van’t Schip, and in spite of an FFA Cup win, City’s bid for more silverware is looking grim at 10-6-9 (36 points). Bruno Fornaroli, however, has continued to be reliable and has 17 goals. The Golden Boot race could come down to the wire with Berisha, Maclaren and Fornaroli finding the back of the net a combined 53 times this season.
The Wanderers, at 8-10-7 (34 points) could be thinking about changing gaffers after seeing another disappointing campaign in the AFC Champions League indicate how weak their fortunes have been in the 2016-17 A-League season. While they are fifth in the standings, the Wanderers will need to lift if they are to keep their boss on the books at the club.
Perth Glory are sixth on the ladder at 8-9-8 (33 points) and need to win next week against Brisbane to secure passage. As for Des Buckingham’s Wellington Phoenix, a 3-0 scalp of the Victory in Round 25 away may have come too little, too late: Sydney FC at the Sydney Football Stadium are next.
Central Coast Mariners (6-5-14, 23 points), Adelaide United (5-7-13, 22 points) and Newcastle Jets (5-7-13, 22 points) may have to think about next season, making the last two rounds audition rounds for a spot on the lists in 2017-18. The Reds’ title defense is officially history, and the only question that has to be asked is whether Guillermo Amor will return as manager or if the patience with the board has finally forced their hand for once.
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