Thursday, 23 August 2018

Ajax Perspective: Siem De Jong

Ahead of Siem De Jong's move to Sydney, I spoke with Ajax Amsterdam supporter @DynamicNeres to get the low down on the new Sydney FC signing. Thank you very much for helping out with this, chuck him a follow.

All Sides Of The Harbour: What position or positions does de Jong play?

DynamicNeres:  Siem de Jong can play as a: central midfielder, attacking midfielder and as a striker. I personally think he plays best as an attacking midfielder since he played most of his career there.

ASOTH: What are his strengths as a player?

DN:  His strengths, I think he has two main strengths, first being he has a lot of experience. Played for the Dutch national team, and played in the English Premier League. He scores often, most of the time he is at the right spot at the right time to score.

ASOTH: What is his play style? What can Sydney fans expect to see from him?

DN: He is a really attacking player. He can score headers, is good with penalties and can also provide assists. If needed he will help try to regain the ball by defending from the front and tracking back. The fans can expect goals and assists from this guy.

ASOTH: He seems to have had an injury ridden few years. When he is fully fit, how good can he be?

DN: His injuries had a major impact on his career. He was Ajax captain and was very important before his injury. Then he went to Newcastle and picked up an injury, he never got back to his old form. When he is fully fit he can be a real threat to the opposition.

De Kapitein
ASOTH: He seems to have captained Ajax in the past, how is he viewed by fans?

DN: He was always loved by Ajax fans. However last year he was loaned out to PSV (Big rival of Ajax) by Newcastle, and to make things even worse he scored for PSV against Ajax in one of the most important matches of the year. He is not really loved anymore but also not hated when he returned. He lost some respect with the fans then. I think you did good business getting Siem and I'm sure he will perform. Good luck for next season.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

MATCH REVIEW: Cairns FC 1-2 Sydney FC (FFA Cup)

Sydney overcame a resolute Cairns F.C. outfit in the FFA Cup 2-1, as the boys from the Tropics nearly pull off a major cupset.

Cairns went ahead thanks to a banging goal from 18 year old Cavanagh, who slammed home a badly cleared corner. "The Heat" looked impressive defensively, closing down their opposition frequently, and well.

It took until the second half for the Sky Blues to equalise, with skipper Alex Brosque scoring from the penalty spot following a handball from a Cairns defender.

Within a few minutes, Sydney were then ahead thanks to a classy finish from youngster Trent Buhagiar. The Gosford born forward was supplied by a classy through ball from Milos Ninkovic.

However, there was still a twist left in the FFA Cup fairytale story, as Aaron Calver brought done a Cairns forward and was harshly judged to be a penalty. Up stepped Cairns' star striker Josh Taylor, but his effort from the spot was well saved by goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne. The 'keeper spared the blushes of Sydney FC and ensured they went home with a quarter final ticket.

Jop van der Linden took a brilliant freekick which crossed the line, but bounced out and was not given by the referee, nor linesman.

But, what did we learn from tonight's cup clash?

1) Sydney are in need of le Fondre

A rather toothless display in front of goal, with two non-natural strikers starting up front. They were calling out for a target man, and I feel looked most impressive when youngster Charles Lokolingoy was subbed on and created some room. "Alfie" could very much complete the puzzle of unlocking the goals in this team. 

2) Redmayne the Redeemer

Andrew Redmayne cops a lot of stick from supporters, rather unfairly I feel, but always comes up when needed. His penalty save and constantly strong performance throughout the night probably showcased more the issues of the back four in front of him. Jop van der Linden and Calver had previously only played 50 minutes together (in a friendly) and clearly looked shaky. Zullo had a bit of an off night, whilst constantly on the ball, rarely able to do much with his crosses.

3) Grant's back, baby

The fan favourite returned for his first competitive minutes since 2017, and looked solid. Whilst clearly not 100% fit, he showed bits of that engine we all knew well. He's a major asset to the club and if he performs well this year, the club will too I feel. He played 80 minutes before being subbed off for Zuvela, to an overwhelming positive reaction from social media.

4) Missing the flair 

A much smaller point, but Sydney lacked that Danny de Silva flair in this match. Cairns were hard to break down, similar to Rockdale, but this time around they had no silky youngster with a point to prove. Having a few more younger members playing tonight would have perhaps been a decent idea.

Full player ratings

FINAL SCORE: Sydney FC (2) def. Cairns FC (1)
MOTM: Alex Brosque

Monday, 20 August 2018

Preview: Cairns FC vs Sydney FC (FFA Cup)

Sydney FC travel to Cairns for their Round of 16 fixture this week, as they look to build on a solid preseason and venture towards further glory in the FFA Cup.

Predicted lineup:
Bench: Cisak, Calver, Grant, Devlin, Cox

Sydney will be missing defender Alex Wilkinson (injury), midfielder Danny de Silva (injury), and recent signing Adam le Fondre (visa) for this game. However, it is not of great concern considering Cairns' recent form in the QPL. "The Heat" have lost their last 5 league matches, conceding a total of 16 goals and only scoring 2.
Cairns celebrating a goal

Former A-League player Adam Sarota is unavailable for the club due to injury, and as such have been dealt a massive blow in their hopes for a cupset.

Cairns got to the Round of 16 with a comprehensive 4-0 win over Western Australian side Armadale SC. They impressed in that victory, and showed an eye for goal throughout.  
Jop van der Linden is set to make his debut

I predict Sydney will start with Lokolingoy and Brosque leading the line in a 4-4-2, with the midfield remaining fairly similar to the team that beat Rockdale 4-2. Wilkinson being injured does mean Jop van der Linden is in line to make his first competitive appearance for the Sky Blues.

Lokolingoy getting potentially his first ever competitive start is a massive chance for him to impress. The youngster struggled to get any minutes in last season, but has blistering pace and a powerful shot on him. Him scoring could be a massive confidence boost ahead of the new season. 

Ben Warland will be eager to impress, in hopes of potentially getting the permanent gig as starting CB alongside Wilkinson. 

Rhyan Grant played in the behind closed doors game against Brisbane Roar, but I suspect he won't be starting just yet but instead on the bench. 

I think Cairns will need to be very well organised to stand any chance of a cupset. Their major advantage will the familiar surroundings and experience with the humidity of the tropics. Realistically however, this game will go one of two ways - a massive scoreline in favour of Sydney, similar to their 8-0 win in Darwin last year, or a tighter but undemanding 4-2 like the Rockdale game in which Sydney's general quality and consistency will see them through. 

SCORE PREDICTION: Cairns 1-5 Sydney FC

Friday, 17 August 2018

Bolton Perspective: Adam Le Fondre

Ahead of Adam Le Fondre's transfer to Sydney FC, I asked Bolton supporter Kian Horrock for what we should know about "Alfie". Thank you to @KianHorrocks for helping out on this.

All Sides Of The Harbour: What type of player can Sydney expect to see?

Kian Horrocks:  Sydney F.C. fans can expect 110% effort from Adam Le Fondre, works his socks off. He’s got a bit if pace about him for his age and can dribble well. When it comes down to finishing he is superb, without Alf we would have been relegated last season. One downside is his height, he plays better with a target man up front as well as him to knock it down and play the ball to him, there’s a lot of highlights on YouTube

ASOTH: He seems to be much loved by the Bolton faithful, why is this?

Le Fondre during his time at Reading
K.H:  We loaned Adam from Reading back in around 2014/15 season. He made a massive impact, scoring a lot of goals and soon became a fan favourite. In many interviews he stated that he loves this club because of the fans. Loans come to an end and Bolton'ss rivals Wigan Athletic snatched him up like many ex Bolton players on loan. This loan spell was unsuccessful as he didn’t get a lot of game time. He had another spell with recently promoted Wolves which was unsuccessful as well. He was then released by Reading and Bolton snatched him up on a permanent which excited the fans. Since then he’s had a very successful spell with Bolton and will be missed thoroughly

ASOTH: Le Fondre has scored nearly 200 league goals, what do you think makes him so deadly?

K.H: He scores outrageous goals, he scores tap ins, he scores headers, he can do the whole lot, he’s got a deadly strike and is a fantastic penalty taker. His work ethic is fantastic. On behalf of all Wanderers fans, we would like to wish the very best of luck to Alfie in his future endeavours and is welcome back anytime.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Twitter Reacts To ALF > Sydney FC

News broke overnight of Adam Le Fondre joining Sydney FC. Here's some of the best reactions, from Bolton and Sydney FC supporters.

RUMOUR: Adam Le Fondre to Sydney FC?

The Bolton News reported overnight that former Cardiff City and Reading striker Adam Le Fondre was released by Bolton Wanderers to join Sydney FC.

Image result for adam le fondre

Le Fondre, 31, has been a bit of a journeyman in English football since his breakout spell at Reading in the Premier League. Le Fondre has been at 5 clubs on loan from Cardiff since joining in 2014. He joined Bolton Wanderers on a permanent deal last season, following a successful loan spell.

The Englishman is yet to play outside of his homeland, but according to papers believes this is a good move for his family, with Sydney offering a 3 year deal.

What does this mean for Sydney?

ALF in his time at Reading proved to be a strong striker, capable of scoring and one of the best penalty takers in the league. In his only Premier League season, he scored 12 goals. Fox Sports believes he will be under the salary cap, meaning he is not a marquee.

Personally, I think he's a solid choice for backup striker. His record of scoring at every level of the English pyramid shows at very least his ability to do what strikers do. At Bolton, he scored 13 goals in under 2 years.

Is his pedigree as flashy as Bob├┤? No. But Sydney signed the likes of Bruno Cazarine, Ranko Despotovic, and Stephan Keller in the past. Pedigree doesn't guarantee success.

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Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Post game thoughts: Hakoah 0-0 Sydney FC (Friendly)

Can't really do a proper match report, so here's my list of thoughts on tonight's friendly between Hakoah and Sydney FC.

Hakoah put in a solid defensive shift, with them leaving very little room for the Sky Blues to get the ball into the box. They were robust in the tackle, and were very well organised.

Charles Lokolingoy was probably the most lively player from Sydney FC. He had a few chances and applied pressure throughout the game on Hakoah defenders. His hold up play has improved a lot during the offseason. Pace was how he got 2 of his chances - both required strong saves from the keeper.

Danny De Silva looked good on the ball, constantly finding a way past his player - with either his pace or skill. He went off injured in the second half, with a hamstring issue after attempting to stop the ball from running out of play.

Chris Zuvela was good on recovery from mistakes - strong in the tackle too. Very good passing play between him and Brillante, and then O'Neill.

Alex Brosque played about 70 minutes, before handing the armband to Brandon O'Neill. Captain Fantastic looked solid on the ball, didn't have any shots on goal.

Zullo and Retre looked pretty average, neither having much luck. Too much focus on passing the ball on the floor - maybe 2-3 aerial crosses all game.

Feel free to leave questions about the game and I'll answer them, either here or on my twitter @VuvuZuvela

RUMOUR: Álvaro Negredo to Sydney FC?

Overnight, beIN Sports Turkey revealed a potentially massive transfer - Spaniard Álvaro Negredo to Sydney FC. The former Manchester City striker is currently playing for Besiktas in Turkey.

Negredo has been capped 21 times by his country, scoring 10 times

This would be a strong answer to the signing of Keisuke Honda by rivals Melbourne Victory. They currently face competition from newly promoted Cardiff City for his signature - and his set price tag of £3 million.

However, Cardiff would likely use the Spaniard as a bench option, whereas the Sky Blues would be giving him better wages and a starting spot. In Turkey, the majority of his appearances came from the bench.

This would also continue the line of Turkish S├╝per Lig players joining Sydney FC, and the third "Black Eagle" to join after Holosko and Bob├┤.

The striker won the English Premier League with Manchester City, scoring 9 goals in 32 appearances. But he made a name for himself at his previous club, Sevilla. At the Spanish club he scored 70 goals in 139 appearances between 2009 and 2013.

He also had loan spells at Valencia, and Middlesbrough before joining Besiktas in 2017 where he was scored 7 goals in 31 appearances.

Friday, 3 August 2018

We're Destined To Fail In Asia

I'll put it simply: Australia has under-performed in the Asian Champions League since it joined the AFC. Despite having two teams make the final, and one of those two winning it - it isn't good enough.

Adelaide United (runners up 2008, quarter finalists 2012) and Western Sydney Wanderers (winners 2014) were the only two Australian sides to make it past the Round of 16. 5 other sides got knocked out in the R16. This isn't good enough.

The quality of Asian football isn't exactly a high ceiling, especially compared to generally how talented our best clubs are. Ange's Roar, and Arnold's Sydney collectively only made the R16 once. The two greatest sides to grace modern Australian football. Out of the 8 sides to reach the Round of 16 in Asia, two of them were coached by Graham Arnold.

Sydney FC's 2018 campaign left a lot to be desired. Despite being predicted to at very least make it to the Round of 16 or further, they were knocked out in the group stage. Why was this? Failure to win home games, and failure to score goals. Kashima Antlers, and Suwon (the two teams to make it out of their group) were hardly incredible sides that were dangerous.

Australian football fans are all too aware of the Brisbane Roar failure in the preliminary stages against Ceres Negroes. This was unfortunately not even the lowest point for Australian football, in my opinion.

The 2017 Asian Champions League campaign was. A campaign in which Australian sides conceded a total of 49 goals across 3 teams in 18 matches. Collectively, they won only 4 matches. In all of those wins, they conceded at very least a goal. These were quality sides too.

How do we fix these failures?

1) Increase A-League squad size

The A-League squad size is a maximum of 23 players. In Asia, the maximum squad size is 30 for the Champions League. Due to a salary cap within those 23 selected players in their A-L squad, they will likely have minimal depth and rely on youth players who typically don't get gametime in the 27 round A-League season. 

In addition to the generally well accepted idea that we need more clubs, we need more ways for youth players in A-L clubs to gain experience. Especially when there'll likely be at least 1/3 of the squad being U23 players. 

The fix to this is probably more clubs, which would mean more rounds for the youth players to get experience. A larger bench as well is needed. 5 is the current number of substitutes on an A-League bench. This needs to be increased to 7 in my opinion, so there's an increased chance of our youngsters getting at very least time off the bench.

2) Increase the cap, or remove it

The A-League cap is an interesting thing. I feel it was very much needed in the early days of the A-League, but now it is holding us back. The best teams are punished for having the best players, and with the ACL beginning an entire 12 months after they've likely qualified - they will lose players. 

Chinese clubs are known for their outrageous spending on players, typically foreign stars. Their Chinese players are however, not very good compared to their Australian equivalents I feel. Chinese clubs can pay their best players (foreign players) whatever is needed to get them to play there. In Australia, with 2 marquee spots, you need them to be quality players - but also willing to earn less than $1.5m a year. 

A-League clubs are often linked with high profile players, but we very often lose them to rival Asian nations due to better money. I know that our clubs can spend a lot more on players if they really wanted to. But they've been limited by the cap.

A concept that I quite like is that financial fair play or just a luxury tax replace the current system. A luxury tax, as described by Wikipedia is:

"A luxury tax in professional sports is a surcharge put on the aggregate payroll of a team to the extent to which it exceeds a predetermined guideline level set by the league. The ostensible purpose of this "tax" is to prevent teams in major markets with high incomes from signing almost all of the more talented players and hence destroying the competitive balance necessary for a sport to maintain fan interest. The money derived from the "tax" is either divided among the teams that play in the smaller markets, presumably to allow them to have more revenue to devote toward the contracts of high-quality players, or in the case of Major League Baseball, used by the league for other pre-defined purposes."

I think this would work well in the A-League, especially as an easier replacement for the current cap system.

3) Acknowledge the failures, become more ambitious

Too often we accept the failures of Australian teams in Asia. We like to believe it is due to the quality difference between us and top Asian nations. We believe that the ACL "doesn't matter" when our clubs fail. 

This mentality holds us back. It's frustrating. I watch a lot of Australian football, I love the game and have enjoyed watching Sydney FC's campaigns in Asia over the years. But we accept failure and try and rationalise it. We need to push for the stars, aim high. Getting out of the group stage shouldn't be as difficult as it currently is for our sides. Our best teams should regularly be getting past the Round of 16, and into the latter stages more often. 

Our national team (despite hiccups in World Cups of recent years) has dominated Asia. In 13 years we've won the Asian Cup, and been runners up. We've got a campaign coming up in less than 6 months to look forward to. We believe we can win the Asian Cup, and we should. Why don't we believe this with our club sides?

Thank you for reading this ramble-y mess. 

Follow me on twitter at @VuvuZuvela.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

MATCH REVIEW: Rockdale City 2-4 Sydney FC (FFA Cup)

The Sky Blues started their FFA Cup defence with a workmanlike 4-2 win over Rockdale City. Despite going a goal down in the first minutes of the game, the A-League premiers never looked too troubled.

Harris Gaitatzis opened the scoring for the night, with a classy dipped shot from outside the area to put the Suns ahead. They were robust in the tackle and stopped Sydney from creating many clear cut chances in the first half.

Danny De Silva equalised for Sydney FC on 30 minutes, with a delightful volley off a deflected corner - to which Covic had no answer.

Sydney nearly went ahead before half time, with Danny De Silva finding Trent Buhagiar in space before his shot rattled off the woodwork.
Warland celebrates his goal

The Sky Blues begun the second half well, with Ben Warland scoring off a corner routine to give advantage to Sydney. The "baller from Gawler" headed home a Brandon O'Neill cross.

Within moments, Sydney went 3-1 up. Alex Brosque intercepted a loose pass, before feeding it to Ninkovic for a one-two, which resulted in the skipper toe poking past the keeper.

Fifteen minutes later, it was the Sydney captain who made it 4-1. Youngster Trent Buhagiar the provider, to give Brosque a tap-in his brace.

Rockdale pulled a goal back thanks to a terrific counter attack, to which Toufic Alameddine finished terrifically - with a low hard shot past Redmayne.

The Sydney goalkeeper was subbed off not too long after, having received a head injury during a corner. Alex Cisak made his debut for Sydney, a whole year after first signing for the club.

Despite the Sky Blues not being at their best and ultimately needing two strong 20 minute spells, they always looked the better side. Defensively fragile, but not too bad considering it was only the third game of their preseason. Rockdale played well, but ultimately the gulf in class was too much.

De Silva celebrates his goal
Danny De Silva looked strong throughout, and was constantly on the move both defending and attacking. Rockdale had no answer for his tricks and flicks, and he was always looking to make a forward pass. Very impressive debut. Strong defensive workrate.

Trent Buhagiar also enjoyed a good debut, with his pace causing problems for the Suns. Unlucky to not get on the scoresheet, but looked threatening during his 70 minutes on the pitch. Replaced by Charles Lokolingoy who looked keen to take on his man, but had no real opportunities in front of goal.

Michael Zullo had a fairly off night, with him being constantly beaten by his man. Probably the weakest performance of the night, and his worst as a Sydney player - luckily in a match that ultimately was fairly tame.

It's hard to take much for certain out of the FFA Cup matches, but the promising signs of Buhagiar and DDS outweighed the concerns at the back. Brosque isn't as pacey as he was 2-3 years ago, but showed poachers instinct to bag his brace.

Full player ratings

FINAL SCORE: Sydney FC (4) def. Rockdale City (2)
MOTM: Danny De Silva