This season has been an absolute disaster for Sydney FC and the Western Sydney Wanderers. Now I know what fans that don’t support these teams are thinking, “You’re sitting in 6th and have one a title and played in a Grand Final in the last 2 season”, well that’s for Sydney at least, most probably agree about the Wanderers part but just enjoy seeing them struggle. But for FC, that should be every season!
One of if not the biggest clubs in the league (Victory fans may disagree) but the fact is they have always been there or there about for most of the league’s history. 5 Championships, 4 Premiers titles and since 2016 we have been the most dominant team in the league, and its not close. And the man responsible for all of this is current Socceroo’s manager Graham Arnold, Not Steve Corica. So, while yes it has been a good spell in recent times as FC fans, everything bit of success we have enjoyed was because of Graham Arnold. And isn’t it starting to show now.
Last season by most metrics was a successful season for the Sky Blues. Finished second on the ladder and made the Grand Final only to be beaten by Melbourne City 3-1 on the back of a stupid brain snap from Luke Brattan leading to a red card early and a dominant performance from Nathaniel Atkinson. But even throughout the season, much like this season, I never thought we had a chance of coming away with the Championship. As crazy as it seems, I never felt Sydney were good enough to win, and felt we were more than fortunate to make the Grand Final let alone win it. Teams were starting to really figure out how Sydney played as it hadn’t changed since Graham Arnold left to become Socceroo’s manager and Club Legend Steve Corica took over. The only thing that made Sydney FC still as good as they were was the squad Arnold had built. Although signs of age were definitely appearing, with Ninkovic, Le Fondre, Wilkinson and Redmayne all very much showing signs of slowing down.
Turn to this season and well its obvious the dominant times for Sydney FC are leaving and fast. With only 2 wins from 8 games this season and off the back of a week where the SkyBlues Drew with Brisbane at home, were knocked out of the cup by the Mariners midweek and lost this weekend at home to Perth who also played midweek in Brisbane and had to travel. Its clear for all at Sydney FC that this season is not going to be a trophy winning one and its time for Change. If Corica fails to get the win this week against bitter rivals the Melbourne Victory in Melbourne, Corica must either step down or be removed from the position.
He will always be a legend for the club, Delivered the game winning goal in the inaugural final, 106 appearances as a player, and delivering us a Championship as a manager (all be it with a Graham Arnold built team. But its time for a fresh voice to take the team.
As for the Wanderers, what more needs to be said. I don’t believe it is purely a Karl Robinson manager problem, although he doesn’t seem to know how to tactically design a game plan. I think the Wanderers problems are far deeper and go to the top of the Club. An owner who is dead set on keeping the playing style and culture as it was under former manager Tony Popovic. The constant murmurs from ex-players and coaches of the toxic culture from first team into the academy just shows there is need for massive change at the club. But how do you move on an owner? Its near impossible. You need the person himself to realise the damage he is doing to his club and step back accordingly, but as is often the case, the ego of these owners and chairman make it impossible for them to realise they are the problem. Instead, they just sack Manager after Manager until finally it will click.
Now don’t get me wrong, yet again it appears the Wanderers have hired the wrong guy yet again. Karl Robinson seems out of his depth in charge of a team, and they have planned accordingly at the Wanderers, bringing in experienced A-League Men’s coach Gary Van Egmond in what appears to be a mentoring role. But most fans of the Wanderers and the A-League see it as the future interim manager of the club, and for most fans its hopefully Sooner rather than later. Fans of the Wanderers while not being happy about last seasons failure to make the finals were largely not too pissed at Robinson and were waiting to see what he did with a squad he built and could have a proper preseason and impact on. But this season, no matter how covid interrupted it has been, the Wanderers have yet again been a disappointment and find themselves sitting 10th with 1 win from their 6 games.
While they are by no means out of the finals contention only being 3 points behind the Mariners who occupy 6th spot, and with a few games in hand on Sydney FC and Adelaide, the form and way they are playing is not a positive omen for the future. Even when up 2-0 early against the defending champions, they were unable to hold on for a win, instead drawing 3-3.
For both Sydney Clubs it’s been a disappointing season. Both would consider themselves to be the biggest clubs in the league and the Sydney Derby is easily one of the biggest games on the calendar, but when both teams appear on the outside of the finals, both season will be considered a failure. The only way for both clubs in my mind is to move on from the current management and look for change in the near future. For FC it could be as soon as Wednesday morning should they lose to the Victory. While for the Wanderers, a change of Gaffer may be a short-term fix, but the real change is needed at the top of the club. While the current management team is making these important decisions, I’m afraid nothing will happen to bring the club up to challenging for trophies every season again, like they did under Popovic.