Sydney FC have arguably been the best team in the last two seasons of the A-League.
Two Premiers Plates, a Championship and an FFA Cup trophy build a pretty good case towards this.
They were benchmark throughout season 2017/18 albeit fell at an important hurdle to Melbourne Victory and failed to advance to the Grand Final for a chance to claim a second consecutive Championship.
In addition, Graham Arnold left his position to take up the job of Socceroos boss, which left a big hole in the managerial ranks. Andrew Clark and Doug Kors also departed the club, two staff members who were integral to their success.
On the field, some of their most important players left the club.
Golden Boot winner Bobo moved to Turkish side Alanyaspor, Johnny Warren medallist Adrian Mierzejewski was transferred to Chinese club Changchun Yatai and Jordy Buijs left to join Japanese team V-Varen Nagasaki.
The departures of Luke Wilkshire, Matt Simon and David Carney also saw the loss of lots of experience.
Newly promoted manager Steve Corica certainly has his work cut out for him, but has taken this challenge head on, attacking the transfer window hard.
AZ Alkmaar defender Jop van der Linden joins the club as a replacement for his fellow countryman Buijs, while former Reading and Bolton striker Adam le Fondre fills the gap left by the loss of Bobo.
Siem De Jong, who is on-loan from Ajax, was announced as the club’s marquee player for this season and brings quality to the field.
In addition to these signings, Daniel Da Silva joins the club on loan from the Central Coast
Mariners, the first under the new intra A-League loan exemption.
Speedster Trent Buhagiar also arrived from the Mariners but will miss most of the season after tearing his ACL just prior to the beginning of the new campaign.
Sydney will also have to adapt to playing out of three stadiums.
Allianz Stadium will be demolished and rebuilt and until its redevelopment the Sky Blues will play next-door at the SCG, Jubilee Stadium in Kogarah and Leichhardt Oval.
The latter two have hosted Sydney FC matches before in the A-League and the FFA Cup.
It will be interesting to see how they fare at three different home grounds, something that is being similarly experienced by rivals Western Sydney Wanderers.
Sydney FC have prepared well for the new season, having a strong run in the FFA Cup. They will travel to South Australia to face Adelaide United in the final in a fortnight and look to win another trophy. It will be their third consecutive appearance in the final of the competition, the first club to do so.
The Sky Blues will again participate in the next Asian Champions League which will increase the workload over the March-May period.
Keeping the same squad every match will result in poor form over this period, which is why Corica needs to give his youngsters a go. The club promoted five youth players to the senior team over the off-season and could possibly add a player or two during the January transfer window.
It will be interesting to see whether Sydney FC can replicate their strong season form of the last two years this upcoming campaign. A new coach can change things for a club, however
Corica worked under Arnold during his time there and looks set to maintain the methods used.
Round two sees the second Sydney derby in a couple of weeks – the first being the FFA Cup semi-final.
This time it will be held at the SCG and a big crowd is expected. A rematch of last season’s semi-final against Melbourne Victory will occur on November 25 and will be held at Jubilee Oval.
Sydney FC may have lost a handful of quality players over the off-season, however their replacements look to have them set up for the upcoming season.
Striker Adam le Fondre is one of the favourites to win the Golden Boot, already having an impact during Sydney’s FFA Cup campaign. The loss of Buhagiar is a big one, as he was part of the plans during the pre-season. An injury replacement player will be able to be signed and the Sky Blues still have a foreign spot available on their list.
The departure of Mierzejewski will allow superstar Milos Ninkovic to have more of a role, like what he did during their 2016/17 double-winning season. Ninkovic will be key this season and do not be surprised if he is a contender for the Johnny Warren medal.
The return of Rhyan Grant from injury is a bonus and goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne has performed well in the FFA Cup. Charles Lokolingoy could have more game time this season and may finally be able to bring his youth form to the senior team.
There is every chance that the results of the past two seasons will not be replicated and Sydney could fall down the table. However, the semi-final loss in April will be burning in their minds and will fire up the players and staff who remain from last campaign. If the new signings deliver, the Sky Blues might finish in the top-four and could possibly make the Grand Final again.
Athos Sirianos, Nicholas D'Urbano, Josh Parish, Marissa Lordanic, Christopher Chrysostomou & Tim Sperliotis