Sydney FC suffered a dramatic fall from grace in the 2021/22 A-League campaign when failing to make the top six and play finals, but what went wrong for Steve Corica’s men?
The Sky Blues have been the most dominant A-League side in recent seasons when winning trophies galore under the leadership of Corica.
They won the Premiership/Championship double in 2016/17 and 2019/20. To add to that they also won the Premiership in 2017/18 and the Championship in 2018/19.
When they were not winning they were finishing runners-up so Sydney have always been there or thereabouts for a number of years now. In 2020/21 they finished runners-up to Melbourne City in both the Premiership and Championship.
So there was every reason to believe they would be challenging again in the 2021/22 A-League campaign. However they had a season to forget and did not even make the top six.
Let’s take a look at why that was the case and how they are going to get back on track in the new season.
For once Sydney FC got their recruitment wrong and the players that came in did not have a big enough impact on the team.
Corica has already admitted that is one area they need to improve on ahead of next season.
Attacking midfielder Max Burgess arrived from Western United, Elvis Kamsoba from Melbourne Victory and Mustafa Amini from Apol Limassol.
James Donachie, Connor O’Toole, Liam McGing and Luciano Narsingh were also brought in. All solid enough signings but not enough game-changers. And when the injuries kicked in, Corica did not have enough quality to replace them.
Injuries to key players
Sydney were rocked by a number of injuries throughout the campaign and suffered a huge blow before the A-League campaign had even started.
Key midfielder Luke Brattan suffered an ACL injury in pre-season that ruled him out for the entire campaign. It was a setback that Sydney struggled to bounce back from as the experience of Brattan was sorely missed.
Elsewhere Michael Zullo was dogged by calf issues throughout the season, prolific striker Adam Le Fondre was also forced to spend time in the treatment room.
Kosta Barbarouses was another to miss a number of matches. Also throw into the mix star midfielder Joel King leaving for Denmark midway through the season and it is easy to see why Corica’s squad was stretched.
They also had to deal with international call ups as Andrew Redmayne and Rhyan Grant went away with the Socceroos at crucial times.
All in all the Sky Blues squad was not strong enough to cope with key players missing.
Lack of goals
Goals win games and Sydney did not score enough of them. Le Fondre, who is usually so prolific, managed just seven and was the club’s leading goalscorer.
Next came Bobo, Trent Buhagiar and Anthony Caceres all with five goals each. The top teams all had players in double figures.
The assists stats did not make great reading either. Caceres topped the Sydney charts with just five all season.
Lack of consistency
Consistency has been the hallmark of Sydney’s success under Corica. Stringing results together week in, week out. Probably for the reasons listed above they could not manage that in 2021/22.
They could not string more than two wins together. Indeed they only managed that on two occasions all season. The Sky Blues could not build any momentum and that cost them.
In the clash with Adelaide late in the season, Sydney where winning 2-1 heading into stoppage time, only for the visitors to score two goals and win. The result was the final nail in Sydney’s top six hopes and summed up their season.
Where do Sydney go from here?
Sydney are not done and there is a good chance they will bounce back next season. Corica has penned a new deal and has already put out his blueprint that will get the Sky Blues challenging again.
It is case of out with the old and in with the new, and the rebuild has started.
12 players have moved on already and now the job to replace them is well underway. The squad needs a revamp and it is crucial that Corica gets the recruitment right on this occasion.
The recruitment drive has yet to start despite the rest of the A-League strengthening their squads and it will be interesting to see who Corica gets on board.
The fans are waiting for the first signing of the off-season and the Sky Blues will need to make a real statement of intent.