Are Sydney FC back to their best, or riding their luck?
In his four-year tenure, Steve Corica has had an impressive stint at Sydney FC, but an unimpressive start to the 2021/22 campaign had their fans calling for a change.
However, recent results have fallen the way of Corica's side. So the question has to be asked, has Corica found a way to rejuvenate the side, or is the 48-year-old simply riding his luck?
Corica failed to guide Sydney to victory in their opening four games this season. (Sydney FC)
The Sky Blues suffered a disappointing draw to open the season against cross-town rivals the Western Sydney Wanderers, and then slumped to a 1-0 loss against Macarthur before throwing away three points against Newcastle in Kogarah.
Finally, though, Corica broke the adversity his squad faced and guided them to their first win against Wellington through goals from Elvis Kamsoba and Adam Le Fondre.
Sydney has won only four games against Adelaide United, the Central Coast Mariners, Macarthur, and Wellington this season. All of these sides have struggled at some point so far this season.
At the start of the campaign, Corica's problems compounded when midfielder Luke Brattan suffered a nasty season-ending ACL injury in their 4-2 win over Sydney Olympic in the FFA Cup.
Corica opted to bring in the talents of former Borussia Dortmund II midfielder Mustafa Amini. But the 28-year-old has been less than impressive in his short stint with the Sky Blues so far.
Amini was brought in as a replacement for Brattan in Janurary. (Sydney FC)
Amini wasn't the only January signing that Sydney splashed the cash on. On a short-term deal, they brought in former PSV Eindhoven, Swansea City, Feyenoord, and Dutch international winger Luciano Narsingh.
Corica will be hoping that Narsingh adds the firepower and elite finishing quality that is desperately needed for Sydney.
The Sky Blues have been particularly struggling in the final third this season. Twenty-four big chances have fallen their way, but only 54.2% of these have been converted.
Shots on target is another area where the Sky Blues are struggling, with only 41.9% of shots taken on goal going in, placing them 11th in the league overall in this metric.
In areas such as goals scored, big chances created, and penalties scored, Corica's side flourish. They sit first for big chances created, second in the league for shots on target and penalties scored, and third for most goals this season.
It has been hit and miss so far this season for Sydney FC's attackers. (Sydney FC)
Since suffering the heartbreak of losing to the Mariners in the FFA Cup Semi-Finals, the Sky Blues have lost only once in five matches.
They've recently drawn away to the rejuvenated Melbourne Victory. They also took immediate revenge out on the Mariners in the league, coming out on top in a classic 3-2 win at home. A gutsy 2-1 win against Adelaide away from home then backed up that victory.
This season, Sydney has conceded 15 goals, another area of concern for Stevie Corica.
In duels won this season, Sydney is last in the league, winning only 47.4% despite contesting the second most, which is very important considering the physical nature of the A-League Men.
In other areas of defence, over 130 shots have been faced in 12 games, whilst they've conceded an average of 1.27 goals per game.
Can Steve Corica still guide his squad to silverware this season? (Sydney FC)
Throughout almost his entire reign, Corica has deployed a 4-2-2-2 formation, which could be why the attacking unit of the Sky Blues has been ineffective.
Kamsoba has provided relative impact upfront, as the 25-year-old has scored three goals in 11 games this season. But the Burundi international is not a natural striker.
Meanwhile, Trent Buhagiar's one-dimensional play and wastefulness in promising attacking situations have been frustrating.
As previously mentioned, the injury to Brattan has been a significant setback. It has forced the likes of Paulo Retre and Anthony Caceres, players who prefer more advanced positions, into the defensive role usually occupied by Brattan.
Retre is typically deployed as an 8, whilst Caceres is most dangerous as a number 10.
The loss of Brattan has highlighted the lack of depth at the defensive midfield position at Corica's disposal.
Sydney fans have missed watching Brattan's ability to control matches this season, particularly the quality that the 31-year-old offers when breaking up play and stopping quick counter-attacks.
Brattan is not the only key player Sydney FC have had injured this season. (Sydney FC)
In recent weeks, the formation and system seem to have not been a significant issue for Corica. Sydney fans can blame any disappointing results on the array of critical injuries to key players.
Young players such as Callum Talbot, Patrick Yuzbek, and Patrick Wood have provided the necessary cover when called upon to play.
In that regard, this season has been one that has elevated the reputation of the Sydney FC academy.
Sydney needs to find the same level of consistency that saw them win two of the last three A-League Men titles if they are to be successful again. But Corica needs the experience of his more senior players back immediately.
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