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  • Writer's pictureChristian Marchetti

Season Preview: Macarthur to follow expansion trend?

With the new A-League season right around the corner, Front Page Football will be breaking down each club's chances and what we can expect from them in 2020-21.

Next up is the league's new boys Macarthur FC.

What is expected of them this season?

As the Bulls did not compete in the league in 2019-20, it isn't easy to gauge where they are at and what to expect from them.

Although, when you consider the quality of their squad on paper and how well expansion teams have done in their first season historically, a finals spot is very achievable.

They have brought in a good bunch of foreign talent, including ex-La Liga stars Beñat and Markel Susaeta, Frenchman Loïc Puyo and English striker Matt Derbyshire.

An extra visa spot is still available is they want to add another international star as well.

But the other significant factor as to why their recruitment has been very successful is the amount of Australians they have brought back from overseas.

Adam Federici, Mark Milligan, Aleksandar Jovanovic, Milislav Popovic, and Aleksandar Šušnjar have all returned from playing either in Europe or Asia.

Ex-Socceroo Mark Milligan will captain Macarthur in 2020-21. (Simon Bennett)

Most of their players have been able to venture outside of Australia and get that valuable experience you can't get by only playing A-League football.

That is critical when you are trying to hit the ground running in your first season as a new club.

Another reason to be optimistic is that the last two expansion clubs, Western United and the Western Sydney Wanderers, have both exceeded expectations instantly.

The Wanderers stunned everyone by winning the Premier's Plate in their maiden campaign, whilst Western was a game away from the Grand Final last season.

Only time will tell if Macarthur can follow suit.

Players to watch?

Any of the foreigners they have brought in.

Beñat and Susaeta are highly regarded for their time together at Athletic Bilbao, where they made 747 appearances combined.

A-League fans will remember that Susaeta had a brief stint at Melbourne City last season before the pandemic hit.

Because of the lockdown, it wasn't easy for him to settle in and get regular minutes.

Beñat was a regular in the Bilbao midfield over a seven-year stint at the club.

Susaeta (left) and Beñat (right) above. (Macarthur FC)

Along with captain Mark Milligan, the pair could form a critical midfield spine that will allow the Bull's exciting attacking talent to flourish.

Forming part of that attacking lineup will be Puyo and Derbyshire, both possessing interesting career pathways as well.

31-year-old Puyo has spent his entire career in France, where he had a rocky experience, never being settled and moving to six different clubs.

However, he did play in Ligue 1, the top tier in France, and that experience should do him some good.

Derbyshire has also had an indifferent career path.

Most of his career has been spent with several different clubs in the lower reaches of English football.

But he has also had successful stints with Olympiacos in Greece and Omonia of Cyprus.

In Greece, he earned the nickname "The English Killer" whilst in Cyprus, he netted 69 times in 127 appearances over four seasons.

Milicic will hope he adapts to our shores just as well and the striker can hit double figures in his first season.

Any youngsters coming through?

Not that many, although there are one or two that could make waves.

Denis Genreau is arguably the most exciting prospect; the 21-year-old was on Melbourne City's books for five years.

He made his A-League debut at the age of 17 with the Citizens.

He would also have got invaluable experience on loan at PEC Zwolle in the Netherlands during the 2018-19 season.

Another youngster with City blood is Moudi Najjar, who is on loan from last season's runner-up.

He will hope to finally get regular A-League football after impressing in the Victorian NPL with City's youth side.

Najjar and Genreau both join Macarthur from Melbourne City's youth set up. (Getty Images)

And how's the manager?

It is hard to analyse Ante Milicic's ability as a manager.

He has often been a number two at A-League clubs in the past.

With the Wanderers and Melbourne Heart, he was an assistant coach, but he has had more experience being the main man in recent years.

He had a couple of brief spells with Australia's youth sides in recent years, but his most prestigious job came as the Matildas coach at the 2019 Women's World Cup.

Based on how our girls went there, the 46-year-old may not be the ideal choice for this job, as he could not take one of the best women's teams past the round of 16.

However, international football is a different environment for a coach than the day-to-day operations of being a club manager.

He may be under a little pressure to perform though, given the record of expansion clubs in their first season, and the excellent squad they have been able to put together.


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