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  • Writer's pictureCody Ojeda

Sydney reign supreme? FPF predicts the 2023/24 A-League Men season

The transfer window has shut, pre-season has wrapped up, and A-League Men's sides are gearing up for the start of the 2023/24 season, which kicks off tonight when reigning champions the Central Coast Mariners travel to face Adelaide United. To look at what’s in store for fans and critics alike, a few of Front Page Football’s contributors have analysed and predicted how the league will look come June, picking who will finish in the top six, win the Grand Final, the Golden Boot winner, and who takes home the Johnny Warren Medal.

Sydney FC will be buoyed by their Australia Cup success going into this season. (Australia Cup)


Coming off the back of two World Cups, both seeing Australia do well, the reversal of the heavily criticised Grand Finals deal, and several youngsters bursting onto the scene during the Australia Cup, interest in the domestic game is peaking at the right time heading into the new season.


So, let's look at each category some of our contributors predicted. We'll start with the Grand Final winner, where Sydney FC is the top pick. Steve Corica's side will go into the season buoyed by their Australia Cup triumph after navigating a challenging journey to the Final. They faced the last three A-League Men Grand Final winners, including Melbourne City, who were minor premiers in the previous three seasons, and defeated NPL NSW champions APIA Leichhardt.


Sydney scored 13 goals across five games played in the competition and have impressed in the final third. An attacking lineup of Joe Lolley, Robert Mak, and Fabio Gomes could be one of the most potent in the league. It can be a significant asset in high-stakes matches such as a Grand Final.


Gomes has already shown his composure early in his Sydney career, coming off the bench to bag a brace in the Australia Cup Final. We saw what Lolley and Mak were capable of in the league last season, and their strong showings in the Australia Cup suggest they have no intentions of slowing down.


Melbourne City is another hot pick for the championship. Whilst we may not have seen the best of them during the Australia Cup, high turnover during the off-season means this side will need time to gel together.


However, the quality that has come into the team must be considered. Tolgay Arslan has been at the heart of the City team through their Australia Cup campaign and looks like a top signing for the league. Meanwhile, players such as Hamza Sakhi, Aziz Behich, and Léo Natel should ensure City stay in the championship conversation.

Socceroos left-back Aziz Behich is one of the high-profile signings for Melbourne City this season. (Socceroos)


However, an outside pick for the Grand Final winner is the Western Sydney Wanderers. While they also have seen a lot of turnover in their squad since last season, the players brought into the club still have the side looking like a finals contender in most people's eyes. A spine of Marcelo, Jorrit Hendrix, Brandon Borrello, and Marcus Antonsson is an intimidating prospect, and should Marko Rudan keep this team on an upward trajectory, they may be able to push beyond last season's performances.


With several clubs looking to adopt the Central Coast Mariners' model of prioritising youth development, this A-League Men season could be one of the most open in recent seasons concerning top-six candidates.

All the contributors quizzed have backed Melbourne City, Sydney FC, and the Western Sydney Wanderers to make the top six. Meanwhile, the Mariners, Western United, and Brisbane Roar are the probable candidates to join them.


The Mariners are the reigning champions, and despite losing several key players in the off-season, including Sammy Silvera, Jason Cummings, Nectar Triantis, and James McGarry, it would be highly disappointing if they were unable to secure a finals spot at the very least.


Their biggest challenge will be adjusting to the loss of the incredibly popular Nick Montgomery, with English manager Mark Jackson replacing him earlier this month. While the identity and foundations of a strong side are there, replicating Monty's feats is difficult.


Brisbane Roar impressed and, to a certain extent, surprised many fans with their Australia Cup run. They made the Final, falling short to a strong Sydney FC side at Allianz Stadium. But the football played that night and across the campaign excited the club's fans while putting everyone else on notice.


A player who could be set for a big season at the Roar is young striker Thomas Waddingham. He scored four goals throughout the cup campaign. The 18-year-old recently scored two goals for the Young Socceroos during their latest international tournament in Marbella, netting against the Netherlands and Denmark.

Thomas Waddingham scored four goals during Brisbane Roar's Australia Cup campaign. (Socceroos)


Ross Aloisi has just entered the club as the team's manager. Meanwhile, Kaz Patafta and Zac Anderson have taken on more significant roles within the club. The new trio looks to contribute to a strong culture at the Roar, which undoubtedly could prove fruitful on the pitch.


Meanwhile, Western United have excited their fans with the signings of Riku Danzaki, Angus Thurgate, Nikita Rukavytsya, and, most notably, former Newcastle Jets star Daniel Penha. They hope to return to the heights John Aloisi led them to in his first season in charge, and their recruits are statements of intent.


It will be critical to squeeze the best out of each new signing and ensure they work well together. But the traits on display from each individual also could be a lot of fun to watch for fans.


Elsewhere, Melbourne Victory, Adelaide United, and Macarthur FC are all touted as options to push for finals football. Victory and Macarthur will be looking to bounce back from poor seasons after finishing 11th and 12th, respectively. Both clubs have looked to reinvigorate themselves with big-name signings; the Victory looked to former Socceroo Daniel Arzani and French midfielder Zinedine Machach, whilst Macarthur has secured former Monaco and Marseille striker Valère Germain.


Adelaide United was one of the most exciting sides last season. But losing star player and captain Craig Goodwin has created a lot of doubt from fans and experts alike concerning the new season. A solid young contingent is ready to make their mark in the league, but the Goodwin-shaped hole will be difficult to fill.

Craig Goodwin, the reigning Johnny Warren Medalist, recently departed Adelaide United for Al Wehda in Saudi Arabia. (CODE Sports)


The race for the Golden Boot doesn’t look to be a competitive one, with Melbourne City striker Jamie Maclaren the overwhelming favourite. He has won the last three editions of the award, and the league's record goalscorer is still in the prime years of his career. A fourth in a row is very likely.


The biggest challenger to Maclaren will be Sydney FC striker Fabio Gomes. While we only saw him in limited cameos during the Australia Cup, the Brazilian still showcased his goalscoring ability in the Final.


Adding in Gomes' physical attributes, his speed and agility taking fans by surprise, and the potential service Lolley, Mak, and Anthony Caceres can provide, it’s easy to see why this season could be fruitful for the striker.


Moving on, Melbourne City recruit Tolgay Arslan and Sydney FC star Joe Lolley look to be the frontrunners for the Johnny Warren Medal this campaign.


Arslan joined City from Serie A side Udinese. He put in some impressive displays during the Australian Cup and is shaping up to be City’s crucial creative outlet in midfield. Arslan seems to be one of the most exciting Visa signings from the off-season. Should he carry his cup form into the league, the German could push for the individual honour.


Lolley will be one of Sydney’s creative outlets, providing a threat from their right-hand side. He registered six assists during the successful Australia Cup run, following 11 goals and assists combined in the league last season.

 

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Penha and Brandon Borrello have also been touted as options for the award. Brazilian Penha lit up the league when he first arrived for the 2021/22 season at the Newcastle Jets, playing with a freedom and flair that had crowds on the edge of their seats. He will definitely be in the mix for the award if he combines eye-catching performances with spearheading a successful side.


Borrello has shone at the Wanderers since being deployed as a striker, and his performances even earned him a Socceroos recall. He finished last season with 13 goals, and with an entire season up front, he will look to increase this tally.


This season is set to be a tight battle on all fronts. As youngsters begin to play a more significant role at more clubs and several new Visa players taste the competition for the first time, the A-League Men could be very open in 2023/24.


The FPF Team’s Predictions:


Christian Marchetti:


Grand Final Winner: Sydney FC


Top six:

  1. Sydney FC

  2. Melbourne City

  3. Western Sydney Wanderers

  4. Central Coast Mariners

  5. Western United

  6. Adelaide United

Golden Boot: Jamie Maclaren


Johnny Warren Medallist: Daniel Penha



Antonis Pagonis:


Grand Final Winner: Melbourne City


Top six:

  1. Melbourne City

  2. Sydney FC

  3. Central Coast Mariners

  4. Western Sydney Wanderers

  5. Brisbane Roar

  6. Adelaide United

Golden Boot: Fabio Gomes


Johnny Warren Medallist: Tolgay Arslan



Cody Ojeda:


Grand Final Winner: Sydney FC


Top six:

  1. Melbourne City

  2. Sydney FC

  3. Western Sydney Wanderers

  4. Central Coast Mariners

  5. Melbourne Victory

  6. Western United

Golden Boot: Jamie Maclaren


Johnny Warren Medallist: Joe Lolley



Jeremy Magan:


Grand Final Winner: Melbourne City


Top six:

  1. Melbourne City

  2. Sydney FC

  3. Western Sydney Wanderers

  4. Central Coast Mariners

  5. Brisbane Roar

  6. Macarthur Bulls

Golden Boot: Jamie Maclaren


Johnny Warren Medallist: Tolgay Arslan



Jake Holub:


Grand Final Winner: Sydney FC


Top six:

  1. Melbourne City

  2. Sydney FC

  3. Western Sydney Wanderers

  4. Western United

  5. Brisbane Roar

  6. Melbourne Victory

Golden Boot: Jamie Maclaren


Johnny Warren Medallist: Joe Lolley



Jack Twohill:


Grand Final Winner: Western Sydney Wanderers


Top six:

  1. Sydney FC

  2. Melbourne City

  3. Melbourne Victory

  4. Western Sydney Wanderers

  5. Western United

  6. Brisbane Roar

Golden Boot: Jamie Maclaren


Johnny Warren Medallist: Brandon Borrello

 

You can catch all the action from the upcoming A-League Men season on Paramount+, with selected games also shown live and free on 10Bold.


Click here to read more of FPF's coverage of the A-Leagues!

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