A lot has changed during the off-season and it has left everyone with a few questions. If these can be answered positively then the Red & Black will be in for a good season.Barcelona DNA
The story of the Wanderers off-season (at least in the realm of transfers) has been dominated by an influx of Spanish arrivals. With the exception of the experienced Alberto Aguilar, Tony Popovic’s new Spanish armada all share previous with Barcelona, lending the squad a hefty boost in experience and prestige, but also hinting at the emergence of a technical continental style of player not previously evident in past Wanderers squads.
What makes the presence of this Spanish quartet so significant is that it’s the first time in the club’s history that the Wanderers have allowed their squad to be dominated, in part, by a mainstream European footballing culture.
Tony Popovic maintains that the incursion of the Spaniards was purely coincidental, and there’s no doubt that the links with Barcelona have been overplayed but the arrival of Carrasco and co signals a departure from convention for Popovic and the squad and opens up an exciting new stylistic avenue for a club who have traditionally favoured a conservative approach.
Nichols and Vidosic return
After stints overseas in Japan and Switzerland respectively, season 2015/16 observes the return of two familiar Hyundai A-League faces in Mitch Nichols and Dario Vidosic.
In Nichols and Vidosic, Tony Popovic possesses two of the most versatile creative midfielders in the Hyundai A-League market: the matter of fitting both into the same system will be one of the more interesting sub-plots of the season and provide the boss with a real headache in the coming months.
It’s assumed Vidosic will take the vacant number ten role behind Federico Piovaccarri but the issue of Nichols is more complex: the former Roar, Glory and Victory man was utilized in central, wide, and deeper midfield roles during pre-season.
In some regards, the return of both Nichols and Vidosic to the Hyundai A-League with the Wanderers is a story of success in itself. Whilst it remains to be seen how the pair will be integrated into team, they will no doubt be afforded the balance of power in Tony Popovic’s midfield configuration.
Can the Pied Piper hit the right note?
Federico Piovacarri arrived down under charged with arresting the Wanderers’ need for an out and out goal scorer and early signs suggest the Italian marquee is ready to shoulder the responsibility.
Adept at playing with his back to goal, the 31-year-old has already demonstrated his ability to bring others into the game and has found himself at the pointy end of some of the side’s best attacking moves.
In a side that has been criticized for lack of a consistent source of goals from a natural number nine, Piovacarri is set for a massive season.
If he can find himself at home within the Wanderers set up, and hit top form on the field, his end of season goal tally should ensure the Wanderers are sticking around come finals time – which would surely make the Italian even more of a crowd favourite than he already appears to be.
The youth setup of any club is of paramount importance and the Wanderers are a club committed to developing home-grown talent in the Western Sydney region.
Previously, we have seen Tony Popovic hand first-team opportunities to the likes of Daniel Alessi and Jonathan Aspro who are now established members of the first team squad.
This 2015-16 season will give fans the chance to witness some of the latest youngsters off the Western Sydney production line – one of whom is Jaushua Sotirio, who is surely knocking on the door of the first-team after making several promising appearances during pre-season.
The young forward was handed several starts during the pre-season months which suggests Sotirio is rising in Tony Popovic’s pecking order. If the former Marconi Stallions man can add goals to his game, it’s not impossible that he might even find himself in the starting XI by the end of the season.
The progress made by Sotirio during pre-season will hopefully be replicated by the likes of Shayne D’Cunha, Liam Youlley and Alusine Fofanah who are all set for further first-team opportunities this campaign.
The Sydney Derby is undoubtedly the showpiece occasion of the fixture list for fans of both the Red & Black and the Sky Blue, and is set to take on new heights this season.
The Sky Blues won two of three affairs played last season, drawing the other.
Fortunately, the Wanderers don’t have to wait too long to exact revenge with the first encounter with Sydney FC taking place in Round 3. It’s already shaping up as one of the biggest clashes of the season and a win over them there could potentially do wonders for the team’s momentum so early on in the season.
The remaining two derby fixtures will be played in January and February.