CentralCoast will begin their 2013/14 A-League campaign in unfamiliar territory. After coming close three times previously the Mariners enter season nine as reigning champions after winning their maiden title earlier this year against the Western Sydney Wanderers. This is how season nine is shaping up for Graham Arnold’s men.
Analysis: The 2013 off season has again seen a high turnover of players at the Central Coast with five key players from the club’s season eight success heading overseas or retiring. Patrick Zwaanswijk and Mat Ryan were vital to the Mariners success last year in a team that conceded only 22 goals (2nd fewest). This season, I believe, the Mariners greatest weakness lies in defence. Marcel Seip has been brought in on the recommendation of Zwaanswijk who believes his countryman can be the same pillar in central defence that he was. Seip’s partnership with Trent Sainsbury will be crucial to the Mariners remaining tight in the back third of the field. Behind them No 2 last year Justin Pasfield steps in to fill the goalkeeping role left by Matt Ryan. What a role it is to fill too, Ryan – who kept 36 clean sheets in 94 appearances for the Mariners, became a crowd favourite and earned himself Socceroos selection – is a player who should be on the flight to Brazil in 2014. Pasfield has played only 10 games for the Mariners and with controversial signing Liam Reddy behind him, Pasfield has plenty to prove.
While I believe the Mariners are fragile in defence, their fans have plenty to look forward to in the midfield and front third of the field. Key players have been retained along with the signing of the 2010/11 Johnny Warren Medallist Marcos Flores. The Argentinean who joins the club after playing last season for Melbourne Victory could provide a welcomed spark in the midfield. Flores is confident that under Graham Arnold’s style of play he can flourish and return to the form he showed when playing for Adelaide United as their key playmaker.
With Michael McGlinchey and Duke either side of Flores and Nick Montgomery and club captain John Hutchinson playing the defensive midfield roles the Mariners have one of the most stable and exciting midfields in the competition. Duke will look to continue on his form of last season in which he scored 6 goals from 22 appearances.
Up front, East Gosford junior Matt Simon returns to Bluetongue Stadium after an injury plagued stint in South Korea. With Golden Boot winner Daniel McBreen away for the first five games Duke will be starting on the right wing with Simon as the lone striker. It will be interesting to see how Arnold adjusts the line up when McBreen returns. Mile Sterjovski returns for another season, along with Adam Kwasnik who returns from injury that kept him out for the majority of last season. Nick Fitzgerald will be working hard to earn a starting spot after he made 12 appearances last season in which 10 were from the bench. The Mariners scored 48 goals last season (equal highest), look for them this year to equal or better that record.
Formation: This year I believe Arnold will mainly play a 4-2-3-1 formation that will comprise of a back four of Storm Roux, Trent Sainsbury, Marcel Seip and Josh Rose. A midfield containing two anchormen John Hutchinson and Nick Montgomery who will look to supply an attack containing Mitchell Duke and Michael McGlinchey playing wide right and left respectively. Marcos Flores in the number ten role and Matt Simon at the pointy end.
X-Factor: I couldn’t split Flores and Duke as the two players that I believe will provide the x-factor for the Mariners this year in their championship defence. Flores joins the Mariners with a positive attitude and a keen willingness to do well in the No 10 role. If Arnold can bring the best out of him, he will create a formidable midfield partnership with McGlinchey that could cause plenty of problems for opposition teams.
Duke, who earned his first Socceroos cap at the recent EAFF tournament (scoring two goals) and also coming off the bench against Brazil, will be a focus for the Mariners up front, especially with last season’s Golden Boot winner McBreen out on loan. After a breakout season last year, Duke will have plenty of confidence and will want to maintain his form as he has one eye on being included in Holger Oesick’s squad for the 2014 World Cup.
Overall: The Central Coast Mariners go into season nine as definite title contenders. While they have lost key players, Arnold has brought in sound replacements and after winning their maiden championship confidence will be high that they can repeat that success again this year. A club record membership drive coupled with off field stability within the executive operations of the club will only aid to this feeling that the Mariners can go back to back. The Mariners have won premierships and a maiden championship, is season 9 the year they do the double?
Coach: Graham Arnold
Last Season: Home & Away: 16-6-5 (2nd place), Finals: 2-0-0 (Champions)
Ins: Marcel Seip (VVV Venlo, NETH), Marcos Flores (Melbourne Victory), Matt Simon (Chunnam Dragons, KOR), Liam Reddy (Sydney United) Tom Slater (Sydney FC youth), Storm Roux (Perth), Michael Neil, Hayden Morton (youth team)
Outs: Oliver Bozanic (FC Luzern, SWI), Patrick Zwaanswijk (retired), Mat Ryan (Club Brugge, BEL), Pedj Bojic (Sydney FC), Bernie Ibini (Shanghai Dongya, CHI), Daniel McBreen (Shanghai Dongya – loan until October 30), Adriano Pellegrino (CCM Academy), Brad McDonald (CCM Academy).
GK: Justin Pasfield, Liam Reddy
DEF: Michael Neil, Zac Anderson, Hayden Morton, Marcel Seip, Trent Sainsbury, Strom Roux, Joshua Rose, Brent Griffiths
MID: Nick Montgomery, John Hutchinson (C), Marcos Flores, Michael McGlinchey, Anthony Caceras
ST: Daniel McBreen, Matt Simon, Tom Slater, Mitchell Duke, Mile Sterjovski, Adam Kwasnik, Nick Fitzgerald
22 players (1 to be included, most likely Troy Hearfield)