Filling the void: who covers your club’s big off-season loss?

Players come and players go, but as a new Isuzu UTE A-League campaign dawns the objective at every club remains the same: assemble the strongest squad possible to challenge for silverware.

Not one club will feel a tilt at the top six and beyond is out of reach in 2021/22 after a strong recruitment push across the board.

But do any of the current crop of players at your club have what it takes to replace those who went the out the door at the end of the 2020/21 season?

Adelaide United

Responsibility to replace the goals of Adelaide’s 2020/21 top scorer Tomi Jurić is likely to fall on the young shoulders of Kusini Yengi in the new campaign.

Yengi took the number nine off of Jurić after the fringe Socceroo bagged nine goals from 18 appearances last season. 

Yengi, 22, scored four goals from 17 games last season. The developing forward should benefit from increased minutes in the starting lineup this season, with Ben Halloran and Craig Goodwin providing the silver service from wide areas for the 187cm-tall spearhead to feed off. New recruit George Blackwood is likely to offer Yengi competition for minutes up front as the season progresses.

Kusini Yengi takes possession against Adelaide Olympic during an FFA Cup Round of 16 clash

Brisbane Roar

Roar boss Warren Moon is preparing for the 2021/22 Isuzu UTE A-League season without his two top scorers from the campaign prior to lead his attack.

Dylan Wenzel-Halls is now at Western United, whilst Riku Danzaki’s Roar stint came to an end at the completion of his loan spell from J1-League side Consadole Sapporo. The two forwards combined for 16 goals last season, with the next-best Roar goalscorer Jay O’Shea contributing four from midfield.

Argentine striker Juan Lescano arrives at the club eager to pick up the scoring slack and show why both Liverpool FC and Real Madrid welcomed him into their respective youth academies throughout his junior development. 

Coming from closer to home are Jez Lofthouse and Cyrus Dehmie; two strikers who have shone at NPL level who will relish the opportunity to test themselves in the nation’s top domestic competition.

Jez Lofthouse trains with the Roar leading into his first Isuzu UTE A-League season

Central Coast Mariners

When Daniel De Silva left Central Coast Mariners in favour of a new opportunity at Macarthur FC, he took his creativity out the door with him. It’s new head coach Nick Montgomery’s job now to replace what De Silva brought to the Mariners squad – and he may have found the perfect replacement in Cy Goddard. 

The Tottenham Hotspur academy product can play anywhere in behind a striker, whether it be out wide or centrally. Goddard joins the Mariners after winning the Indian Super League title with Mumbai City FC, where he notched one goal and three assists from 19 games, passing at 85.6% accuracy and creating 31 scoring chances. 

Macarthur FC

It’s a tough task to replace a player who scored more than 40% of his team’s goals in the campaign prior – but Tomi Jurić will attempt to do exactly that when replacing Matt Derbyshire as Macarthur FC’s number nine.

Derbyshire finished second in the Golden Boot race last season on 14 goals, with the Bulls managing to score just 33 goals as a whole. Jurić will welcome the pressure of filling the Englishman’s boots in a new-look Bulls side featuring the likes of Craig Noone, Al Hassan Toure, De Silva and Ulises Dávila.

Melbourne City

Out goes Craig Noone, in comes Mathew Leckie – that’s the general understanding of how Melbourne City will look to replace the goals and assists of their former star winger, unless head coach Patrick Kisnorbo has a different idea of how best to utilise his impressive supply of star forwards.

Leckie joins the Champions eager to link up with fellow Socceroos Jamie Maclaren and Andrew Nabbout. It’s more than likely both Nabbout and Leckie will operate on either side of reigning Golden Boot winner Maclaren who buried 25 goals in 24 games last season. But with the likes of Marco Tilio and new recruit Manuel Pucciarelli contending for a starting spot it seems Kisnorbo will have plenty of viable solutions on hand when pondering how to mitigate the impact of Noone’s departure.

Leckie takes City’s Socceroos contingent to three in 2021/22

Melbourne Victory

Any disappointment about Callum McManaman’s Melbourne Victory departure was quickly swept away in  an off-season of change for the wooden spooners, and the hype surrounding the big names joining new head coach Tony Popovic at the club.

Not one name got the Victory faithful more excited than Chris Ikonomidis. 

The former Perth Glory winger excelled under Popovic at Perth Glory, making his return to the Socceroos fold and quickly asserting himself as one of the most dangerous forwards league-wide. He links up with Popovic once more at Victory ready not just to hit those highs once again, but surpass them as he hurtles toward the peak of his career.

Newcastle Jets

The successful loan spell of Ramy Najjarine at Newcastle Jets brought plenty of joy to the home supporters. The 21-year-old was a shining light throughout his 15 appearances for the club in 2020/21, proving why the Olyroo is touted as one of the brightest prospects in Australian football.

Najjarine returned to parent club Melbourne City before joining Western Sydney Wanderers on a permanent deal ahead of the new campaign. 

One player who could replicate Najjarine’s Jets impact is Brazilian recruit Daniel Penha. Newcastle’s number 11 has wasted no time introducing himself, scoring a free-kick stunner against Western United in Newcastle’s 2-1 FFA Cup qualifier loss to Western United. It’s the kind of magic which will endear him to Jets fans should he be able to produce it on a consistent basis this season.

Perth Glory

How do you replace a player like Diego Castro? The simple answer is: you can’t. It’s not within the expectations of head coach Richard Garcia to do so, who has instead opted to bring in a pair of strikers who can not soften the blow of the Glory legend’s absence, and the departure of Ikonomidis to Melbourne Victory.

Spanish forward Adrian Sardinero joins former Liverpool, Chelsea and England international Daniel Sturridge in heading out west ahead of the 2021/22 Isuzu UTE A-League season.

Whilst Sturridge is likely to partner Bruno Fornaroli in a central role, Sardinero offers Garcia positional versatility, and is more likely to fill the significant void left by Ikonomidis in the Glory squad. 

Sturridge trains with the Glory squad on Monday, November 15 ahead of Round 1 of the Isuzu UTE A-League season

Sydney FC

After two seasons in Sky Blue, Ryan McGowan opted for a new opportunity at Kuwait SC. It’s left head coach Steve Corica to make one of few anticipated changes to a Sydney FC starting XI going relatively unchanged throughout the off-season.

James Donachie arrives at the club from Newcastle Jets looking like the strongest candidate to fill in next to Alex Wilkinson at the heart of his new side’s defence. Ben Warland will challenge Donachie for opportunities at centre-half, but Donachie’s experience – which includes three Grand Finals and more than130 Isuzu UTE A-League matches – may push him ahead of Warland in the pecking order.

Donachie (left) speaks with potential centre-half partner Alex Wilkinson at Sydney FC training

Wellington Phoenix – Ulises Dávila / Reno Piscopo

The Phoenix lost the crown jewel of their squad when Ulises Dávila set off for a fresh start at Macarthur FC. The 23-year-old Reno Piscopo will feel expectations rise as Phoenix fans look toward him and his silky skillset to help cover the loss.

Piscopo suffered through an injury-riddled season in 2020/21, but came up large in some key moments to show the Wellington faithful glimpses of what he’s capable of when fed the ball in dangerous areas.

Piscopo will see his responsibilities grow as a pivotal member of Wellington’s attack in 2021/22

Western Sydney Wanderers

In a squad overflowing with strikers, it may have come as a surprise when Bruce Kamau ended the 2020/21 season on top of his side’s scoring charts.

Scott McDonald, Mitch Duke, Bernie Ibini and Simon Cox all had their respective turns in the Wanderers’ starting XI throughout the season but it was Kamau who proved the most consistent, setting and maintaining the high standards he had flirted with achieving in brilliant bursts throughout his young career.

Tomer Hemed will serve as Duke’s replacement as Western Sydney’s number nine, but Dimitri Petratos will hope to serve as head coach Robinson’s Kamau replacement in terms of providing goals from positions other than number nine. Petratos is a goalscoring creative midfielder who scored 10 goals from 28 games for Al-Wehda last season. 

Petratos is on loan at the Wanderers for the 2021/22 Isuzu UTE A-League campaign from the Saudi Arabian side.

Petratos warms up his lethal right boot in Wanderers pre-season training

Western United

The Isuzu UTE A-League loses its greatest ever goalscorer as Besart Berisha waves goodbye to a league in which he’s enjoyed great success, scoring a record 142 goals and winning four Championships along the way.

Berisha waved goodbye to Australian football and Western United at the conclusion of the 2021/22 Isuzu UTE A-League season. In his place comes Serbian international Alexandar Prijović, who possesses the same steely demeanour as the legendary striker who came before him at the green and black.

Prijovic got off to the perfect start in his new colours, bagging a debut goal in a 2-1 FFA Cup qualifier win over Newcastle Jets. He’ll look to carry the early momentum into Round 1 of the Isuzu UTE A-League season, and a clash with Melbourne Victory on Saturday, November 20.