Hyundai A-League season review: Sydney FC

A near flawless season saw Graham Arnold’s men claim the double and a place in history as one of the Hyundai A-League’s best-ever teams. We look at their memorable campaign and look ahead to next season.

Position: Premiers, champions
Record: Played 29, Won 21, Drawn 7, Lost 1
Goals: 59
Conceded: 13
Leading Goal Scorer: Bobo (15)
Best home crowd: 41,546 – Grand Final against Melbourne Victory

Star performer: Milos Ninkovic
In a star-team, the superb Serb shone the brightest. While the Sky Blues were far greater than the sum of their parts, Ninkovic had a quite wonderful season as week after week he produced football of the very highest quality. His ability to score and create goals was just one part of his game, but the stats are worth noting – nine goals, 11 assists and 47 chances created. But he was also a tremendously hard worker and even when teams set out to stymie his influence by double-teaming him, he still found a way to be influential. A worthy winner of the Johnny Warren Medal and a host of other awards and accolades in 2016/17.

Milos Ninkovic claimed a clean sweep of Sydney FC's major awards on Friday night.

Breakout player: Brandon O’Neill
After just 16 appearances across four seasons for Perth Glory, the Western Australian-born youngster signed for Sydney FC before the 2015/16 campaign, featuring 21 times. This season though he took things to another level, starting 24 of the side’s 29 games and becoming a crucial cog in the Sky Blues’ engine-room. His unstinting and industrious work in midfield allowed the others around him to shine, but he was no shrinking violet when it came to free-kicks, with two memorable set piece goals against the Wanderers and Melbourne City on his season CV. At 23 years of age, the world is at his talented feet.

Goal of the year: Bobo
A couple of long-range bullets from Josh Brillante spring instantly to mind, but Sydney FC’s second goal in 3-1 round 19 cakewalk against Wellington summed up everything about this team in one supremely elegant passage of play. Ninkovic picked the ball up in midfield and after a flowing move involving five sumptuous one-touch passes, Bobo clinically headed home Rhyan Grant’s cross to complete one of the most magnificent team goals in Hyundai A-League history.

Brazilian marquee Bobo scored a brace in Sydney FC's comfortable 3-0 win over Melbourne City.

Highlight: Winning it all
It was an utterly unmatchable season for Graham Arnold’s men as they broke record after record in a simply stunning 27-game regular season. Perth were brushed aside in the semi-final and despite going a goal down to a fired-up Victory side in the grand final, the Sky Blues found a way back through a Rhyan Grant equaliser and after a tense period of extra-time, eventually prevailed in the penalty shoot-out. It would have been cruel for Sydney FC to fall at the final hurdle of a remarkable season, but they ensured their extraordinary story had the ending they had craved since early October.

Lowlight: Derby defeat the sole blemish
A 19-game unbeaten streak came to an end in the season’s third Sydney derby, with a compelling contest decided by former Sky Blue Brendon Santalab’s composed first-half finish. Two confident penalty shouts in the second half were waved away by referee Chris Beath as Sydney fell to their first and – as it turned out – only loss of the season.

Sydney FC and Wanderers players come together in Saturday night's Sydney Derby.

What they need:
Very little, really. The bulk of the championship-winning squad is either re-signed or close to it. Securing Ninkovic was a major piece of business and it looks highly likely captain Alex Brosque will also shortly re-commit to the Sky Blues. Doubt remains over Filip Holosko, and should he depart a first-choice striker will be needed, especially given the loss of Bernie Ibini to the USA.

Acquisitions for next season:

Bernie Ibini is heading to the MLS to play with Vancouver.

Losses for next season:
Bernie Ibini, Riley Woodcock

Outlook for 2017/18:
After their record-breaking campaign, some would say there’s only one way for Sydney FC to go next season. Instead, Graham Arnold has challenged his side to get even better. That’s a frightening thought for the other nine Hyundai A-League teams who were largely unable to do anything to stop the Sky Blue juggernaut this season. When October rolls around, Sydney FC will be firm favourites to go back-to-back, throwing down the challenge to the likes of Melbourne Victory, Brisbane Roar and others – catch us if you can.

Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold has challenged his Hyundai A-League double-winning side to defend their championship next season.