Season 10 of the Hyundai A-League kicks off this coming weekend and as a Brisbane Roar fan I am nervous. Yes, we won the double last season, but I canít help feeling that coach Mike Mulvey could have been a bit more ambitious with his player signings in the off season. We have lost two of our best players in Besart Berisha and Ivan Franjic. As a result Mulvey has brought in an unheralded Albanian striker, Mensur Kurtishi; former Roar midfielder and Socceroos hopeful Adam Sarota; former Roar defender, Daniel Bowles, who was unwanted by Adelaide United; and Jamie Young, a goalkeeper who has played at various clubs in the lower leagues of England.
When you compare these signings with those of the Roarís closest rivals, you canít help but wonder if the Roar will be able to replicate the success of last season.
Western Sydney Wanderers
In spite of a very successful 2013-14 campaign the Western Sydney Wanderers offloaded at least six high profile players, including the influential Shinji Ono and club captain Michael Beauchamp. In their place coach Tony Popovic has brought in a number of talented foreigners including Brazilian Vitor Saba and and Dutchman Romeo Castelen. The success of the Wanderers in reaching the final of the Asian Champions League suggests that Popovic has made the right call in rejuvenating his squad.
Melbourne Victory have made quality signings including our very own goal-scoring machine Besart Berisha, Socceroos midfielder Carl Valeri, and French defender Matthieu Delpierre. Many pundits are predicting that the Victory will go one step further than their preliminary final exit of last season.
Sydney FC gained a new coach in Graham Arnold and he wasted no time adding high quality attacking players to his squad after the departure of Alessandro Del Piero. FCís new marquee player, Marc Janko, is the current Austrian national team captain, and joining him in the forward line will be proven goalscorers Shane Smeltz and Alex Brosque, along with excitement machine Bernie Ibini. This group of strikers could well be the envy of the league.
And then of course there is Melbourne City (formerly Melbourne Heart), who after a disastrous 2013-14 campaign have been transformed by the financial backing of Englandís Manchester City. As a result they have been able to sign current Spain international David Villa on a 10-match guest stint, along with former Chelsea midfielder Damien Duff and former Slovenian international Robert Koren. If there is one club in the A-League that embodies ambition then it is surely Melbourne City.
The case of Melbourne City demonstrates that the A-League is growing and that the standard of playing talent is also improving. You cannot stay the same in this league and still expect to win trophies. Pundits are already rating the likes of Victory, the Wanderers and Melbourne City ahead of A-League champions Brisbane Roar. The Roar have kept the core of their successful squad from last season, including proven performers such as Matt McKay, Luke Brattan, and reigning Johnny Warren medallist Thomas Broich. But with an ageing backline and a lack of forward depth, will this be enough? Could we be in for another season like season 8, when the Roar went into a slump following their second championship win under Postecoglou? Current coach Mulvey has proved the doubters wrong during his time at the club and I will be happy to be proved wrong in this case too. Hopefully my pessimism is misplaced.