With the January transfer window set to open on Tuesday, Hyundai A-League clubs will be fine-tuning their wish lists as they look to maintain momentum or spark a revival.
Almost halfway through the 2015-16 season and Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar have earned a decent advantage on the rest of the A-League.
But now is not the time for complacency, and Wanderers coach Tony Popovic and Brisbane boss John Aloisi should be looking to shore up any weaknesses in their squads with a new signing or two.
The rest of the A-League will be keen to add some new faces to trigger a surge up the table, but what areas should each club focus on?
We’ve identified the priorities for each side for the upcoming transfer window, which starts on January 5 and finishes on February 2.
Priorities: Central defender, centre-forward
The Reds’ back four has not been the same since Nigel Boogaard departed for Newcastle Jets at the end of last season.
Clearly Adelaide’s defence has improved over the past month as Guillermo Amor’s side has gone on a four-game unbeaten run but, with Osama Malik expected to leave too, Dylan McGowan and Jordan Elsey could use an experienced partner to challenge the A-League’s best forwards.
If Amor’s happy enough with his defence, however, he could target a powerful front man due to Bruce Djite and Eli Babalj’s history of injuries and general lack of goals.
Priorities: Goalkeeper, right-back
It is hard to identify weaknesses in teams in good form but Michael Theo’s ongoing injury issues mean Brisbane lack a genuine competitor to goalkeeper Jamie Young.
Theo has played just seven games in the past year-and-a-half, while Young’s performance against Melbourne City in November may still be giving Roar fans nightmares.
It’s known that Aloisi is shopping around for defenders too and with rumours that Jerome Polenz is on the outer at Suncorp Stadium, it may be that Brisbane would be interested in a rival for Jack Hingert at right-back.
Central Coast Mariners
Priorities: Defensive midfielder, striker
Some cynics would argue that the Mariners should target a new coach, but if Tony Walmsley’s attacking system is to work, he needs a man to hold the team together.
An all-action defensive midfielder, who can maintain possession and provide a solid defensive platform, would be ideal for the A-League’s cellar-dwellers, with rising stars Jake McGing and Harry Ascroft having been unable to control matches.
A holding midfielder would allow Walmsley to play Nick Montgomery exclusively in defence – a good thing for the captain’s aging legs – while Central Coast could also use a genuine poacher to challenge Roy O’Donovan up front.
Priorities: Versatile forward, central defender
City coach John van ‘t Schip must be crossing his fingers daily hoping that neither Bruno Fornaroli or Aaron Mooy pick up an injury this season.
Fornaroli and Mooy will be critical to City’s title hopes, meaning Van ‘t Schip could do worse than sign an attacking utility, who could cover numerous positions up front – Socceroos forward James Troisi would be ideal.
Otherwise, the Bundoora-based club’s injury record in central defence must be cause for concern, so signing Malik – as has been reported – would be a good move.
Priorities: Defensive midfielder, central defender
Captain Carl Valeri’s ongoing battle with illness has left the reigning champions a bit soft in midfield as they have won just once in six matches.
Victory coach Kevin Muscat must prioritise someone with a bit of mongrel in midfield or perhaps a centre-back so he can play Leigh Broxham there every week.
With Nick Ansell still working his way back to fitness and Thomas Deng away with the Olyroos, the Big V could use a reliable partner for Matthieu Delpierre, who could also cover the Frenchman in the AFC Champions League.
Priorities: Attacking midfielder, striker
Leonardo has shown glimpses of his quality this season but the Brazilian playmaker’s fitness clearly cannot be trusted.
With the 32-year-old struggling to play consecutive games, Jets coach Scott Miller has been forced to use Ben Kantarovski out of position or select the inexperienced Ryan Kitto.
Newcastle lack quality in the final third, so another number 10 should be their main target, while signing former striker Adam Taggart would put much-needed pressure on inconsistent forward Milos Trifunovic.
Priorities: Striker, left-back
Perth Glory have been unable to adequately replace last season’s top goal-scorer Andy Keogh.
The Irishman has been brought back to the club but unless the Glory can get rid of another one of their imports, he won’t play until next season.
Perth are also reportedly looking at Fulham striker Taggart, while Marc Warren’s struggles against the A-League’s leading wingers could prompt Glory coach Kenny Lowe to look at left-back options, although the 23-year-old has improved over the festive period.
Priorities: Central defender, centre-forward
Jacques Faty earned plenty of plaudits in his first season in the A-League but conceding two penalties in as many matches saw the Senegalese centre-back dropped recently.
Sydney coach Graham Arnold is renowned for prioritising a strong defence, which could see the Sky Blues target central defenders in January.
Otherwise, Sydney need goals – Shane Smeltz has scored just once this term – and a hold-up man to link with Alex Brosque and Filip Holosko would benefit last season’s grand finalists immensely.
Priorities: Winger, central defender
It’s no secret that Jeffrey Sarpong has struggled to adapt to the A-League.
Sarpong’s failure to adequately replace Nathan Burns has prompted Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick to reveal as early as last month that he was targeting another forward to support Roy Krishna and Michael McGlinchey.
Merrick may also be in the market for a centre-back with Ben Sigmund’s body failing the powerful New Zealand international over the past month, forcing Wellington to use Manny Muscat in the centre of their back four.
Western Sydney Wanderers
Priorities: Centre-forward, right-back
Similar to Brisbane, Western Sydney Wanderers should be very happy with their squad as it is.
But Federico Piovaccari’s underwhelming start in the A-League may tempt Popovic to look at another option to lead the line.
Mark Bridge was fantastic as a number nine during Piovaccari’s injury stint last month but he is arguably even better out wide, while Scott Neville’s poor crossing so far this season would justify the Wanderers looking at potential signings at right-back.