Sydney FC have capped a quite sensational Hyundai A-League campaign by lifting the championship trophy. What were the major factors behind what’s being called the greatest season ever?
The numbers don’t lie
Statistics are just one way of assessing a season, but in Sydney FC’s case they have been stunning.
A record number of regular season wins, points, clean sheets and goals conceded are all numerical indications of a quite stunning campaign.
Across the 27 games of the 2016/17 season, the Sky Blues were head and shoulders – and as it transpired, 17 points – better than the rest.
Everyone stepped up
While Milos Ninkovic was the undoubted individual star of the Sky Blues, he was anything but a one-man band.
Every week, almost everyone played well.
It was often difficult after a game to find a Sydney FC player who hadn’t made a telling contribution.
They found a way to get the job done
At half-time in the Grand Final, the destination of the championship trophy was hanging in the balance.
Melbourne Victory might even have been favoured at 1-0 up, having clearly rattled the Sky Blues.
But Sydney FC had faith in their systems and – for the third time this season – came back from 0-1 down against Victory to eventually prevail.
Even when Alex Wilkinson missed his spot-kick in the shoot-out, Sydney FC found a way.
Danny Vukovic’s save from Marco Rojas was decisive, before Ninkovic sealed the deal.
The same guys, week-in, week-out
Graham Arnold was largely able to pick the same team for the entire season.
Danny Vukovic, Alex Wilkinson, Rhyan Grant, Michael Zullo, Bobo, Filip Holosko, Alex Brosque, Brandon O’Neill, Josh Brillante and Milos Ninkovic played almost every week.
That’s ten players who started at least 26 of the side’s 29 games.
Consistency of selection like that is almost unheard of in professional sport and was certainly vastly superior to any other Hyundai A-League side.
The Sky Blues had – on average – the oldest starting eleven in the Hyundai A-League.
Players with big game know-how were able to draw on that experience throughout the season.
And younger players like Rhyan Grant and Brandon O’Neill obviously benefited from the ‘older’ heads around them.
They broke new ground off the field
Graham Arnold has spoken at length about the mental work they’ve done with their players this season.
This included regular ‘refreshment sessions’ and work with an emotional intelligence coach to eliminate doubt and negativity.
Even Arnold himself employed a mentor to help enhance his leadership of the side.
As with all great teams, Sydney FC never rested on their laurels.
When the Premiers Plate was secured, they still wanted to keep winning.
And even now, coach Graham Arnold wants them to raise the bar again.
“I think we can go higher, I think we can get better,” he declared after the grand final win.
The rest of the league have been put on notice for next season.