Many fans have criticised Sydney FC’s transfer as of late, labelling it as poor when comparing it to their rivals like Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers.
So far, they have signed James Donachie, who was on loan at FC Goa from Newcastle Jets, Connor O’Toole from Newcastle, Max Burgess from Western United and Elvis Kamsoba from Melbourne Victory.
Burgess’ signing was reported earlier this year after he fell out with Western United.
Burgess wanted to be released and return home to Sydney, but Western United wanted him to see out his contract, meaning he played just twenty-seven minutes in a singular substitute appearance last season.
The flamboyant attacking midfielder spent two seasons in Sydney’s youth academy but struggled to get game time.
After a short move to Portugal, he impressed at Sydney Olympic and earned a contract with Wellington Phoenix, where he impressed with his passing range and ball-carrying ability.
He followed Mark Rudan to Western United where he enjoyed his most consistent campaign, playing 22 games, scoring seven goals and gaining three assists.
He will bring something different to Sydney, a bit more of a rebel attitude on the ball in the well-drilled sky blue side.
He impressed playing second fiddle to Alessandro Diamanti at Western, and will likely do the same in the Sky Blue shirt with Milos Ninkovic and Luke Brattan often taking up creative responsibilities.
But Burgess doesn’t necessarily need to consistently be on the ball to affect games, and like Ninkovic, he can thread passes through defences at ease the one time he breaks clear of the midfield line.
Burgess’ move could see Kosta Barbarouses move back upfront to partner Adam Le Fondre, and the Kiwi will be a major benefit of Burgess’ perfect through balls and manipulative technique.
While Baumjohann would come inside to dictate play at times, Burgess naturally looks to do so, being left-footed, should he start from the right.
This can allow Barbarouses to drift wide right as he enjoys doing, and link up with Rhyan Grant, Burgess and his fellow strike partner when moving towards goal.
Burgess deems an exciting prospect for Sydney, and if he can replicate his form of the 2019/20 season, the sky blues have picked up a skilful attacking midfielder who is just entering his prime.
The one small doubt about Burgess is that he has played on the left of a front three both at Wellington and Western United and hasn’t really tested himself on the right.
However, it’s unlikely to be too much of a judgement and something Corica and his recruiting and analytics team would have thought of before signing him.
Meanwhile, James Donachie is another strong signing for Sydney.
He optimises similar characteristics to Ryan McGowan, who recently departed to join Kuwait SC.
He is tall, strong in the tackle, aggressive and comfortable with time on the ball, with an ability to play passes into midfield, although he isn’t the most press resistant of central defenders.
Sydney now has essentially three centre-backs pushing for two spots.
Alex Wilkinson is perhaps the only one established after another fantastic season, and rarely seems to need a rest despite being 36-years-old – he played every minute of Sydney’s 2020 A-League campaign.
Donachie will then be challenging Ben Warland for a spot in the team.
Warland impressed coming in for McGowan at the end of the season while the latter was on international duty, and impressed with his defensive positioning and progressive passing.
However, Warland and Wilkinson are similar in their preferred role being to drop off as the more conservative centre-back – they were in the 5th and 1st percentile respectively for defensive duels in their position, essentially meaning they rarely, if ever engage with their opponents.
Percentile stats from Jack Stewart’s A-League statistical guide
This is where Donachie can prevail – he offers aggressivity and physicality that the current Warland and Wilkinson duo lacks.
While Ryan McGowan himself was only in the 20th percentile in his position for defensive duels, it’s a significant increase and Donachie’s aggressivity is another unique trait he offers to Sydney.
O’Toole is another player that epitomizes Steve Corica’s newfound want for competitiveness in every position.
Joel King has had a clean run at the left-back spot for the better part of two seasons now, due to Michael Zullo’s consistent injuries.
Make no mistake, King has been beyond impressive – he won young player of the season at the Dolan Warren awards this year and is still one of the more underrated members of the Sydney side.
But should King have a few poor games, he now has a hungry, young fullback ready to show his worth and take his place, just adding that extra motivation for King to exceed his already high expectations.
There are questions as to whether one of King or Zullo could leave – while the latter played just eight minutes last season, he was one of, if not the best left-back before his unlucky spell off the field due to injury.
Sydney now has three left-backs challenging for a starting position, which shows the kind of competitiveness Corica is attempting to engrain in his squad for the upcoming few campaigns.
Elvis Kamsoba was the signing that received the most scrutiny – not just from sky blue fans, but from the whole league.
But, to put it simply, it was a major overreaction.
Kamsoba is not coming to Sydney to replace Milos Ninkovic or Kosta Barbarouses.
He is actually a smart signing for the sky blues.
Kamsoba will, for the first season at least, be a squad player, someone who will sit on the bench more often than not and can see out games with his pace and directness.
Furthermore, he can play essentially anywhere across Sydney’s front four, which is vital for Corica and makes him a handy player to have.
If Kamsoba begins to start games without merit on October 30th, that’s when the alarm bells can begin to ring.
But here’s where he’s predicted to sit in the pecking order alongside the strikers and attacking midfielders:
|Adam Le Fondre||Milos Ninkovic|
|Kosta Barbarouses||Max Burgess|
|Trent Buhagiar||Elvis Kamsoba|
|Patrick Wood||Chris Zuvela|
And it’s unfair to say he’s the ‘replacement’ of Marco Tilio or Luke Ivanovic.
Both of the aforementioned left Sydney in pursuit of regular game time – Kamsoba is joining the sky blues as a squad player.
The main question that Kamsoba presents is Steve Corica’s trust in the quality of players coming through their youth academy, considering the likes of Marco Tilio, Jake Hollman and Cameron Devlin have all been brought up through the academies but have shone away from home.
And while it can be interesting to compare their window to their rivals, Western Sydney Wanderers or Melbourne Victory, it’s important to put things into perspective.
As Steve Corica stated in an interview with NCA Newswire, they simply don’t need a giant overhaul considering the stability and quality of players currently at the club.
It wouldn’t be surprising to not see any further additions to the Sky Blue side, considering the depth of players they currently have:
And this doesn’t include Michael Zullo at left-back and Trent Buhagiar at striker, both of whom will return from the injury during the campaign.
It’s also likely that should Corcia bring off Ninkovic or Burgess that Caceres will be pushed forward as an attacking midfielder and one of Calem Nieuwenhof or Paulo Retre will drop into the base of midfield, considering the thorough depth they have in that area.
A similar thing can happen with Kosta Barbarouses being dropped back as a ten when Bobo makes his way onto the field as an impact sub, which will happen in most matches.
Nothing compares to the excitement of signing that marquee forward in the transfer window, but in realism, it’s not required from Sydney this season.
That’s not saying that Sydney is guaranteed to finish top two again this season – with the off-seasons that some sides are having, they won’t be guaranteed a finals position at all and will have to fight through every game.
But it would be irresponsible for Sydney to flex their financial muscles and sign another superstar or two.
And sometimes, a responsible, if boring window is what a club needs.
Image Supplied: Getty