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How Sydney FC are still shining in post-Arnold era

03:08 SAST 2018/11/05
Sydney FC
The Sky Blues are looking as strong as ever

After two seasons of A-League dominance, the signs suggested Sydney FC were set to slow down this season but apparently the Sky Blues didn't get the memo as they ended the weekend top of the table.

Despite losing Graham Arnold along with star players Adrian Mierzejewski and Bobo over the off-season, Sydney FC have continued to look a very sharp outfit in the face of early season adversity.

With young gun Trent Buhagiar and star signing Siem De Jong both set for lengthy stints on the sidelines, it's been anything but smooth sailing early on for Steve Corica.

After continuing Sydney's derby dominance last weekend, the Sky Blues stumbled at the final hurdle of the FFA Cup losing to Adelaide United 2-1 in the final on Tuesday.

It was a solid if unspectacular performance from Sydney FC, who struggled with the Reds pressing and would have had difficulty hearing themselves think in front of a vocal Adelaide crowd.

Given just days to recover, the Sky Blues squared off against Melbourne City on Friday night in what was their third game in just six days. 

With fans and pundits alike writing off their chances, Sydney put in a polished performance to humble City 3-0 on their own soil

Allowing Warren Joyce's side to dominate possession, Corica's men held firm at the back and were at their clinical best on the counter with Adam Le Fondre bagging a double to continue his super start with the club.

The striker has now scored in all six of his competitive appearances to date, not mention a handful of goals in pre-season, and has quickly filled the shoes of Bobo.

If anything, Le Fondre is offering the Sky Blues a bit more in attack with the Englishman more proactive in the final third as he goes looking for the ball and makes unpredictable runs forward. 

Another key figure against City was Paulo Retre, who picked up a goal and an assist as he proves to be more than just a fill-in.

After two uninspiring starts, Retre made the third one count as he showed growing confidence in the final third. With Buhagiar and De Jong out, Retre must step up and this performance offered plenty of promise.

Milos Ninkovic remains a star for the Sky Blues and has quickly struck up an effective partnership with Le Fondre. 

Corica hasn't changed a lot since taking the helm at Sydney FC sticking with the same players and formation - a trend that continued against City as he named an unchanged line-up from Tuesday night.

While a sign that his squad may not have the depth he'd like, the decision and subsequent result showed this current best 11 are fit and firing for the season ahead.

One man who would have been at long odds to play three games in six days was Sydney FC's 35-year-old skipper Alex Brosque.

But play he did, and while he didn't quite catch the eye against City, his strong performances against the Reds and Wanderers suggested there's still plenty of fight left in him.

Fight is something Brandon O'Neill and Josh Brillante continue to do in the heart of midfield for the Sky Blues as they give their side one of the most reliable A-League bases to build off.

Behind them, Sydney have now kept consecutive clean sheets in the A-League with Jop van der Linden slotting in seamlessly at the back.

Rhyan Grant is also turning heads at right-back with his confident attacking play and aggressive defence making him stand out for more than just his mullet.

On the other side, Michael Zullo has continued to shine with his forward runs giving Ninkovic some vital breathing room in the final third. 

After three rounds, the Sky Blues sit top of the table on goal difference and it's a spot they'll be determined to keep this season. 

While change has been in the air at Sydney FC, Corica has ensured on-field success has stayed the same early on in his A-League reign as he proves pre-season doubters wrong.