updownTrue football fans are realists bordering on pessimists. It’s a lifestyle choice as much as anything. For every day tripper who turned up to bask in the glory of Sydney FC’s annihilation of Wellington Phoenix  there were two Allianz Stadium regulars going into damage control for the loss just around the corner. This fatalistic outlook can be an act of self preservation particularly for supporters of Sydney FC, a team that toy’s so relentlessly with its supporters’ emotions you’d swear they trained hard at it. A club that’s witnessed more false dawns than Afghanistan demands its followers view life with plenty of caution albeit hidden behind a wall of bravado. In other words, it’s all flag waving song and dance while the game’s on but in the wee small hours when the lights are out and fans are left alone to ponder the challenges that lie ahead that old familiar doubt sets in. So having followed up an enormous win with a morale deflating defeat, and sitting in eighth place in a ten team league, what kind of shape is Sydney FC really in?
A 7-1 victory in which your star player finally throws off the shackles to score three superb goals plus a penalty for good measure is a resounding statement. Particularly when it comes on the back of a gutsy come from behind win the week prior. Just how much did this pair of results change things though? Much was made of the record win against Wellington and understandably so. After all, it’s not every weekend you stick seven goals past an opponent and concede only one. But closer scrutiny reveals a gulf in finishing prowess if not a great deal else. The Phoenix created a sack full of chances, but where Del Piero and co. were clinical, Wellington couldn’t have hit the ground if they’d fallen out of a tree above it. Equally, Sydney’s opponents allowed them a suicidal amount of time in possession which they took full advantage of.
Only a fool would imagine this dream scenario every week so Sydney facing Melbourne Victory on Australia Day was the perfect chance to prove themselves the real deal. Unfortunately they were unequal to the task in a game that was a truer reflection of where Sydney are at. Hardly disgraced, the men in blue faced a classy opponent beginning to look a lot like title favorites who accounted for them comfortably. The home side looked the slicker team throughout and rewarded there large fan base with a memorable win. Melbourne crowds of course like Sydney FC even less than they do Victoria Azarenka and while Sydney generally conduct themselves with more decorum than the slavic squeeler they lack her ability to triumph in adversity. Despite looking second best they were in the game for over an hour but were eventually brought undone by ill-discipline with Tiago Calvano reverting to type and getting himself needlessly sent off.
With the final third of he regular season now commencing Sydney need desperately to sort out their personality disorder. They’ve flitted between mid table mediocrity and cellar dweller whilst only occasionally showing the ambition to be something greater. What exactly then is the extent of their capabilities? Much will depend on their form against the teams around them as they face Newcastle, Brisbane and Melbourne Heart in the coming weeks in a season defining period. They have improved considerably since Frank Farina has taken over but while the new boss is a leader and a fighter he is hardly a deep thinker. Despite a promising start to his tenure, Farina now seems content to shoe horn his eleven most experienced players into a four-four-two formation no matter the opponent. Its an unwelcome return to his days at the helm of the Socceroos and adds credibility to the suspicion that he’s a tactically naive bloke given a chance at this coaching lark because he was a handy footballer. He’s whipped his team into tip top shape and got them playing for each other but the players might just be on their own after that.
It’s the expected norm that this team is poor defensively yet that wasn’t the main problem on the weekend. All three of Melbourne’s goals were scored against ten men two of which took big deflections. Otherwise the back four had one of its better games against a tricky opponent. More worrying is that despite a healthy share of possession Sydney created very little offensively and generally lacked a cutting edge. After the breather last week, Del Piero was heavily marked again and despite showing flashes of quality he failed to dominate. This left Sydney looking pedestrian and predictable, with little alternative but to keep trying the same. It eventually yielded them a good goal but never looked like changing the result.
It is not a big club’s ambition to thrash the weak teams, rather to beat the strong. On this basis Sydney are still short of where they want to be. Its not difficult to imagine them sneaking into the top six by the season’s end but getting anywhere near the Final is a different matter. Vast improvement is still needed, and it’s needed fast.


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