In four months, Graham Arnold has turned Sydney FC from a bunch of individuals into a tight-knit squad which has stormed to the top of the A-League.
His marquee man produced one of the A-League’s best goals but Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold is reserving most raves for the former glamour club’s improving team culture.
Describing the Sky Blues as a bunch of individuals when he took over in the winter, Arnold is now presiding over a tight-knit squad which has stormed to the top of the table.
Friday night’s 2-0 upset of defending champions Brisbane Roar, their third match in six days, keeps Sydney unbeaten after three rounds and puts them one point clear of Perth Glory for at least 24 hours.
Not only was the Roar’s usually-slick passing game nullified by Arnold’s compact defence, the Sky Blues silenced the 14,141 Suncorp Stadium crowd with two wonder-strikes to end their 10-match, seven-season winless run in Brisbane.
As good as Serbian midfielder Milos Dimitrijevic’s looping 25m goal was in the second half, it wasn’t a patch on Marc Janko’s 28th-minute screamer – chesting a poor goalkeeping clearance high and then booming the volley home from 35m.
Neither Arnold nor Roar coach Mike Mulvey could name a better goal in the competition’s 10-season history.
According to the former Socceroos and Central Coast mentor, it’s just the start for the frighteningly talented Austrian striker.
But what has most impressed Arnold, Sydney’s fifth coach since their last title in 2009-10, has been the turnaround in team culture since he replaced Frank Farina.
“When I came to this club it wasn’t a team, it was a group of individuals,” he said. “I needed four months at this club.”
With Alessandro Del Piero departed, Arnold installed Alex Brosque as captain and Sasa Ognenovski and Nikola Petkovic as vice-captains and educated them on leading from the front.
“(I had) a lot of individual meetings with individual players,” he said. “A lot of team-building exercises to bring them together.
“I had to drive it at the start but they are now taking over.
“I wanted ownership and to give responsibility to the senior players.”
Former Roar duo Brosque and Ognenovski were two of the Sky Blues’ best in their returns to Suncorp Stadium, leaving Brisbane’s title defence in early peril.
They join the defunct North Queensland Fury (2009) as the only team’s to start the season with three straight losses.
But Mulvey staunchly denied any need for panic, and vowed to use their two week break to fix their woes.
Brisbane will have livewire Matt McKay back from suspension to play Melbourne City but must wait until December to regain injured keeper Michael Theo.
“We know we’re not getting the results we want,” Mulvey said.