Since the first days of pre-season, Graham Arnold has remained firm that the biggest test Sydney FC will face this season will be against themselves. As of January 1, that may no longer be the case.
Arnold’s statements have so far been true, as no side has tarnished the Sky Blues’ undefeated start to the season that has put them seven points clear at the top of the A-League table.
However, the club is now braced to become the victim of their own success once the Asian transfer windows begin to reopen at the start of 2017.
Few have been able to match Sydney FC in the A-League this season, but the Sky Blues are no contest for the riches of Asia and are expecting a flurry of offers to come in for some of their star players. Already, defender Matt Jurman has attracted interest from South Korea and is in the final months of his contract with Sydney. The Sky Blues have targeted Perth Glory’s Rhys Williams as a potential replacement as they prepare for a number of other players to become transfer targets of foreign clubs.
The Thai and UAE windows have already opened, China and Qatar will follow on New Year’s Day and soon the Asian transfer market will be in full operation when Japan and Korea begin their dealings on January 7 – and Arnold believes retaining his in-form squad could be the biggest hurdle he’s faced thus far.
“You’ve got Asian agents knocking on the door for some of our players,” Arnold said. “It’s about getting through this next period but also managing that, the transfer window is coming up on January 1 and there’s no transfers in but we can’t compete with transfers outside of .”
No club has started an A-League season better than Sydney FC this campaign but a squad with so many key players in the last year of their contracts makes them more enticing and affordable for Asian clubs.
It’s the third time Arnold has overseen a league leader during the January transfer window following his time with Central Coast Mariners and his past experience in managing players wanted by foreign clubs.
Arnold’s bid to convince his best players to stay with the club is a challenge to finish the season as champions and set a new record for points amassed in a single season.
“Make history, be the best A-League team ever and win. It’s been six years, going on to seven that this club hasn’t won a trophy and that’s what we’ve tried to drive since day one,” Arnold said.
Sydney are already on track to do so having claimed 30 points before the halfway mark of this season. They are on course to not only break the record of 57 points in a 10 team, 27 game format, but also break the all-time A-League record of 65 points set by Brisbane Roar in 2010-11.
“Players don’t want to leave a good environment, here in especially we give the players everything here that they need to become top footballers,” Arnold said.