The January transfer window saw a slight shuffling of the A-League pack, with no major squad upheavals taking place.
At this stage of the season, though, even minor changes can make the difference in such a tight competition.
Here’s how each team in the competition fared:
Ins: Ryan Griffiths (free agent), Michael Marrone (free agent)
Outs: Steven Lustica (Brisbane Roar), Antony Golec (Western Sydney Wanderers)
Griffiths will bring experience and leadership to the Reds and the multi-functional Marrone should fit in perfectly in Josep Gombau’s setup, but sending two decent players to A-League rivals is always a risky move.
Ins: Jean Carlos Solorzano (free agent), Steven Lustica (Adelaide Utd)
Outs: Kwame Yeboah (Borussia Monchengladbach)
Nothing too spectacular from the Roar during the window, but at the same time they don’t look like they’re in need of major changes. Solorzano should prove useful as a backup to Besart Berisha, while it wasn’t long ago that Lustica showed himself to be a solid player for the side in Orange.
Central Coast Mariners
Ins: Bernie Ibini-Isei (Shanghai SIPG), Eddy Bosnar (free agent), Kim Seung-Yong (Ulsan Hyundai), Isaka Cernak (free agent)
Outs: Michael McGlinchey (Vegalta Sendai), Trent Sainsbury (PEC Zwolle), Daniel McBreen (Shanghai SIPG)
The Mariners suffered some heavy losses, as always seems to be the case, but they also recruited very well. Kim Seung-Yong especially has the class to take the A-League by storm.
Outs: Golgol Mebrahtu (Western Sydney Wanderers), Dylan Macallister (Eastern Salon), Andrea Migliorini (released)
Nobody joined the struggling Heart, but nor are any of their losses too earth shattering. Their new owners can be expected to start their recruitment drive in the next transfer window.
Ins: Tomas Rogic (Celtic)
Outs: Mitch Nichols (Cerezo Osaka), Jonathan Bru (released)
The way Nichols departed the club left a slightly bitter taste but, hey, the Victory have landed one of the best Australian players going around at the moment in Tommy Rogic. Once he gets settled in, he could make a big difference this season.
Ins: Joel Griffiths (Qingdao Jonoon), Nick Ward (free agent), David Carney (free agent)
Outs: Nathan Burns (Incheon United)
Griffiths, Carney and Ward bring depth and quality to the Jets squad, and should more than make up for the loss of Burns.
Ins: Rostyn Griffiths (free agent), Darvydas Sernas (Gaziantepspor), Neboja MarInskovic (free agent)
Outs: Ryo Nagai (Cerezo Osaka), Isaka Cernak (released)
Lithuanian striker Sernas has shown he should have no trouble finding the net in the A-League by scoring on debut, while the two new midfielders can booster Perth’s strength in the centre of the pitch. If the recruits can hit the ground running, the Glory will be a stronger side in the last part of the season.
Ins: Milos Dimitrijevic (free agent), Sasa Ognenovski (free agent)
Outs: Yairo Yau (released), Brett Emerton (released), Tiago (Minnesota Utd)
Though a big name on paper, Brett Emerton’s retirement will not affect the Sky Blues too much as he had not had a huge influence on the pitch over the last season. The latest Serbian to join the club, Dimitrijevic, has pedigree but has not seen much action recently, while Ognenovski’s return to Australia can only be a huge positive for Sydney.
Ins: Roy Krishna (Auckland City)
Just the one change for Wellington. Krishna may prove a revelation, but he is unproven at the top level, so represents a slight risk.
Western Sydney Wanderers
Ins: Golgol Mebrahtu (Melbourne Heart), Daniel Mullen (free agent), Antony Golec (Adelaide United)
The Wanderers retained their already strong squad and added three more players. No superstar recruits, but they are players who are good enough to make a difference come the pointy end of the season.