Wanderers record proves they can challenge
Photo Source: AAP
His team swept them aside with authority, but even Sydney FC captain Alex Brosque considers it unwise to discount Western Sydney so early in the A-League season.
Saturday night's 4-0 defeat left Tony Popovic's Wanderers with much to work on after missed opportunities and defensive holes triggered a second-half collapse.
"They've done what they always do which is revamp the whole squad, so it's a bit hard to gauge exactly how they'll fare," Brosque told AAP.
"Some might see it as strange that Popovic changes so often, but he's obviously shown that regardless of what 20 players he has he can get it done.
"It's hard to know what sort of team they're going to be like, but before you know it they're up the top of the table and the season is getting away."
Former A-League coach John Kosmina described Popovic's revamped grand finalists as lacking cohesion and fluency on Saturday night.
But apart from the record scoreline, there was nothing unusual for the Wanderers about the Sydney derby loss - it's now eight games since they've won the fixture.
And, more tellingly, it was not abnormal for them to leave round one winless - they've triumphed only once in the opening three rounds across the four seasons before this, three of which ended with grand-final appearances.
Despite being the league's youngest franchise, Western Sydney undergo possibly the highest annual turnover in personnel.
For that reason, Popovic's squads historically spend the first few rounds addressing teething issues before players mould into a formidable force.
And this campaign will no doubt be challenging in the absence of last season's most reliable charges.
Mark Bridge's attacking vision. Andreu's midfield composure. Scott Jamieson's unmatched workrate.
But there is promise in new faces, like exuberant striker Kerem Bulut, who may just need a few weeks to start converting the chances he missed against the Sky Blues.
The skill and agility of Japanese winger Jumpei Kusukami is also sure to provide fruits, while marquee playmaker Nicolas Martinez enjoyed a promising cameo.
Popovic said his latest overhaul was part of the club's evolution as he seeks to fortify their new attacking style with extra final-third creativity.
"We're trying to add a few new elements to our game," Popovic told AAP.
"I'm always searching for something; I don't know if I'll ever find it.
"I feel we get to a point, and then I'm searching for players who can help take it another step.
"We were very happy last year - we finished second, made the grand final and made the Asian Champions League.
"Had all those players stayed again it wouldn't have been a disaster, it would have been good.
"But we just felt we could improve our strength and we believe that come the turn of the year we'll have a strong squad that can get through the group stage of the Champions League and be challenging for the A-League title again."