We needed a bad season: Arnold
Photo Source: AAP
Graham Arnold and Alex Brosque had more than a few discussions during the A-League's off-season.
Sydney FC's coach and captain scrutinised a sub-standard domestic campaign, painfully analysing what went so wrong less than a year after the club's 52-goal run to the 2014-15 grand final.
The long-term loss of Brosque to injury was a major factor in a campaign largely devoid of goals from other sources.
Some key players struggled to perform, while balancing a successful Asian Champions League campaign ran the rest ragged.
There was no erasing the 11-game winless streak that ultimately cost them a place in the finals.
The only real answer was to move forward, and acknowledge that perhaps a lousy season was what Sydney needed most.
"That's one of the things me and Arnie spoke about in the off-season," Brosque told AAP.
"The first season he came in, everything went well - we broke a lot of club records and made the grand final.
"But it probably masked over a few issues that were there when he took over already.
"As bad as it was, it was probably one we needed to have in order to get things going in the right direction again."
The harsh truth for Arnold was he wasn't used to losing.
He'd claimed a premiership and championship within three years at Central Coast and then breezed to the 2014-15 season decider in his first year at Sydney's glamour club.
Now, the 53-year-old is well-versed.
"When you go into coaching, you're not handed a handbook - you can't do a university course for it. You learn along the way, through experiences," Arnold told AAP.
"That was the first time I'd been through that, ever.
"In the A-League, out of five years, I'd had four top-two finishes and three grand finals. This was the first time I'd missed the top six.
"I'm always hard on myself. I went away, analysed my own performance and it wasn't good enough.
"It's made me not only a better coach, but a better person.
"It's taken some negative things from last year to make it better."
Quality recruitment is the standout element of the new Sky Blues, increasingly viewed as genuine title contenders.
Last season's squad of 27 has been reduced to 23, with Brazilian marquee striker Bobo and returned winger Bernie Ibini leading a revived attack, backed up by the proven talent of Danny Vukovic, Michael Zullo, Alex Wilkinson and Josh Brillante.
That fit-again Brosque and last season's player of the year Matt Jurman started on the bench against Blacktown City last month hints at the depth.
Arnold is in the last year of his contract and has knocked back a number of off-season offers to coach overseas.
There's unfinished business.
"There's regularly offers and phone calls from agents trying to entice you, but now isn't the right time." he said.
"I love Sydney FC. I'm a Sydney boy and all I want is the fans to be happy and the club to win things and go forward.
"I'm on the last year of my contract but I don't care - my future is open for myself."