8 Players Set to Shine in the 2020/21 A-League Season
With the 2020/21 A-League season fast approaching, it feels like the right time to look at some of the players that are set to shine when the new campaign gets underway on Sunday, December 27.
We all know that the Australian top flight is packed with a host of overseas veterans, but there are also plenty of promising homegrown youngsters to get excited about.
In this post, I have chosen to feature a blend of experienced stars and upcoming prodigies. Here are 8 players to watch in the 2020/21 A-League Season.
Jamie Maclaren – Melbourne City
It only makes sense to start with last season’s top scorer, right?
Melbourne City’s 2019/20 campaign will forever be remembered for that agonizing extra-time defeat to Sydney FC in the Grand Final. But let’s not forget just how good Jamie Maclaren was last term.
The forward bagged an unrivaled 22 goals in 23 regular-season matches, including five braces. He was also the only player to net two A-League hat-tricks last season, finishing two goals ahead of Adam Le Fondre in the final goalscoring charts.
It is no secret that Maclaren has been around the block. However, he seems to have settled in Melbourne. After turbulent spells in England, Germany, and Scotland, the 27-year-old will be hoping to use all of his experience to help City end Sydney FC’s A-League domination in the upcoming campaign.
Ulises Davila – Wellington Phoenix
Ulises Davila arrived in Wellington as a failed Chelsea castaway. But following an outstanding maiden season in Australia, he is already viewed by many as a Phoenix legend.
The Mexican helped the New Zealanders to secure their highest-ever A-League finish last term, racking up 12 goals and five assists along the way. He was even rewarded for his efforts with a nomination for the Jonny Warren Medal.
Davila scored every kind of goal last season, making him one of the most feared attackers in the division. From long-range strikes to mazy solo efforts, the left-footed forward remained a constant threat throughout the campaign.
It is certainly an exciting time to be a Nix supporter. If Davila can pick up where he left off last term, Wellington could challenge the top clubs in the country again.
Joel King – Sydney FC
Joel King may only be 18, but I’m expecting big things from the teenager in 2020/21.
When Michael Zullo picked up an injury at the start of last season, Sydney FC head coach Steve Corica had little choice but to fast-track King into the first team. Few could have predicted the impact that the young left-back would make.
King wasted no time in repaying his manager’s faith and quickly became a key figure for the Sky Blues. The youngster was thrown in at the deep end, yet he never once looked out of place, finishing the campaign with a memorable performance in the Grand Final.
Fellow Sydney FC defenders Rhyan Grant and Alex Wilkinson made it into the Team of the Season, but I don’t think anyone would have been surprised if King was named alongside his team-mates in last term’s best XI.
Corica’s side looks set for another commanding campaign, meaning King is only going to enhance his glowing reputation in the coming year.
Besart Berisha – Western United
If you follow Australian soccer, you will obviously be familiar with Besart Berisha. Of course, the Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory legend is the A-League’s all-time leading goalscorer.
The veteran striker may be in the twilight of his career, but he is far from finished.
Even at the ripe old age of 35, Berisha was still banging in goals for Western United last season. The Kosovan scored 19 times in 2019/20, helping the A-League newcomers to secure a hugely impressive fifth-place finish in their top-flight debut campaign.
It is inevitable the Berisha will begin to decline at some stage, but right now, he still has a lot to offer. I’m expecting the experienced journeyman to have a big impact on the upcoming season.
Dylan Wenzel-Halls – Brisbane Roar
Dylan Wenzel-Halls heads into the 2020/21 campaign on the back of two full seasons with Brisbane Roar. At 22, he is no longer a youngster in soccer terms. But it feels like the forward is yet to unleash his full potential.
Wenzel-Halls may not be the most prolific attacker. Indeed, he only managed to score two goals in 20 appearances last term. But what he lacks in the goalscoring department, he more than makes up for with his intelligent link-up play and relentless work-rate.
Under the guidance of former EPL star Robbie Fowler, the forward would have learned plenty of valuable lessons. Fowler is no longer at the club, but that doesn’t mean that Wenzel-Halls won’t be able to excel over the next year.
I can see the 22-year-old having a big say in the outcome of Brisbane’s season.
Callum McManaman – Melbourne Victory
Following arguably the worst campaign in the club’s history, it is no real surprise that Melbourne Victory has been busy during the off-season. There have been a number of new arrivals over the past couple of months, although Callum McManaman is the player that I’m most looking forward to watching.
With almost 50 EPL appearances under his belt, McManaman is clearly a top player. However, he found himself in and out of Luton’s Championship side last term.
The former Wigan, West Brom, and Sunderland winger now has the opportunity to reinvent himself in Australia – and I’m backing him to hit the ground running in Victoria.
Ex-Luton team-mate Jacob Butterfield has also joined Victory. Like McManaman, the midfielder brings a wealth of experience to the club. If the new signings can find their feet, it won’t be long before Grant Brebner’s side is challenging at the right end of the table again.
Buzzing to have finally signed ✍️ lets get to work ???? https://t.co/C21J2Bectp— callum mcmanaman (@cm_macca) October 13, 2020
Benat Etxebarria – Macarthur FC
Macarthur FC has made their ambitions clear by making a number of eye-catching signings leading up to their debut A-League campaign. Adam Federici, Mark Milligan, and Tommy Orr are just a few of the well-known arrivals, yet Benat Etxebarria is undoubtedly the biggest name on the list.
Not only does the midfielder have over 250 La Liga appearances to his name, but he also has four international caps for Spain. Having been a key figure for both Real Betis and Athletic Bilbao over the past decade, Etxebarria will almost certainly shine in Australia.
This transfer is not quite on the same level as Alessandro Del Pierro’s move to Sydney FC or David Villa’s stint with Melbourne City. Still, even without kicking a ball for the Bulls, Etxebarria is already one of the most high-profile players in A-League history.
Ante Milicic is building something special in South Western Sydney, with Etxebarria set to spearhead the newcomers’ maiden top-flight season.
Angus Thurgate – Newcastle Jets
It feels like Angus Thurgate has been around for a while now. The youngster was handed his A-League debut in the 2017/18 campaign before being given plenty of opportunities in 2018/19. But last season, he established himself as one of the best young players in the country.
Still just 20, Thurgate is destined to be a star. He featured in all but one of Newcastle’s top-flight matches last term, contributing two goals and two assists in the process.
Thurgate generally operates as a central midfielder. The defensive side of his game is undoubtedly his strength. However, the versatile youngster has also found himself out on the wing at times and even played as a forward in a few games last season.
Wherever he plays, Thurgate invariably catches the eye. The Jets now know they can rely on the 20-year-old, so I’m confident that he will enjoy another standout campaign.
It’s been a busy off-season in Australian soccer, with multiple comings and goings at every A-League club. You can get up to date with all the confirmed transfers here.
Ultimately, I’m expecting all the usual suspects to light up the A-League in the upcoming campaign. You can almost guarantee that players like Maclaren and Berisha will continue to impress.
But I’m also very excited to see how the leaders of the next generation fare. King, Wenzel-Halls, and Thurgate all look set to take the league by storm, so I can’t wait for the new season to get underway.
Remember, the upcoming campaign commences on Sunday, December 27. I’ve already broken down the odds for every team ahead of the new season, and I’ll also be adding more A-League content over the next few weeks.
Once the season starts, you will be able to get regular A-League betting tips and predictions in our soccer picks section.