Key Players at the 2021 A-League Finals Series

By Ben Morris in Soccer
| June 9, 2021 10:21 am PDT

With the Socceroos playing their World Cup qualifiers in Kuwait, the 2021 A-League Finals Series will be missing a host of big-name stars.

Leading scorer Jamie Maclaren – who has netted 25 goals in 24 games for Melbourne City this year – is the most notable absentee, while guys like Rhyan Grant (Sydney FC), Ruon Tongyik (Central Coast Mariners), and Denis Genreau (Macarthur) will also miss the season finale.

However, there are still plenty of top players who could decide the A-League Finals Series in 2021.

Could Matt Simon cap off a remarkable season by taking the Mariners all the way? Will Craig Goodwin be able to guide Adelaide to A-League glory? Can Craig Noone fill Maclaren’s boots and lead City to the double?

Here are eight players to watch in the A-League 2021 Finals Series.

Matt Derbyshire – Macarthur FC

With Maclaren out of the equation, Matt Derbyshire is arguably the biggest goalscoring threat left in the A-League Finals Series.

The veteran English striker has racked up 14 goals in 25 matches across his – and Macarthur’s – maiden A-League campaign and has also chipped in with five assists along the way.

A-LEAGUE TOP GOALSCORERS (2020/21 SEASON)
Player Team Games Goals
Jamie Maclaren Melbourne City 24 25
Matt Derbyshire Macarthur FC 25 14
Bruno Fornaroli Perth Glory 26 13

When the Bulls brought Derbyshire to Australia, question marks were raised over his age. But the former Premier League player – who has 76 EPL appearances to his name – has proved that he can still find the back of the net at a rapid rate.

The 35-year-old has bagged braces against Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory in the past couple of months and netted a hat-trick against Adelaide United earlier in the season.

Fellow veterans like Adam Federici, Mark Milligan, and Beñat have all played pivotal roles in Macarthur’s debut campaign. But when it comes to discussing players who could decide the 2021 A-League Finals Series, Derbyshire is the Bulls’ leading contender.

Bobô – Sydney FC

One of the greatest overseas players in A-League history, Bobô has been a revelation since returning to Sydney FC.

Many believed that the 36-year-old would not be able to emulate what he achieved during his first spell Down Under. I mean, he scored 44 goals in 64 games between 2016 and 2018 – securing two Premierships, one Championship, and a Golden Boot in the process.

However, the ageless Brazilian has netted 11 goals in 18 matches since reopening his A-League account back in March – and he isn’t finished yet!

Following a loan spell in India with Mumbai City, Adam Le Fondre has also returned to Sydney at just the right time. Having bagged two goals and one assist in the Sky Blues’ 4-1 thrashing of Adelaide last month, Le Fondre looks set to take the finals by storm.

But if Sydney is to secure back-to-back titles, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Bobô was the hero.

Riku Danzaki – Brisbane Roar

From one of the oldest players in the A-League to one of the division’s brightest young stars.

It’s safe to say that very little was known about Riku Danzaki when Brisbane opted to take the 21-year-old on loan from Japanese side Consadole Sapporo. Fast-forward to today, and he is now one of the A-League’s most exciting prospects.

In fact, the gifted attacking midfielder heads into the Finals Series as the Roar’s top scorer, having chalked up nine goals during his maiden A-League season.

While fellow Brisbane youngsters such as Dylan Wenzel-Halls and Alex Parsons have enjoyed sporadic success throughout 2020/21, Danzaki has remained consistent and delivered on a regular basis.

It is highly unlikely that Brisbane will be able to turn Danzaki’s loan deal into a permanent transfer. Roar supporters will be desperate for the Japanese prodigy to end his stay in Southeast Queensland on a high.

Matt Simon – Central Coast Mariners

It almost seems unfair to single out just one Central Coast star when it comes to talking about players who could decide the A-League 2021 Finals Series. After all, the Mariners’ have produced countless team performances to reach this stage.

Goalkeeper Mark Birighitti has been immense between the sticks, Oliver Bozanic has held down the midfield, while forwards like Aluo Kuol and Marcos Ureña have continuously dished up match-winning moments.

Still, amidst all the heroes, one guy stands out from the crowd.

At the ripe old age of 35, Matt Simon is currently enjoying the most prolific season of his professional career. The ex-Sydney FC forward has contributed ten goals and three assists to the Mariners’ cause – and you can’t help but feel that he still has more to give.

Simon offers so much more than goals and assists, though. The experienced striker has led the Mariners’ young team throughout the season, using his gutsy hold-up play to bring his teammates into the game.

If Simon can fire his side to A-League glory, he will go down in Central Coast folklore.

Craig Goodwin – Adelaide United

It is no secret that Adelaide made a poor start to the 2020/21 campaign. The Reds lost four of their opening seven matches and instantly fell behind in the race for a top-six finish.

But when Craig Goodwin returned to South Australia, everything changed.

The Al Wehda loanee – who is currently enjoying his third spell at Coopers Stadium – wasted absolutely no time in reacquainting himself with the Adelaide faithful, notching five goals and five assists in his first nine appearances. As a result, the Reds posted a six-game winning streak.

Although Goodwin has only managed to add a further three goals to his tally since then, nobody would be shocked if he played a big part in the Reds’ Championship bid.

Craig Noone – Melbourne City

We all know that Melbourne City is preparing for life without Maclaren. Thankfully for the newly crowned premiers, they can rely on Craig Noone.

It is probably fair to say that Maclaren’s outrageous numbers have somewhat overshadowed Noone’s achievements this season. Of course, Maclaren deserves the plaudits. But Noone’s contributions should also be recognized.

MOST A-LEAGUE ASSISTS (2020/21 SEASON)
Player Team Games Assists
Alessandro Diamanti Western United 23 9
Craig Noone Melbourne City 24 8
Corey Brown Brisbane Roar 23 7

Not only has the English winger scored six goals this year, but he has also chalked up eight assists. Only one man – Western United’s Alessandro Diamanti – has provided more A-League assists in 2020/21.

At the end of the day, Patrick Kisnorbo’s side has been operating on a totally different level to all the other teams in the league this term. If Noone can carry his regular-season form into the finals, City will stand an excellent chance of clinching the double.

Joel King – Sydney FC

Prior to the start of the campaign, I included Joel King among my eight players to watch in the 2020/21 A-League season. Six months later, and the young Sydney FC full-back makes it onto my list of eight players who could decide the Finals Series.

After breaking into Steve Corica’s side last term, King has started all the Sky Blues’ 26 matches this year and has only been substituted on three occasions. For a 20-year-old, that is seriously good going!

Alongside homegrown heroes such as Alex Wilkinson and Andrew Redmayne, King has helped Sydney to achieve the best defensive record in the A-League – conceding just 23 goals in 26 games.

Throughout the season, the left-back has played with a maturity far beyond his years. Even when the Sky Blues were struggling at the start of the year, King continued to put in battling displays and further enhanced his growing reputation.

Sure, forwards like Bobô and Le Fondre grab the bulk of the headlines. But in my eyes, King’s defensive solidity makes him one of Corica’s main men.

Markel Susaeta – Macarthur FC

Markel Susaeta oozes class; it’s as simple as that. I mean, the former Spain international has almost 400 La Liga appearances under his belt – so it is hardly surprising that he has lit up the A-League this year.

Following a 12-year stint at Athletic Bilbao, the winger joined Melbourne City in 2020 and showed everyone glimpses of what he is capable of. But since signing for Macarthur on a permanent basis, the Spaniard has been one of the league’s most consistent performers.

Susaeta has notched five goals and one assist in 21 outings for the Bulls this season, underlining his importance to the team. Having netted three goals in his last five matches, he heads into the finals in good form.

Many thought that Beñat would be Macarthur’s top Spanish performer this term. However, Susaeta has outshone his former Bilbao teammate and looks set to have a big say in the outcome of the Finals Series.

Closing Thoughts

I think it’s a real shame that Australia’s international commitments have clashed with the Finals Series. 

In total, ten A-League players are currently away on international duty, with Melbourne City and Sydney FC both losing three key performers.

Let’s hope that the Socceroos and the A-League can work together in the coming years and prevent a similar situation from happening in the future.

Anyway, rather than focusing on the absent players, let’s enjoy the closing stages of what has been an unforgettable season.

Maclaren and co. may be out of the picture, but there are still numerous big-game players who could decide the 2021 A-League Finals Series.

If betting on the A-League is your thing, you’ll love our A-League betting guide. And if you’re planning to wager on Finals Series matches, you will find tips and predictions for every game in our soccer picks section.

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