Sydney FC’s secret sauce: local star Alex Wilkinson

Sydney FC lifted the A-League’s Premiership Plate last Friday night as the first club to achieve the title back to back.

The final fixture of the season saw the Sky Blues take on their interstate rival, Melbourne Victory, with very little at stake – the reigning premiers had this season’s campaign in the bag weeks ago.

But Sydney FC ended the season on a high, claiming the three points courtesy of a goal from Brazilian striker Bobo but largely thanks to the Sky Blues’ understated point of difference – local star defender Alex Wilkinson.

Wilkinson, 33, has never been in better form and a growing chorus of football pundits believe he should still be in contention for Socceroos selection ahead of this year’s World Cup campaign in Russia.

The veteran defender made an incredible nine clearances in total, two more than any other player on the pitch, while four blocks underscored his whole-hearted display against Victory.

He twice denied the visitors a goal, first from an early block to deny Besart Berisha at point-blank range.

Later he produced an even better stop in the second-half, with a miraculous goal-line clearance to keep out Leroy George’s goal-bound effort and keep his side’s three points intact.

Alex Wilkinson’s spectacular goal-line clearance preserved his side’s three points and 1-0 win over visitors Melbourne Victory in the final round of the 2017/18 A-League competition.

Dependable Wilkinson, who has been a key ingredient in Sydney FC’s Premiership double success, hails from East Ryde.

Shifting of tide for Arnold

Head coach, Graham Arnold, having finished runner-up to Melbourne Victory in his debut season at the Sky Blues, has seen the tide well and truly shift.

And he says his side’s supremacy should be lauded not only as a landmark achievement in recent Australian footballing history but more generally, in sport across the country.

“Everyone said at the start of the year that we couldn’t have a season like we did last year,” Arnold said.

“But you look at the stats and no one’s gone back to back in 24 years – a life time in half of my players in the squad, and you look across the codes and that stat is very similar.”

Prior to Arnold’s appointment as Sydney boss in May 2014 the Sky Blues had not tasted silverware since their 2009/10 Premiership victory.

But while Sydney will enter the 2017/18 Finals Series as red-hot favourites, the future Caltex Socceroos manager isn’t getting carried away.

“I wasn’t overly happy with our performance tonight, it was a scrappy performance,” he said.

“But we’ll work hard at training to tighten up the discipline and we look forward to Round 28.”

Sydney FC will enjoy the first week of the Finals Series off but as TWT went press this week, needed to first cast their gaze toward a crunch AFC Champions League encounter with Shanghai Shenhua at Allianz Stadium. (UPDATE: Despite a stack of chances, Sydney FC could only manage a nil-all draw with Shanghai Shenhua in a feisty match which puts an end to its AFC Champions League campaign.