In his preview for Macarthur FC’s inaugural A-League season, Joey Lynch wrote “Ultimately, the Bulls’ squad could even potentially challenge for the title, but whether that potential can be realised over the course of the season and whether Ante Milicic is able to thrive at club level, remains to be seen.”
While the Bulls did not ever really pose a serious threat to City for the A-League title, they were able to prove a lot of doubters wrong about their A-League credentials, with manager Ante Milicic highlighting his competency at this level.
A 6th place finish and semi-finals elimination may have, at the start of the season, been viewed as an above par season.
But for a while there, the cowbells were not the only things making noise out there at Campbelltown Stadium. The team on the pitch was equalling the noise and disruption created by the bells of it.
Sturdy in defence and controlling in attack, Macarthur were the proving their worth in this league, often deploying a Spanish style of play emblematic of the two Spanish stars spearheading their attack, Benat and Susaeta.
Macarthurs possession-based football saw them lead the league in accurate passes per match, with 460, and possession, at 55.8% come seasons end.
But for all the possession that the Bulls had, their inconsistency and lack of goals proved to be their achilles heel for much of the season.
For every 1-0 win over Sydney FC, there was a 4-1 loss against Western United not too far around the corner.
With just 36 goals scored at the end of the regular season, Macarthur were just the fourth most potent attacking outfit in the A-League, only ahead of Western United, Newcastle Jets and the Melbourne Victory, proving that this side, who could pass you to death, lacked the cutting edge that would elevate them from a good side to a great side.
Aside from Matt Derbyshire (14) and Susaeta (5) no other Macarthur players managed to score more than 3 goals.
Consistency wise, it just did not click for Macarthur, they were unable to achieve consistently good results and build a strong run off the back of them, something which I am sure the coaches and players will aim to improve heading into next season.
Between match weeks 13 and 15 Macarthur won three games in a row, but rather than build on these fantastic results and start a strong run of form heading into the back end of the season, the Bulls would fail to win in their next 5 matches, instead settling for 3 draws and 2 losses.
It’s runs of form like this that should bring some slight levels of concern to the Bulls, and one of the reasons why their season is considered, in my eyes, as being slightly above-par, rather than being a great debut season.
Because the talent and the promise is there, the consistency is just lacking. Luckily for the Bulls, consistency comes with experience, and the more matches this squad plays under Milicic, the more cohesive and consistent the side will get.
2020/21 can be viewed as a solid foundation season, where the Bulls implanted their culture and style on the players and staff and laid the platform for future successes.
The Bulls will be better for their performance this season. They can learn from their mistakes and fix the minor goalscoring and consistency issues that hindered their chances at success this season. And local young talent, such as Michael Ruhs and Charles M’mombwa, who showed exceptional promise when given the chance this season, have proved to be some of the shining lights in the Bulls season, highlighting the talent at their disposal in South-West Sydney and bringing much needed pace and flair to a side that at times lacked it.
These fine young footballers, as well as the other brilliant footballers in the squad, will only get better come next season.
And despite the departure of 5 key players this off-season in Milligan, Benat, Susaeta, Puyo and Derbyshire, the finals door remains firmly open for Macarthur come next season. Especially given the depth of talent, particularly attacking talent, that the club have brought in for next season.
Craig Noone, Ulises Davila and Daniel De Silva will all offer Macarthur something that separated them from the top sides this season. Goals and creativity in the final-third. Noone led the League in assists, Davila who scored 7 goals and provided 7 assists last season and is fresh off the back of winning the Johnny Warren Medal for 2020/21 and Daniel De Silva, a key component in the revitalisation of the Central Coast Mariners, will all provide a much-needed attacking spark to the Bulls.
Ultimately, any expansion side who finishes 6th and loses to the eventual Champions in the semi-final can be incredibly proud of their achievements in the debut season.
But for the Bulls, it felt like the potential for something truly special was there, but their own inconsistency proved to be their biggest downfall.
The positive for Macarthur is that it was their inaugural season, and off the back off a solid debut season, they have recruited well, and will hopefully be able to resolve their consistency issues for next season and go one-step further in their pursuit of A-League glory.