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Sydney FC set to sharpen knife on playing stocks after finals failure

With Sydney FC's chances of playing in this season's finals series reduced to a set of remote mathematical equations, coach Graham Arnold has already begun casting an eye to which players he needs to replace next season.

The Sky Blues had one last roll of the dice to keep their season alive at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night but squandered an early lead and an equalising goal, both scored by marquee Filip Holosko, before losing 3-2 after a late winner from Roar super-sub Henrique.

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Although Arnold has promised to put out strong teams for the remaining two home matches against Adelaide United and Perth Glory, the reality is that those fixtures are now relatively meaningless – bar a near-impossible collapse from Melbourne Victory, who need only a point to lock their spot in the finals.

More attention would seemingly need to be paid to the club's Asian Champions League campaign, which is in much healthier shape. After losing their opening game to Urawa Red Diamonds, back-to-back wins against Guangzhou Evergrande and Pohang Steelers has Sydney on top of the table at the half-way point of the group stages. They host the Korean side in their next ACL matches on April 5.

Rebuild:  Graham Arnold the coach of Sydney FC is looking to the future.
Rebuild: Graham Arnold the coach of Sydney FC is looking to the future.  Photo: Getty Images

Although most of last season's changes were forced upon the Sky Blues from players wanting to further their career abroad, the scenario this time around is significantly different.

Ali Abbas, Zac Anderson, Anthony Bouzanis, Alex Brosque, Jacques Faty, Alex Mullen, Robert Stambolziev, Riley Woodcock, Matt Simon and Ivan Necevski are all coming off contract at the end of the season.

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The status of several of those players remains unclear, with Anderson and Stambolziev potentially having done enough in recent weeks to earn new deals. Brosque will also be offered a new contract but it will be inside the salary cap and on almost certainly on significantly reduced terms after missing a large chunk of the season with injury.

If Faty leaves, as some expect, it may also spell the end of Mickael Tavares, even if he has an extra year on his deal, unlike his cousin.

Fellow central midfielder Milos Dimitrijevic is also under contract for another year but the club won't prevent him from moving on after a hugely disappointing season. Striker Shane Smeltz has previously courted interest from Malaysia and the club will invite offers for the 34-year old as they seek to refresh their striking stocks.

Rhys Williams and Brett Holman are among the Australians abroad who've been linked with a move back to the A-League and both may be courted by the Sky Blues, although the presence of Milos Ninkovic potentially lessens the need for Holman.

While the disappointment of missing the finals is obvious for Arnold, he claims he's looking forward to re-shaping the squad and fixing some cultural issues that have been allowed to grow in recent months.

"I'm going through a period I've never been through as a coach and I'm enjoying it more than ever," he said. "I'm learning more about myself, I'm learning more about the challenges of being a coach, I'm learning more about the players that I've got and the character of them. I've got the vision and I can see where we need to fix things at this club. I'm always up for a challenge, I'm always up for a fight and I'll keep fighting."

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