Why success has made Sydney FC's grumpy coach even angrier

There has been no off-season holiday as satisfying as that enjoyed by Sydney FC this year. But even after returning home to a full trophy cabinet, Graham Arnold still isn't happy.

If anything, the record-setting coach came back angrier than ever, according to Sky Blues captain Alex Brosque, who says Arnold has put more pressure on the players during this pre-season.

He's been louder on the training ground, more demanding of his team and has set targets higher as a weight of expectation fell immediately upon the shoulders of an experienced squad on its first day back in training.

"He's just been a lot angrier this pre-season - if that's even possible," Brosque said. "It's not for any reason just to be angry but it's to keep everyone focused."

Having gone through the entire A-League season losing just one game, setting a plethora of new benchmarks on their way to winning the domestic double last season, the target on the backs of Sydney's players has never been greater. Arnold's intensity at training acknowledges as much. He's pushed them not to rest on their laurels but to continue to remain the pace-setters in their title defence.

And that's why much of Arnold's harsh drive has been directed at the man who sets the standards within the dressing room.

"He said he was going to ride me this year, he was going to stay on top of me and from my point of view, he's going to make sure I don't let anything slip away," Brosque said.

At 33, Brosque is enjoying the rare luxury of a near uninterrupted pre-season with a minor ankle injury late in his preparations being the only blemish. He will likely enter round one away to Melbourne Victory in a better condition than he's ever started a season following a lengthy and tough pre-season where his role was defined as one that relays the coach's expectations to ensure the Sky Blues quickly forget their recent success.

"From my point of view, I need to be the same to the players. Whatever worked well last year, I need to do the same this year and make sure the players don't rest on what we did. We have to maintain that standard and, if anything, we have to improve it," Brosque said. "You can see that the attitude and commitment has been great in pre-season and that's the same now."

In part, that mentality is driven by lessons of the past. Sydney FC's horrendous season in 2010-11 still lingers in his mind where the Sky Blues' complacency led to their worst finish ever, in ninth, following their title win the previous season.

"The one thing that I remember from that was how we didn't start so well and people were saying: 'You haven't won in a few games, are you worried?' I thought we would be OK back then just because we had the same team. I've realised that's not enough," Brosque said. "Everything Arnie has said to me about resting on what we did last year is not enough. From round one, we have to be a 100 per cent ready to go."

Already, Brosque says their attacking system has evolved from last season and hinted at his versatile role in the front four being one that's more advanced. This campaign, the former Australian international is likely to play more as a partner to centre forward Bobo rather than part of the support cast and with the service provided by new signing Adrian Mierzejewski and player of the year, Milos Ninkovic, he expects the goals to fly in.

"I'm genuinely excited being closer to Bobo because I think that will lead to more goals when we click," Brosque said. "As much as teams tried last season, they couldn't shut down Ninko. Regardless, we've got Adrian as well there now. To have two No.10s that good will probably be the difference."

This story Why success has made Sydney FC's grumpy coach even angrier first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.