It’s 183 days, about 6 months, since the club played its last league match, and a great many changes have occurred. Ownership, club name, club badge, home jersey, away jersey, training ground, assistant coaches, international marquee and about half of the starting XI and overall playing squad list are all different. Now the question is whether there will be a change with the team’s season results, and perhaps a change with the club’s history of not winning silverware as well.
The end goal is clear. As Ferran Soriano has put it, the ultimate aim is to become ‘one of the most successful football clubs in Australia and throughout the region’. The coach John van’t Schip has also unambiguously stated on multiple occasions that ‘our goal is to become the best club in Australia’.
So what does Melbourne City’s first season in 2014/15 promise? Personnel affiliated with Melbourne City have downplayed this season’s expectations, whilst firmly underlining the club’s end goal ambitions. On the 2014/15 season, Van’t Schip has said ‘we have a chance’ to win the Championship, ‘if we work hard, if we gel, if we can deal with the different kind of pressure, and then we’re going to be a team that’s going to be up there, and that’s what we want’.
Given the vast number of changes, it’s tough to predict with certainty how Melbourne City will fare this season, as the many changes that have occurred could conceivably all come up trumps and propel the team to success, or all the changes could fall seriously short and hence be apart of an unsuccessful season, or things could yield mixed results. The consensus with pundits and observers is that Melbourne City will finish mid-table, somewhere between 3rd and 6th, with only outliers suggesting a 1st or a 2nd finish, or a finish outside the finals. However, the bookmakers are more optimistic, with Melbourne City being equal second favourites to win the league.
The way Melbourne City will play football in the 2014/15 season is much more clear. Van’t Schip has said ‘we want to dominate and have the ball’, with the coach further stating that the team will seek to attack more often than defend, try to win the ball back quickly after losing it and to routinely try to defend high up the pitch. The team will likely use a 4-3-3 formation, or a similar formation which utilises wide attacking players. As Van’t Schip has simply put it about team’s style of play: ‘[we] have a philosophy that we don’t change, we just try to play the same way and only we want to play better’.
Given the impossibility of stating with certainty how Melbourne City will go this season, this preview will rather provide the optimistic case for Melbourne City’s upcoming season, where the team finishes in a high position, as well as the pessimistic argument for the upcoming season, where things go astray and the team finishes towards the bottom half of the table. The pessimistic case first:
The glass is half empty because
- The club doesn’t have a history of success, with the club’s 4 previous seasons being pretty unsuccessful.
- In pre-season, the team only won 1 out of its 5 matches against A-League opposition.
- 13 players who were apart of last season’s very unsuccessful campaign remain in the team.
- David Villa will only play in the team for 10 games (at most), and his short stint could be disruptive.
- The team hasn’t strengthened defensively, in particular in the fullback and goalkeeper positions.
The glass is half full because
- Manchester City and the City Football Group have a strong and proven history of success with their undertakings.
- In pre-season, the team was undefeated in 10 out of 13 matches, winning 7 (with 7-0, 6-0, 5-1, 5-0, 4-0, 1-0 and 2-1 scorelines). Against A-League opposition, the team drew inter-state with Central Coast Mariners and won 2-1 against Perth Glory (with their consolation goal coming around the 90th minute). Also, all of Melbourne City’s best players came towards the tail-end of pre-season (with the best player, David Villa, not featuring at all), and Melbourne City’s pre-season results improved proportionately to these players joining the team (for example, the team has a 100% record since Paartalu joined the team).
- 10 new players have joined the team, at least 5 of whom will likely be starters (Villa, Duff, Koren, Mooy, Paartalu). Also, these new players provide the team with a strongly talented new spine, consisting of Villa, Koren and Paartalu.
- Since arriving in Melbourne, Villa has looked like the utmost professional, and he looks set to make a very big impact across his 10 games. Villa’s professionalism is likely to rub off on the team and leave an indelible positive impression on the club. He could also help the team start the season very well, which may be especially helpful for this team in transition. Teams make the finals if they have 11 to 13 wins (at least 32 to 38 points), so Villa making an impact over 10 games alone can just about guarantee finals football.
- The team has arguably the best midfield in the competition (Koren, Mooy, Paartalu), and maybe the strongest attack as well (Duff, Villa, Williams/Dugandzic). If the team plays to its strengths and plays attacking football, the midfield and attack will be significantly more involved and important in games than the team’s defence. Also, when fit the back four of Garuccio, Kisnorbo, Wielaert/Chapman and Germano/Hoffman is a decent A-League defence.
Overall, with the multitude of changes Melbourne City’s 2014/15 season promises a lot of new experiences. With so much change it is something of a fool’s errand to try and precisely predict how the season will unfold, with there being reasonable arguments for a largely successful season and for a not so successful season. But what we know for sure is that Melbourne City now has the financial support to put it on the road to long-lasting success. With the addition of two Premier League players of last season wearing the club’s jersey in 2014/15, and World Cup winner David Villa, it is sure to be a memorable season. All of these new and exciting changes will happen alongside an increased membership base, generating more attention toward the club than ever before.
This article is by Melbourne Football community member Murfy1.