On paper things have never looked better for Melbourne City (or Melbourne Heart) going into a season. Absolutely first class training facilities, two quality A-League players for each position, the club’s superstar Aaron Mooy re-signed on a long term contract, and good foreign players including a very promising striker.
But on the pitch as well, during pre-season, things have never looked better before a season. Melbourne City smashed fellow 2014-15 A-League finalists Wellington Phoenix 5-1 in competitive play in the FFA Cup, and followed up with a good 5-0 win against NPL side Heidelberg United to make the FFA Cup semi-finals (streets ahead of last season’s round 32 FFA Cup exit).
Football seasons rarely follow the pre-season script, and football matches aren’t played on paper, but Melbourne City has never had a stronger base to build from. Therefore there should be plenty of things to look out for this season, and a shortlist of key points includes:
Aaron Mooy – The kid is ready to take the A-League by the scruff of the neck, and become far and away the A-League’s best Australian player, with Milligan and Burns having departed the scene. He is already dominating the FFA Cup, being the competition’s top scorer with 6 goals (the next best A-League players, such as Berisha, and City’s own Bruno Fornaroli, have 3), and there’s no reason to think he won’t dominate the A-League again this season. Melbourne City will just have to make sure Mooy isn’t a one-man band again, and have some other players step up this season.
Robert Koren – The club’s other marquee looks set to produce after a consistent and eye-catching pre-season. During pre-season Koren got on the scoresheet, provided assist after assist, and started to show real class by linking up superbly with Aaron Mooy and Bruno Fornaroli in particular. Now that Koren is fit and is nearly always playing in his preferred number 10 position, due to Melbourne City strengthening in the striker and winger positions (where Koren all too often played as a stop-gap last season), the Slovenian star looks set for a much more influential season this time around.
A multitude of attacking options – If Melbourne City can field all of its best attacking options, namely Fornaroli, Novillo, Gameiro, Koren and Mooy all at once, with Zullo and Franjic supporting attacks from the fullback positions, Melbourne City possesses an absolutely devastating number of attacking options. Even half of these attackers should be able to regularly breach A-League defences, especially with 2nd string attacking options like Kuzmanovski, Dekker and Williams occasionally chipping in. Given that Melbourne City produced the most shots last season, with 11.4 shots averaged per game, maybe this is the season where Melbourne City can consistently produce goals. With the stellar service that City’s attackers look set to receive from players like Mooy and Koren, all the ingredients seem there this season for Melbourne City’s attack to truly fire.
Competition, experience and winners all over the park – How many A-League teams have a Premier League great justifiably starting on the bench? That’s what Melbourne City could have this season, with EPL great Thomas Sorensen in fierce competition with Tando Velaphi to be the team’s starting goalkeeper. And this situation is indicative of the fierce competition across the team for places, with two quality players by A-League standards for every position. Also, the team features a mind-blowing amount of experience, with Sorensen and Aaron Hughes both having played in over 400 Premier League games each. Furthermore, Aaron Mooy, Erik Paartalu and Ivan Franjic have all won silverware in the A-League before. So altogether Melbourne City should have the playing list to be successful in games and to have a successful season.
Injuries – Seemingly always an issue, the team has multiple players unavailable due to injury, with the latest reports naming James Brown, Marc Marino, Ivan Franjic, Harry Novillo, Corey Gameiro and Ben Garuccio sidelined. And whilst there can be zero excuses for Melbourne City this season, every A-League team would rather have no injury list or a short injury list instead of several injured players, especially since A-League clubs can only have rosters of 23 players.
John van’t Schip – There is no debate over this point: this season is make or break for John van’t Schip. This season will likely define JVS’ whole A-League career, with his job certainly on the line if he can’t produce a successful season. The winning percentages don’t look good for JVS: 2010-11 season – 26.67%, 2011-12 season – 32.14%, 2013-14 season – 40%, 2014-15 season – 34.48%. One interesting point to note is that JVS has topped the league for draws in 2010-11 with 11 draws, 2014-15 with 8 draws, and he had the 2nd most draws in 2011-12 with 10 draws. So his teams haven’t been losing a lot, but they haven’t been winning a lot either. This season JVS must turn those draws to wins to have a successful season, keep his job and keep the demanding new ownership group, The City Football Group, happy.
Overall the above is just a handful of big stories set to make Melbourne City’s 2015-16 season full of interest. And there will undoubtedly be many more starring players and important stories this season. With the City Football Group bringing together so much promising ingredients this season the question is: how good can this season be?