It has been three years since City Football Group took over and Melbourne City have made the A-League finals three times and finally won silverware last year. But the owners and fans no doubt want to see bigger returns in the league. Will the almighty toilet seat be draped in City blue this season?

Last season:
A-League: 4th
Finals: Elimination final
FFA Cup: Champions

They’ll win the league because…
City has reached into its deep pockets to make a fistful of signings, giving the squad a depth difficult to match by the other clubs. The acquisitions to this point give new head coach Warren Joyce a pool of at least 19 ready-to-go players to put into his match-day squads of 16, not including the platoon of elevated youth players waiting for a shot.

Joyce has built this squad from the back. Melbourne conceded 44 goals in both the two previous seasons, which count for the highest ‘goals against’ tallies in the club’s history. To counter this soft spot, experienced Eredivisie defender Bart Schenkeveld was bought from PEC Zwolle (John van ‘t Schip’s current club) to partner the already-established Michael Jakobsen and rising talent of Ruon Tongyik in the heart of defence.

In addition Iacopo La Rocca and recent Australian Professional Footballers’ Association Team of the Season players Scott Jamieson and Eugene Galekovic have been transferred to replace the outgoing Ivan Franjic, Josh Rose and retiring goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.

Further up the field, Polish central midfielder Marcin Budzinski takes a marquee contract, while the recently-nationalised Marcelo Carrusca will supply an abundance of class and A-League experience without occupying a visa spot. All this makes City’s cup overflow with talent and this side is built to win in all areas.

They’ll be cellar dwellers because…
City were a team that struggled to win away from home last season. They only claimed three victories outside of Melbourne, coming the form of a double against Wellington Phoenix while the other was a 3-2 win against Central Coast Mariners.

By comparison Melbourne Victory won one extra game outside of Melbourne, Sydney FC won away ten times; while Adelaide United and Western Sydney Wanderers won seven and six away games respectively in 2015/16. That’s the mark City need to be hitting.

Mental fragility and the sudden inability to win crucial games came at the worst possible time at the end of last season. City lost four of its last five games and conceded a total of 13 goals in those four defeats, bombing out horribly. That can’t happen again.

After almost six seasons under van ‘t Schip, Joyce must ease the side into its new phase. You need only look at Frank de Boer’s brief flash at Crystal Palace to know that too-radical a change of systems could be a cold shock to a team.

Over the Melbournians’ five pre-season or FFA Cup matches against A-League opposition, City have won just twice and failed to score more than one goal in four of those fixtures.

Talk around the water cooler… Look smart in front of your colleagues with this valuable piece of information.
Joyce – now the tenth English A-League coach – won five titles with Manchester United’s reserves between 2008 and 2016 and was co-coach for a time alongside Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He worked with Sir Alex Ferguson and helped bring through the likes of Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Michael Keane and around 70 other players who’ve gone on to play in England’s top two divisions. He also stepped in as a player-coach of Hull City in 1998 and saved them from relegation out of the Football League.

The off-season brought...
Mixed reactions. Joyce comes with a solid foundation in coaching, has kept the majority of last season’s squad and made appropriate transfers to enhance it further. But questions were presented when Marcin Budzinski was announced as a marquee signing; a little-known Polish midfielder who’s never played outside his own country and hasn’t come close to winning titles or personal honours. Where’s the game-changing big name, cried the fans?

The off-season came with ache too. Bruno Fornaroli’s ankle injury in the FFA Cup will sideline the sharp striker for several months and the search is on for a replacement – widely tipped to be accomplished Championship forward Ross McCormack, whose record against Britain’s most bruising defences are quite impressive.

Key player...
Michael Jakobsen – The Danish defender knows the lay of the land at City and will be asked to anchor a defence in need of a good start. The squad should be able to take care of scoring goals even in Fornaroli’s absence, but Jakobsen’s leadership at the back will be crucial if the club is to have its best ever season defensively.

One to watch...
Scott Jamieson – The left-back departed the A-League on a high after the 2015/16 season, playing every game for Western Sydney and finishing in the Team of the Season before spending time abroad with Sweden’s Göteborg club. Without Franjic and Rose, Jamieson becomes the main force to drive City in the wide areas and supply Tim Cahill’s forehead. He could return to being one of the league’s best full-backs.

Full squad list...
1. Dean BOUZANIS, 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Scott JAMIESON, 5. Bart SCHENKEVELD, 6. Osama MALIK, 7. Nick FITZGERALD, 8. Neil KILKENNY, 9. Marcelo CARRUSCA, 11. Bruce KAMAU, 12. Braedyn CROWLEY, 13. Stefan MAUK, 14. Daniel ARZANI, 15. Denis GENREAU, 17. Tim CAHILL, 18. Eugene GALEKOVIC, 21. Ruon TONGYIK, 22. Michael JAKOBSEN, 23. Bruno FORNAROLI, 25. Iacopo LA ROCCA, 26. Luke BRATTAN, 27. Fernando BRANDAN, 30. John ROBERTS, 34. Connor METCALFE, 36. Ramy NAJJARINE, 36. Dylan PIERIAS, 42. James DELIANOV, Marcin BUDZINSKI.

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Football and Aussie rules commentator, writer and radio host/producer from Melbourne.