A-League mid-season report card: Melbourne City

-

It’s the time of year when clubs look towards the home stretch of the season and The Football Sack critiques each club’s progress so far.

Semester Summary:

Melbourne City fans would be feeling quite ambivalent about their team at the halfway point of the season. On the one hand they are sitting inside the top four with the best defensive record in the league but are lacking goals at the other end and have frozen out their best attacking option.

While their performances may not be entertaining Warren Joyce has put together a team which is difficult to beat having recruited solid defensive players as well as reigniting the career of goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic.

Joyce has been adventurous in his squad selection trying players in different positions to fill holes and to confuse the opposition. Aside from an embarrassing loss to the Central Coast Mariners, it’s been mostly smooth sailing for City who have been good without being great.

Areas of Excellence:

On their day, City are the hardest team to score against. They lead the competition in clean sheets and have the best defensive record, having only conceded 16 goals and it’s not hard to see why.

There have been no second-year blues for Dutch defender and Best & Fairest winner Bart Schenkeveld who rarely makes a mistake playing in the heart of defence. Harrison Delbridge has shifted across into centre back this season and continues to show more of what he is capable of every game.

The addition of Ritchie De Laet to the back four has added an element of class and composure and who can forget Galekovic who has already pulled off numerous save of the year contenders.

City have also succeeded in making AAMI Park a fortress this season having only lost one of their eight home games this season. The football at AAMI may not be pretty but it does not need to be: for Warren Joyce the only thing which matters is the three points and if it takes winning games ugly to get it done then so be it.

While Fornaroli’s absence has left a hole this season, at least Joyce has been creative in finding replacements. Joyce has been one to experiment this season with the most famous coming when Ritchie De Laet played 72 minutes as a striker.

Embed from Getty Images

Areas in need of improvement:

A glaring issue for City this season has been their lack of goals. Out of the top six sides, City has scored the fewest number of goals this season and have been playing for most of the season so far without Fornaroli, relying on Lachlan Wales and an adventurous De Laet to score City’s goals.

The team may have come this far without a prolific striker but whether or not they will be able to reach new heights without one remains to be seen with all the teams above them having a quality attacking third to compliment a solid defence.

City have rarely had to chase games, having done well to score first and absorb the opposition’s pressure so it will be interesting to see how the team responds should they be the first to concede.

It is no secret the club has been searching for a striker throughout the January window, with a reliable forward the only thing missing to complete this team.

Top student: 

Signing an international marquee for Melbourne City has never been an easy task. They have done well to recruit them but they would always get less for what they bargained for, especially considering the success of the international marquee everywhere else.

Enter Ritchie De Laet.

City struck gold with De Laet who has fit in perfectly at his new club and has contributed in more than just his defending.

Having burst onto the scene in the Melbourne Derby, De Laet has contributed with four goals and has been significant in linking with attacking players in addition to defending goals at the other end.

Despite being diagnosed with a two-month injury, De Laet continues to push through the pain and has earned the praise of head coach Warren Joyce who describes him as a “warrior.”

De Laet’s hard work and leadership has not gone unnoticed this season, stepping up in the big moments when his team need him most.

Embed from Getty Images

Class clown:

Warren Joyce has been labelled as the scapegoat by City fans for a number of players leaving the club and was only exacerbated during the saga with Fornaroli. Joyce is still booed and jeered when he appears on the big screen at AAMI Park with supporters often heard hurling abuse at the man who has City sitting fourth.

Many were in disbelief when Joyce started De Laet up front against the Brisbane Roar, until the former Leicester City defender’s goal proved to be the winner and a touch of genius from the manager.

In Joyce’s defence while his moves are at times questionable he knows how to win games regardless of how attractive the football is.

Grade: B

Outlook:

The club and its manager have been put under the microscope throughout the season and have ensured they have let their football do the talking.

A round one Melbourne Derby win against Victory got City on the right track but the dip in form which followed was something City fans were all too familiar with after so much promise in the off-season.

But Joyce has managed to pick his side up and secure a number of gritty wins to catapult City into the top four.

While they be some way away from the teams above them, City have made up for their lack of strikers by maintaining the best defence in the competition.

Their season is well within their hands but their biggest test awaits. Will their gritty style compete with the teams above them? And how far can they go without a recognised striker?

Feature image credit: Melbourne City

Enjoy this content? Support The Football Sack

Due in part to COVID and lack of current sponsorship we are at risk of not having the funds to continue running The Football Sack. If you enjoy our content and support our work in training talented young writers, please support us with a donation. If every reader contributed just $3, our funding would be covered for over ten years.

DONATE

Learn with us

Athos Sirianos
Athos Sirianos
RMIT Journalism | Football Nation Radio Like all football fans my general mood for the week is dictated by how my team performs over the weekend.

Latest Articles

Love your football?
Subscribe to our weekly football wrap. During the season we'll send you all the week's football action straight to your inbox.
* indicates required