A-League mid-season report card: Melbourne City

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We are at the halfway mark of the 2019/20 A-League season, so it’s about time The Football Sack takes a look at the performance of Melbourne City.

Semester summary: City started the season like a house on fire going undefeated through their first five games, banking four wins to get off to one of the best starts in the club’s history.

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It appeared they would compete with reigning titleholders Sydney FC for the premiership this season, however, eight weeks later they find themselves 11 points behind the Sky Blues who appear to have top spot wrapped up.

In their last eight games, City’s form has been woefully inconsistent with three wins, four losses and a draw. This has left them clinging to second place on the ladder with Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix breathing down their necks.

Still, the squad remains one of the most talented in the competition. If they are able to recapture their early season form and string wins together, they should position themselves for a run at a maiden title.

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Areas of excellence: The offensive revolution under coach Erick Mombaerts has been the highlight of City’s season thus far.

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For a team that in seasons past has been bemoaned for their conservative style of play, City has transformed into the second-highest scoring team so far, having instituted a high-pressing style which has yielded 27 goals.

You also have to commend the offseason recruiting which has yielded immediate results. Uruguayan duo Adrian Luna and Javier Cabrera have both been able to contribute up front, creating chances and hitting the scoreboard, while Craig Noone’s precision passing has been on display all season.

Furthermore, Josh Brilliante has brought maturity and confidence to the midfield, which was sorely missing last season.

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Areas in need of improvement: Following several losses this season Mombaerts has flagged a lack of mental toughness as an area of concern.

Too often in games, the team’s concentration, particularly in defence has lapsed. This has seen them concede multiple goals late in matches.

For a team that sits second on the ladder, City have conceded the second most goals. Thus focussing on playing a full 90 minutes must be on their agenda as they enter the home stretch.

City also have to address their performance in big games, where they have come up short multiple times this season.

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Top student: Despite only playing 10 of 13 games you cannot look past Jamie Maclaren as the standout performer for City this season.

The sharpshooter has scored 12 goals in the midway point of the season to sit second in the golden boot race, one goal behind Sydney forward Adam Le Fondre.

If Maclaren can stay healthy and continue the pace he has set, he will challenge Bobo’s 27-goal record for the most goals scored in a season.

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His highpoint of the season comes way back in round three when he led City to a 2-1 victory in their first ever game against rival Western United.

He scored the winning goal in the 85th minute despite playing with a pulled hamstring and the team down to ten men on a cold Sunday night in Geelong.

Needs improvement: Keeper Dean Bouzanis has had an inconsistent season and has been at the forefront of why City have conceded 22 goals.

The veteran keeper has only one clean sheet through his ten starts, having fallen victim to poor positing and a lack of attention to detail.

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His worst performance was when City got blown out 3-0 at home to the Glory in round nine. In the game Bouzanis made several sloppy mistakes clearing the ball. This led to him being benched for the next three matches for youngster Tom Glover.

In round 13 he earned back his starting place in the line-up again, but it remains to be seen for how long.

Grade: B

Outlook: After starting the season strongly, lately City has been unable to string consecutive positive performances together.

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Now settled under Mombaerts tutelage, the second half of the campaign should see City iron out their inconsistencies as they ready themselves for finals.

Having never won a title, let alone made a grand final, they remain hungry for success and anything but an appearance in the biggest game will feel like an underachievement for a club desperate to stamp its authority in the competition.

Feature Image Credit: Ngau Kai Yan

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Michael Patane
Student at Monash University and lover of all things football covering Melbourne City in 2019/20.