‘I take it as a compliment’ – Kisnorbo unfazed by Melbourne City’s attacking concerns

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Despite relying on a late goal from substitute Nathaniel Atkinson, Melbourne City head coach Patrick Kisnorbo is remaining defiant regarding his team’s attacking methods.

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City headed into their Wednesday night A-League Men’s clash with Perth Glory off the back of a disappointing first loss of the season to Western United.

City had failed to break down John Aloisi’s side, appearing unimaginative and inflexible in attack as they relentlessly charged into their opponent’s half.

City were relying on the pace and strength of wingers Andrew Nabbout and Mathew Leckie, seemingly hoping for a moment of magic to find the breakthrough.

Such a moment never materialised.

On Wednesday night, City appeared to be following a very similar pattern against Perth. The major difference was that City hadn’t conceded early to a counterattack, meaning that City were going in search of a winning goal rather than a mere equaliser.

However, beyond this difference in score line, City appeared destined to follow the same frustrating path to another goal-less performance.

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Perth had set up like a team willing to absorb pressure. From the beginning of the match Glory had substantial numbers behind the ball and a defence-first approach. Antonee Burke-Gilroy and Luke Bodnar acted as shields in the midfield for a back five, leaving only Bruno Fornaroli, Adrián Sardinero and Daniel Stynes to offer any counter-attacking threat.

Perth’s method was hardly shocking. They had named an unchanged line-up from their win over Melbourne Victory on Sunday, which was also the same outfield team as for the week prior against Western United.

Despite this, City failed to evolve their attacking approach, seemingly falling right into Perth’s hands through their inability to break down the stubborn defensive line up.

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Richard Garcia was full of praise for his young team’s performance, despite ultimately coming up short.

“I’m very pleased,” Garcia said post-match.

“It was a really gutsy performance from a bunch of guys who were noticeably fatigued yet dug in for each other.”

Garcia’s emphasis on his side’s ability to ‘dig in’ is unsurprising; Perth had made their game plan clear in their recent matches, which was largely a consequence of a thin squad of young players facing an extended period away from home.

“One moment in the game can cost you,” Garcia said.

“The chances they (City) created were, in my opinion, not fantastic.”

In Garcia’s mind, his team had succeeded in blunting the Melbourne City attack.

City were forced to shoot from range throughout the match, drawing several excellent saves from young Perth goalkeeper Cameron Cook.

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Until City’s breakthrough goal, Perth had demonstrated meaningful competence in denying their opponents clear goalscoring opportunities, exposing City’s lack of imagination in attacking areas.

Despite these realities, City head coach Kisnorbo was not buying into the suggestion that his team were facing problems in breaking teams down.

“I thought we were very good. We dominated the whole 90 minutes,” he said after the game.

“In my opinion, I think we did enough to earn the three points.”

Whilst there is no doubt that City dominated the possession and territory in the match, the reality remains that they were rescued by a very late goal to grab the win. Up to that point, City failed to inspire confidence regarding their attacking creativity and ability to adapt to a highly defensive opposition.

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When challenged on whether his side’s struggle to score against Perth, following an inability to score against Western United, suggested his team had issues when it came to breaking down defensive teams, Kisnorbo quickly flipped the script.

“I take it as a compliment. The fact that teams are putting so many people behind the ball against us, I look at that as a positive,” he said.

“When there’s 11 players behind the ball within a radius of 30 yards from goal, I think that says something about the way we play.”

Clearly, Kisnorbo is viewing his team’s offensive challenges as a consequence of success. Whilst he may be correct in that assessment, City seem yet to have found the solution to overcoming teams which are happy to sit deep and absorb pressure.

Despite the changed line up by bringing in Marco Tilio in place of Florin Berenguer, City’s attack still appeared one-dimensional. Going forward, there is doubt as to City’s capacity to bring fresh and innovative attacking game styles with their current line-up.

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“It takes time,” Kisnorbo said in response to questions about whether his star front three would eventually ‘click’.

“Sometimes things happen and sometimes they don’t. We just keep working and eventually those things do happen.”

Kisnorbo’s insistence on sticking to his guns is understandable, considering the success that this approach has brought his team in recent times. What’s more, City ended up taking home all three points from Wednesday’s clash.

Nonetheless, an inability to evolve his team’s attacking set up could yet cause City significant challenges later in the season.

Feature Image Credit: Melbourne City FC

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Oscar Rutherford
Sports tragic studying Law/Arts at Monash University. Second-best paid Oscar working in football who has been to China.

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