A-League Men’s 2021/22 mid-season report card: Melbourne City

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The defending champions came into the 2021/22 A-League Men’s season as the team to beat, so it’s time to look back at how Melbourne City have fared across the first half of their title defence

Semester summary:

Overall, City have had somewhat of a mixed bag when it comes to their on-field performances.

City struggled to find any consistency in the early stages of the season as their star-studded attacking trio of Jamie Maclaren, Andrew Nabbout and Mathew Leckie took time to gel.

In the last couple of months though, City have been scoring for fun. As a result, Patrick Kisnorbo’s team have enjoyed their best period of the season having won three of their last four games.

City are still in the title race, and with no breakaway leader they are definitely still in with a chance of going back-to-back.

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Areas of excellence:

Goal-scoring and resilience.

City struggled to find their goal-scoring form early in the season, but they have been unable to stop scoring since the Christmas derby draw with Melbourne Victory.

City have scored 17 goals in their last seven matches, with each member of their attacking trio beginning to contribute regularly to the scoresheet.

The players also deserves credit for how they have responded to the various challenges of a COVID-impacted season (as do all the teams). After the virus spread throughout effectively the entire squad over the Christmas period, severely hampering their progress this season.

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Areas in need of improvement:

Defence and youth integration.

City’s defensive struggles have become apparent in their recent matches. Their last clean sheet in the league – before their 3-0 triumph over the Newcastle Jets this weekend – came back on December 8 against Perth Glory.

Even though City have found some winning form in 2022, improving their defensive record will be key to a successful back-half of the season. Of course, having Curtis Good return from his long-term COVID recovery should certainly help.

Further, there are several supremely talented City youngsters who just are not seeing enough minutes. The likes of Marco Tilio, Stefan Colakovski, Jordan Bos and Kerrin Stokes have not featured regularly enough considering their abilities.

Tilio in particular seems to excel every time he is given the chance, but Kisnorbo is intent on sticking with his big-name players at the expense of youth.

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Top student:

Florin Berenguer.

The French playmaker has been integral to City’s attacking play this season.

City are extremely reliant on Berenguer’s creativity. Fortunately for them, the 32-year-old is having one of the best seasons of his career.

Even though his influence might not be evident in the statistics, Berenguer plays the crucial role of connecting City’s midfield to their attack

He creates space and executes the balls which enables the likes of Maclaren, Nabbout and Leckie to generate and score chances.

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Needs improvement:

Connor Metcalfe.

Leckie’s recent improvement in form has saved him from this position, so instead it’s Metcalfe who has been the most disappointing performer for City this season.

In reality it’s not actually Metcalfe’s fault that he has struggled to impact games this season, in the way we have become accustomed to in recent years. City’s front three do not create the space or possess the creativity to involve Metcalfe in attacking moves.

Still, it is up to the young midfielder to adapt and find new ways to influence games, something he has struggled to do this season.

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Grade: B

Outlook: City are still not at their best.

Whilst there have been plenty of positives from City first-half of the season, we are yet to see the kind of dominance that was a feature of their title-winning campaign.

Of course, if the front three can continue to perform, and Berenguer can remain fit, then it seems that City can outscore just about any other team in the competition.

Their reliance, however, on Berenguer and defensive frailties mean that teams which can withstand City’s modus operandi attacking plays will remain confident of catching City out at the back and snatching wins (see Western United twice this season).

Feature Image Credit: Melbourne City FC

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Oscar Rutherford
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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