Melbourne City have made all the headlines this off-season. With the rebranding of the club following the purchase by the same group that own English giants Manchester City and the new New York City side in the MLS, the Victory’s local rivals are looking to shake the “little brother” tag with big signings Robert Koren, Damian Duff and the loan signing of Spanish legend David Villa. Camilo Zannoni takes a look at how far they can go.
Manager: John van‘t Schip
Captain: Patrick Kisnorbo
Ins: Aaron Mooy (Western Sydney), Connor Chapman (Newcastle Jets), James Brown (Newcastle Jets), Jacob Melling (Adelaide United), David Villa (Loan – New York City), Damien Duff (Fulham), Robert Koren (Hull City), Paulo Retre (promoted from youth squad), Marc Marino (promoted from youth squad), Erik Paartalu (Muangthong United).
Outs: Harry Kewell (Retired), Aziz Behich (End of Loan), Patrick Gerhardt, Sam Mitchinson, David Vrankovic, Jeremy Walker, Orlando Engelaar (all Free).
Last Season: 10th
2013-14 was… A shambolic season for the team previously known as Melbourne Heart. Having begun the season with former Socceroo John Aloisi at the helm, it was poised to be a somewhat fruitful term. Aloisi looked to base his first managerial outing around players Harry Kewell, Michael Mifsud and Orlando Engelaar, hoping to create a foundation of quality and experience around the trio to push them towards the finals.
Unfortunately for the Heart, Engelaar broke his leg and missed out of a large portion of the season, joined more often than not by Harry “made-of-glass” Kewell, whose career-lingering injuries persisted during his term with the Melbournians. The misfortune around the trio was rounded out as Mifsud failed to provide the spark that Aloisi thought he would.
Heart had an abysmal start to the season, not managing a win until round 15 and taking just five points from the 42 on offer in the opening 14 fixtures. Although that first win sparked a run of seven games unbeaten, taking maximum points in six out of seven matches, it wasn’t enough to recover the season and they ultimately finished on the bottom of the ladder.
2014-15 will be… An entirely different ball game for the rebranded Melbourne City FC, with the likes of Damien Duff, Aaron Mooy, Robert Koren and Erik Paartalu joining the squad on a permanent basis. However, the most high profile signing is on loan, and the stage is set for Spain’s record goal-scorer David Villa – who was signed on for a 10 match guest stint in the lead up to New York City FC’s maiden season in the MLS – to give City an explosive start to the season.
It might seem absurd for an Australian club in its fifth year of existence to lure so many big names in world football to the roster, and yet, those are the perks of becoming part of the empire that Manchester City is seemingly building around the globe; with Melbourne City the second club to fall under the ‘City’ flag alongside New York City.
Melbourne Heart’s biggest problem since its inception in 2009 has always revolved around a lack of identity, with Melbourne Victory an established powerhouse in the A-League from the beginning and no clear geographical divide between the two. As well as providing an excellent platform for international players such as Duff, Koren and Villa to grace Australian football, the takeover and subsequent rebranding has provided Heart fans with a quality that could lead to immediate success and, perhaps more importantly to fans, remove them from the shadow of their more successful neighbours. Having finally established an identitiy, it is now up to Van’t Schip to achieve all that his team is capable of, and with the players available to him, the pressure will be on to deliver results from the get-go.
Key Player: It might be near impossible to pick a stand out player within this squad, but the danger with bringing in so many new faces lies in the lack of balance. With this said, Robert Koren threatens to be one of the more gifted midfielders in the league, and having been signed on a two-year contract will be expected to provide that stability that will push Melbourne City to new heights. Alongside the likes of Damien Duff (who unbelievably was signed within the salary cap) and the previously under-utilised Aaron Mooy, it will be up to Koren to make his mark on the squad and carry the players around through the season and into next. With the likes of David Williams (who’s shown glimpses of his potential in the last couple of seasons), Partaalu and Villa ahead of him, it shouldn’t be difficult to find goals, but it will be up to the service from the midfield to provide the opportunities for City to fulfil its potential.
What, or whom, do Melbourne City need? City carry extraordinary expectations for a team that finished last in the previous season, and it will be up to Van’t Schip to ensure that his squad doesn’t succumb to the pressure that is being mounted on this team of stars. The greatest pressure may perhaps lie on the shoulders of star striker Villa, and considering his stint will only last for the first ten games of the season, he will be expected to deliver goals. If Villa delivers on the expectations that have been circulating him since the announcement of his loan in January, then it is very possible that by round 11 City will sit atop the ladder. Whether or not this comes to fruition however is another case entirely, and with many new names (and egos) to manage, steady progress may be the more reasonable expectation.
The Blog FC Predicted Finish: 6th