Two steps forward and two steps back was the only way to describe Season 2016/17 for Melbourne City. The signing of Tim Cahill had genuine marquee status, add that to a cracking goal of the season and the triumphant FFA Cup campaign and the club was heading to number one with a bullet.
We all know how last season ended so won’t dwell on it too much but I must say it’s very peculiar to see Michael Valkanis remain at the club despite his lackluster performance as caretaker coach.
Groundhog Day is upon us once again Melbourne City fans, although this season will be far more crucial than any other. More than likely it will be the final season (only a brave or stupid man wold predict this) of Tim Cahill’s domestic career; with Russia on the horizon (hopefully) Cahill needs another solid season to maintain his precarious position in the Socceroos squad. A goal every second game was more than impressive from the veteran but you could see how his inclusion in the starting XI take its toll on the role Bruno Fornaroli played.
There was no fluidity between the two players for the bulk of the season and this is a major issue that needs to be addressed by new coach Warren Joyce. Cahill’s inability to play out 90 minutes on a regular basis should only increase and cause strain on the bench and hamstrings the club tactically.
Fornaroli scored eight goals less last season playing alongside Cahill, but it was also a result of opposition clubs paying the Uruguayan far more attention and also the weight of the captaincy played it role. There is no doubting the talent of Bruno but he should’ve never been captain last season. Michael Jakobsen has been wearing the armband preseason and is an obvious choice, providing he stays fit this campaign. Jakobesen has captaincy material written all over him and comes across as a natural leader; he is also one of the best defenders in the league.
The loss of Ivan Franjic will hurt City, as he was an experienced defender with international experience. He also acted as a barometer for the club, when he was playing well last season everyone else was in sync. When Franjic was having a bad night, the entire club could feel the effects. One can only imagine the Franjic decision was primarily based on salary cap pressures, you wouldn’t let a Melbourne boy who’s represented his country on 20 occasions simply waltz out the door without reason. Over the last few days we seemed to have lost Anthony Caceres, sighting playing time as a reason. If you’re on loan from Manchester City and cannot guarantee playing time it’s time you found a new home. Caceres presents as a diamond, but when pressured presents as a cubic zirconia.
Scott Jamieson and Eugene Galekovic are quality A-League signings and give an indication the club want to take that next step. Defense was the Achilles heel last season; shoring up the defense is the ideal way to move forward. Stefan Mauk makes a return to City, and whilst some of you will remember his antics in an opposing Adelaide shirt just remember his first stint for us was pretty impressive and personally I don’t think he really wanted to move to Adelaide in the first place.
Once again we have the potential to win the league, and this should be the minimum expectation for fans. We all know the City Football Group have eyes on playing in the Asian Champions League (ACL) but realistically that will come over time, we need to learn how to win domestically before we can look abroad. Under the current restrictions any ACL success is unrealistic in the current climate, making the heroics of Western Sydney that much greater. Australian clubs should strive for Asian success but a league title should be our first priority.
I know I’ve said this every season since the inception of the club, but this year the support of the fans is crucial. We have seemed to lose our way last season both on and off the pitch and need to get back on track. Attendances were down last season but one home derby can skew the figures dramatically. Melbourne City home games were the sixth most attended last season even with the Cahill feel good factor.
Over the last 24 months we have seen the club transition into a Mini Manchester City even though we were given assurances this would never happen, as fans if we stand back and watch from afar it would be an easy disconnect.
We could still attend games on a weekly basis and watch some of the best talent on offer in the league but without that real connection. Â There is nothing wrong with that, but I see this year as a real chance to create a fan driven atmosphere at home games this season. We still have the opportunity to put our stamp on the club and help create an identity we can all be proud of. If we sit on our hands for too much longer we will become minions of the City Football Group, buying our ‘City Blue’ merchandise and you might even find yourself cheering on Manchester City on the occasional weekend whilst watching SBS or Optus Sports.
You don’t have to dive in like an audacious Osama Malik tackle but pay attention to what ‘The Melburnians’ ‘Melbourne City Travelling Fans’, are doing ‘Talking City FC’ and grab a copy of ‘The Chameleon’ on selected match days.
Expectations are high, and rightly so. 2017/18 could be a decisive year in Melbourne City history, make sure you are part of it.