While City arguably had its best season yet (more from Ash on that further down), let’s focus on a few factors that the club still lacks when compared to its competitors: attacking nous or creativity, crowd atmosphere and luck.
Luck: Successful clubs hardly rely on luck to go places, however City could learn a few things from today’s grand finalists – Newcastle and Victory. What’s stayed with me from our semi-final defeat to Newcastle is that both of the Jets’ goals had good fortune about them, but they demonstrated that teams make their own luck in front of goal at crucial times. The same could be said about two of Victory’s goals in their gritty win over Sydney. Sometimes you just have to shoot when there’s half an opening, which Fornaroli demonstrated with a few goals late in the campaign. Other players, like the departed Fitzgerald, lacked this decisiveness.
Attacking strategies: Overall City lacked the ability to create more situations where attacking interplay, shooting accuracy or a bit of luck from a shot resulted in goals being scored. Another way of saying this is Joyce lacked strategies to break down an opponent’s defences. City’s 44 goals from 27 games was less than the last two seasons and way behind Newcastle (59) and Sydney (66). When you consider we won more corners than any other team, then clearly City was unable to exploit its advantages. McCormack used his strength and long range shooting ability to get a good return for effort, whereas Fornaroli needed far better service once he returned from injury. Arzani did his best, although he has shown goal scoring to be his ‘growth area’. It’s disappointing to see City let go of Kamau and I feel the club fails to give young strikers time and opportunities to develop at the senior level.
Atmosphere: And scoring goals no matter who you’re playing is part of building a bigger following…and therefore a better atmosphere for a team to thrive in. In the era of ‘systems’ winning out over style, I appreciate that Joyce has put in place a better defensive system, aided notably by player of the year Schenkeveld (apologies to Bart for not mentioning him in a previous blog!). But attacking flare with an element of the unpredictable is a key element in drawing crowds, not to mention family-friendly game times (take note FFA and Foxtel) and a game day culture that resonates. Playing Oasis songs before / after City games does not resonate. Newcastle have the advantage of having a single city behind them, but they have football history and an adopted song chosen by the fans – ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ by INXS. There’s some homework for us City fans over the off-season: find an Aussie tune, original or adopted, to sing to and help turn the atmosphere around.
Upon reflecting on the whole season and all things considered, City had its best season, despite the disappointment of not making the grand final.
Going into the semi-final I was quietly confident that it would be City going into the decider against Sydney. But, Ernie Merrick is a great A-League coach and he rallied his troops to the challenge, beating us fairly. Once again it left me to reflect on what could have been for the season that was.
It was unfortunate to see Fornaroli injured in the FFA Cup, but it saw Ross McCormack step in as an injury replacement and what a replacement! 14 goals in 17 matches. It is a pity that we couldn’t keep him for the whole season.
City had its rising stars in some great young talent – Daniel Arzani and Nathaniel Atkinson. Arzani was great to watch, certainly one of the highlights for the year with a bright future ahead.
Bart Schenkeveld was another standout. Clearly one of the best players in the A-League, he kept the defence in line and helped provide City with its lowest goals against in a season.
And our coach, Warren Joyce, certainly kept the fans talking off the pitch. In the end he oversaw City’s best season yet, just missing the Grand Final. If he can continue this trend and we have a good pre-season recruiting some new attacking weapons, I am definitely looking forward to seeing City in action next season.