Suddenly the season is nearly over and fortunately Melbourne City are back to looking as formidable as they did in the season’s first rounds. Tonight’s final home game against the Mariners is likely to showcase again Warren Joyce’s winning line-up, which has changed significantly since October.
On Easter Sunday they played as fine as they ever have in red and white, with a 3-0 hammering of second-place Newcastle on their home turf.
Back in October the team was largely the one that Joyce inherited and proved a great combination to win the first four of the season, until Sydney overturned the cart. That opening streak included the Melbourne derby where the team featured a number of players who don’t feature much at all now:
• Kamau – the winner that night was scored by Bruce who added to the two he scored in the opening game. With Fornaroli out injured, Bruce was producing the goods but hasn’t been able to get back in the mix after absences with Australia’s under-23 squad and there’s talk of him going to WSW next season.
• Budzinski – the marquee man came on as a sub and opened the scoring that night but hasn’t made it as a regular under Joyce, despite adding more goals in brief appearances.
• Galekovic – his vast experience and dependability hasn’t been enough to stop him becoming second choice to Bouzanis for reasons only known to Joyce
Two forwards appeared in that derby who no longer call City home for reasons we all know of – Tim Cahill and Ross McCormack.
In the midfield, City’s had more changes this season than the Melbourne weather. The main fade-outs since mid-October include Iacopo La Rocca, Nick Fitzgerald and Osama Malik and they’ve certainly been replaced by more effective personnel (though I must make mention of Neil Kilkenny who never got a chance to show if he could be effective, despite winning the club’s best and fairest!). The game-changers have been:
• Arzani: no-one could argue he doesn’t deserve to be there now, lighting up each game with his dribbling and assists.
• Vidosic: he’s proven quality and it was no surprise that he was brought straight in and is now scoring important goals.
The mainstays have been Jakobsen (found in defensive roles some games), Mauk (who I’ve always admired for his cavalier style) and Brattan who give City that consistency they’ve lacked in previous seasons. In defence, Jamieson and Atkinson have grabbed their chances and have rewarded Joyce’s faith in them.
The question remains whether this winning line-up will now improve to the extent that they can at last beat the Sydney machine, which has faltered in recent times. The finals await and all we can hope for is that the team performances will be topped by more Fornaroli goals, assisted by more of the Arzani magic who should start scoring some of his own. His prize would be to earn himself a well-deserved Socceroos place in Russia.