What is wrong with Melbourne City?

Melbourne City need an overhaul and if they don't change the way they play, this season will finish in nothing but massive disappointment.

Melbourne City

Melbourne City striker Tim Cahill and is team-mates Source: AAP

Recent poor results did not come about because City were unlucky not to score after doing most of the attacking, or because the opposition got lucky on the counter-attack. It is being too kind to City to say that.

The results have come because the opposition have worked City out.

They know that if they defend resolutely and don't lose their shape they are a reasonable chance of stopping them - no matter how much of the ball City may have.

City's attack is too slow and it lacks penetration.

They don't pull the defence out of shape often enough because their build-up takes too much time.

City like to keep possession, but too often someone will get the ball, look up, and if there is nothing obvious on offer they will take it backwards to someone else and start again, perhaps shifting to the other side of the field.

There aren't enough piercing balls from playmakers in the centre of the field to advancing fullbacks or wingers, putting them in behind the defence.  

Closer in to the centre of the field, the balls to the front men don't put them in a dangerous position often enough.

So the opposition defence is almost always set and when City do get balls into the box they are able to deal with it a lot of the time.

City look great when someone comes up with a tremendous finish like Tim Cahill did twice in their 2-1 win against Central Coast Mariners two rounds back, but it's not happening often enough.

Last week, Newcastle Jets came up with a plan where they were determined to hold their defensive shape, stick to City forward Bruno Fornaroli in the centre and back themselves to deal with City's attempts to attack from the outside in.

When the Jets got the ball, they moved it swiftly in transition and came up with a 2-1 win. They thoroughly deserved it.

Here is an important fact: City haven't beaten a team that is currently in the top six since their 2-1 win over Newcastle in round six.

Only two of their seven wins have been against teams currently in the top six. Their 4-1 flogging of Melbourne Victory in round two was the other.

But that win over Victory seems like a distant memory at the moment.

City need to speed things up in attack. They need to be more decisive, more penetrative and start putting the defence under increased pressure by pulling them out of shape more.

That way, even if one avenue suddenly closes there might be an avenue nearby that they can quickly exploit.

They badly miss Aaron Mooy, who could put an outside man in behind the defence with a perfectly-accurate pass, or slice it open down the middle with a killer through ball, but he is gone for good so they have to find a way of doing it with the players they have.

Surely Fernando Brandan will be back in the starting side for the Melbourne derby at Etihad Stadium on Saturday. He's one player who can put defences under pressure by running the ball into the box from out wide and daring them to stop him.

Anthony Caceres is another who could at least be considered for elevation to the starting side.

But, whatever City do, they have to put Victory under the gun with a more dynamic approach.

We're going to learn a lot from this match about where City's season will go from here.

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4 min read
Published 3 February 2017 at 3:46pm
By Greg Prichard