How do you preview a season that, all things considered, still may not yet go ahead without further disruption? It’s a pessimistic way to open proceedings here, and the competition does look set to get underway (in one form or another) regardless of developments in Australia’s handling of the coronavirus, but the events of 2020 really have made it difficult to get a clear picture of what to expect for season 2020/21.
With that said, season previews are always a bit of fun and help to channel all the pre-season hype that will no doubt have been quietly building up ever since our maiden Grand Final appearance in August.
You’re likely to hear a podcast-form season preview sometime before our opening fixture where our chances of another Grand Final appearance will surely be discussed in detail, so I’ll keep this written version a bit shorter; an overview of the squad, a pre-season wrap-up and then five categories in which to briefly preview the season.
Let’s get into it then:
Goalkeepers – Tom Glover, Matt Sutton
Defenders – Scott Jamieson, Rostyn Griffiths, Ben Garuccio, Curtis Good, Nathaniel Atkinson, Scott Galloway, Kerrin Stokes, Jordan Bos
Midfielders – Aiden O’Neill, Connor Metcalfe, Adrián Luna, Florin Berenguer, Taras Gomulka
Forwards – Jamie Maclaren, Craig Noone, Andrew Nabbout, Stefan Colakovski, Rafael Borges Rodrigues, Marco Tilio, Bernardo Oliveira
Proposed Best XI:
Atkinson – Griffiths – Good – Jamieson
O’Neill – Luna – Berenguer
Nabbout – Maclaren – Noone
Victory 3-3 City (BCD)
City 2-1 Western United (BCD)
Newcastle 3-3 City (BCD)
Western United 2-3 City
Bentleigh 0-1 City
One to Watch / Breakout Star (Any Age): Nathaniel Atkinson
The plan was to do an entire article on this topic as we did last year when we named Connor Metcalfe, Harrison Delbridge and Ramy Najjarine (whoops) as our Ones to Watch. The issue is that, this year, our ‘breakout’ players have either already had their breakout season, more or less (Atkinson, Glover), or are far too young and inexperienced to be a reasonable shout (Gomulka, Tilio, Tsubaki, etc.). For that reason, if this topic is brought up on the pod then I’m without doubt you’ll hear different answers from everyone.
I, for one, am a massive fan of Nathaniel Atkinson and feel that he’s got the potential to become our next Arzani-level sale. Atkinson was integral to our build-up play when he established himself on the left following the season restart in the absence of Jamieson and should be looking to make the right-back position his own this year, despite competition for the spot from Galloway and Garuccio. Renowned for his versatility, the 21-year-old also has the opportunity to force himself ahead of Tilio and Colakovski and earn minutes higher up the field as a winger when either Noone or Nabbout are substituted off.
If we’re making Nandos bets, I’m putting Atkinson down for five assists (currently has a career total of 1).
On the Rise (U21): Marco Tilio
Having already mentioned the wing-depth situation and barring a move upfield for Atkinson, it would appear that 19-year-old Tilio is in prime position to earn plenty of minutes off the bench this year as a subsitute for either of our more established wingers whilst also being equipped to play in attacking midfield, should that be required. The youngster already has runs on the board with a goal and an assist in a late-game cameo for Sydney against the Mariners last season which probably puts him ahead of fan-favourite Colakovski, who we’d also love to see plenty of this year.
In such an unprecedented season as 2020/21, young Australian players will never have a better opportunity to earn senior game time and accelerate their development as footballers, and Marco Tilio will likely be one of the prime beneficiaries of this.
It’s a big year for: Andrew Nabbout
City managed to simultaneously piss off Victory, Newcastle and Perth in one transfer when they acquired Nabbout in controversial circumstances back in September, but now it’s time for the 28-year-old to return to his best form following disappointing spells at Urawa Red Diamonds and Melbourne Victory. Whilst the ‘disappointing’ aspect of his time at the Victory was far less about his own personal performances (he did alright with eight goals and three assists), he’ll be looking to force himself back into Socceroos contention with a successful season at a club that will be aspiring to another Grand Final appearance in 2021.
Area of Concern: Centre-back depth
Following the departure of Richard Windbichler and the likely exit of Harrison Delbridge in the coming weeks, there’s very little depth remaining at centre-back. Already, Rostyn Griffiths has had to fully abandon midfield responsibilities to continue his transition into the backline in the absence of a senior defensive partner for Curtis Good. Youngster Kerrin Stokes has been at the club for a few years now and looked to be a leader on- and off-the-ball in the curtain-raiser game against Bentleigh but it’d be a scary prospect to have one of Good or Griffo go down to injury early in the season without a senior replacement.
Records within reach:
- Legend status beckons for Scott Jamieson, who is likely to pass David Williams’ 101 games and become City’s record appearance-maker, needing to play in 24 competitive matches in 2020/21 to pass that mark.
- With another big season, Jamie Maclaren may be in reach of the club’s all-time goals record. Currently on 29, Maclaren would need to score 23 goals in all competitions to break Fornaroli’s record of 51.
- The Pasty Pirlo could be knocked off his perch as the club’s assist king, with Craig Noone in reach of Mooy’s record of 14. The Englishman, currently on 8, would need another 7 assists in competitive fixtures this season to stake that claim.
Melbourne City's A-League and W-League sides are set to get their season underway in a double-header against Brisbane Roar on Tuesday the 29th of December.