Over a series of 11 podcasts throughout the 2019/20 season, the ever-changing cast of Talking City panellists argued for the players they believed should be considered in a definitive Melbourne City Team of the Decade. Each week, a shortlist of two players for each specific position was finalised on the podcast, with the eventual decision made by our listeners/readers via a Facebook poll.
As a refresher, here was the final Fans’ Team of the Decade:
The fact is, however… we’re football fans. We’re sentimental. We’re subjective. Sometimes we don’t even know why we love the players that we love. It’s not our fault Bruno scored such delectable bangers, or that Bart looked like a gloriously brutal red card waiting to happen, is it?
So, we thought, how about we do our best to remove all that subjectivity? Why don’t we go take a look at the numbers and see how far off our sentimental picks were from the cold, hard data? Why don’t we go and find out who would make it into the Statistical Team of the Decade?
So that’s what we did.
We ran into a few problems, and we’ve got to tell you about them before we get started with the XI or you’ll be left scratching your head a fair bit.
Here’s the issue: Clean sheet data for goalkeepers? Too easy. Transfermarkt has us sorted. In fact, that’s who we’ve gone with for all our stats (and POSITIONS, which is important to keep in mind). Clean sheet data for defenders, on the other hand? Big fat nope. Couldn’t find it anywhere (had a look at plenty of our other go-to stats sites, of course). If you’re in the know and want to tip us off to where we can find some historical defensive data, please do so.
So, with no clean sheet data for defenders, we were forced to consider attacking performances instead, which leads us into the criteria that we’re using to decide the team overall:
Goals per 90 (minutes) will be used for central defenders and strikers, given that we felt this statistic is more relevant in these positions than…
Goal contributions per 90 (minutes), which we’ve used for every other outfield position and which comprises goals and assists. HOWEVER, before any arguments kick-off over this, it literally wouldn’t have changed anything anyway, because the same players lead both stats in their positions.
For goalkeepers, we’ve analysed clean sheet percentage and goals conceded per game – more on that when we get to it.
To prevent an abundance of statistical anomalies and to ensure that the Statistical TOTD holds any weight in an argument, we’re only considering players who’ve racked up 1000 competitive on-pitch minutes. Why not 10 appearances you ask? We’ll get to that later as well.
We know we’re just delaying the good stuff at this point, but given the statistical nature of the selection, we’ve got some other quick notes before we get started:
We’re going with ‘per 90’ as opposed to ‘per game’ because it better reflects the impact that players make when they’re actually on the field, i.e. a bench-player vs a regular 90-minute starter. Hardly a fair comparison. That being said though…
Whilst we’re using the minutes-based ‘per 90’ metric, we figured we’d still make frequent references to a player’s appearances rather than their total minutes played, given it’s a more digestible value that’s easier to put into perspective.
Anyway, enough of the pleasantries, let’s get into it; the Statistical Team of the Decade.
Goalkeeper: Eugene Galekovic
To kick things off we’ve got a surprising battle between three keepers of varying prestige, with Eugene Galekovic, Tom Glover and Tando Velaphi posting some decent numbers between them. Whilst it’s Glover and Velaphi who boast the best goals conceded per 90 and clean sheet percentage values at 1.13 and 40.9% respectively – making the objective selection of a statistically-best goalkeeper quite difficult – we’re going to factor in Eugene Galekovic’s 38 appearances (more than the other two combined) and name the current Adelaide United assistant as our best ever by the numbers. Galekovic is just 0.03 GC/90 behind Glover at 1.16 and kept a clean sheet in 36.86% of games he featured in.
Ironically, it’s Thomas Sorensen (who we named as our TOTD goalkeeper) and Andrew Redmayne who the numbers would imply have been our worst performers, recording values of 1.62 and 1.6 goals conceded per 90 and 18.92% & 16.66% clean sheet percentages.
Left-Back: Scott Jamieson
Just as it was in our actual Team of the Decade, it’s Scott Jamieson vs Aziz Behich in the battle for statistical superiority at left-back.
It’s a shame that we’re not able to analyse statistical defensive data, but given the characteristics of the respective teams which they’ve been a part of, we’re pretty sure it’d be Scott Jamieson who’d prevail even on the defensive side of things anyway. In regards to goal contributions though, whilst the City skipper is yet to net himself a goal from 78 appearances, it’s his 10 assists which enable him to outperform Behich’s 2 goals and 7 assists in 89, with respective goal contributions per 90 (hereafter GC/90) values of 0.13 and 0.11 respectively.
Centre-Back: Patrick Kisnorbo
The 1000 minute requirement came in handy for preventing the central defensive spots turning into a series of trivia answers, with Safuwan Baharudin (two goals in six appearances @ 0.35 goals per 90) and Kew Jaliens (one goal in 11 appearances @ 0.10 goals per 90) initially set to have taken those positions.
Beyond these two, however, there’s a clear winner, with City player-cum-manager Patrick Kisnorbo miles ahead of our other central defenders in regards to goalscoring output, producing five in his 76 appearances at 0.07 goals per 90.
Centre-Back: Curtis Good
The second central defensive position was much more tightly-contested and if we’re to tell you the truth then we admit to getting a little subjective on this one. It’s Curtis Good v Brendan Hamill, with the former boasting an additional goal and an assist to Hamill’s singular (though incredible) goal. When reduced to the goals per 90 metric, Hamill comes out on top by the very finest of margins, with the two defenders recording 0.03 and 0.04 respectively.
There’s a part of us, however, that refuses to award statistical superiority to a player with one goalscoring contribution, and if we were to incorporate assists to comprise a GC/90 metric, it’d be Good who emerges with the superior figure.
Right-Back: Ritchie De Laet
Absolutely no competition here, as Ritche De Laet stands head and shoulders above literally every other defender in the club’s history for goal contributions, with seven goals and one assist in his 26 appearances (0.34 GC/90). Bit unfair given the Belgian spent a disproportionate amount of time leading the line as opposed to performing his defensive duties but he’s worlds apart from the next-most-creative right-back, Manny Muscat (one goal and one assist in 37 appearances @ 0.08 GC/90)
Central Midfielder: Aaron Mooy
We’ll let you in on a secret; based on our initial 10-appearance criteria, former players Orlando Engelaar and – wait for it – Marcin Budzinski are superior to Mooy when it comes to GC/90 (0.8 and 0.63 vs 0.62 respectively). Whilst that wasn’t the tipping point for the switch to the 1000-minute minimum, it certainly left us quite shocked that there could possibly be better midfielders in regards to offensive output than our beloved Pasty Pirlo.
Central Midfielder: Riley McGree
Whilst he didn’t set the world on fire (or score any scorpion kick worldies) during his time at City, Riley McGree was certainly an intelligent acquisition for the 2018/19 season but must surely now be considered one that got away. Despite impressing for City, it wasn’t until he returned from loan back to Belgian side Club Brugge and was then subsequently purchased by Adelaide United that he truly had a breakout season (0.68 GC/90), leading to his eventual (and presumably) very profitable transfer to future MLS side Charlotte FC.
Forcing ourselves to move on from that though, McGree scored eight and assisted four in his 30 City appearances, squeezing into the midfield with a third-best of GC/90 of 0.52.
Attacking Midfielder: Tim Cahill
Tim Cahill’s relatively consistent attacking output has perhaps rubbed off on fans who may have been disappointed by his shortened stay in Melbourne which didn’t end on particularly good terms, but the Socceroos legend deserves to be remembered for more than his FFA Cup-winning header – and he boasts the stats to prove it. Of every midfielder in the club’s history to record more than 1000 minutes, none can boast a higher GC/90 than Cahill’s 0.72.
Unsurprisingly, he scored several from that famous golden forehead but also demonstrated impressive anticipation to net a few classic poacher’s goals, in addition, of course, to that absolute screamer at the Etihad. Good times.
Left-Wing: Harry Novillo
No other left-winger came close to Novillo for GC/90, with the Martiniquan posting figures of 11 goals and four assists in his 31 competitive City appearances (0.54 GC/90). It was in the famous MFN season of 2015/16 where Novillo really shone, and whilst it’s surprising that the winger only contributed four assists given the finishing quality of the other superstars in that attacking trio, his uptick in form is reflected in that season’s GC/90 of 0.66, compared to 0.25 in 2014/15.
Striker: Ross McCormack
Nope, it’s Ross the Boss who’s been our most lethal goalscorer over the years, recording a quite ridiculous 1.04 goals per 90. So much for Joyce’s aversion to ‘fat’ strikers…
Right-Wing: Craig Noone
This. This was the one that broke us on the 10-appearance rule, because can you guess who the most prolific right-winger (as listed per Transfermarkt) was before we made the switch?
Javier f*ing Cabrera.
The Uruguayan departed the club citing homesickness after 10 competitive appearances (not even all in the A-League), having done alright for himself with one goal and four assists at 0.71 goal contributions per 90.
As for Noone, whilst the Englishman made a slow start to the 2019/20 season, his form picked up either side of the COVID-enforced break, eventually finishing with 7 goals and 8 assists from his 29 appearances @ 0.57 GC/90 – only the third time in his entire professional playing career that he’s achieved a double-digit goal contributions tally.