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Fitting Pucciarelli in: Who misses out?

On Monday, Melbourne City unveiled versatile Italian Manuel Pucciarelli as the club's third signing ahead of the 2021/22 A-League season, posing a dilemma in regards to which of our starting XI regulars misses out.

Though the 30-year-old is capable of playing out wide, comments from club Director of Football Michael Petrillo - in addition to the existing presence of star wingers Andrew Nabbout and Mathew Leckie - would suggest that Pucciarelli is to be used as a central attacking midfielder or second striker.

Photo: Melbourne City FC

With places in our best XI almost guaranteed for Nabbout and Leckie out wide, you'd have to think that one of Aiden O'Neill, Florin Berenguer or Connor Metcalfe will see reduced minutes in 2021/22 as a result of the Italian's introduction. Who is that most likely to be? Let's discuss:

Aiden O'Neill:

His defensive abilities in midfield were vital last season, particularly towards the conclusion of the campaign.

With a tackle-success rate bettering his two aforementioned midfield partners, so too does he possess an ability to pick out his teammates with some elite passing skills.

Unfortunately, we didn't see enough of O'Neill's class due to long-term injury. Now that his injury troubles are a thing of that past - and in addition to being a Kisnorbo-era signing - you would think that his place in City's best starting lineup is safe.

Conor Metcalfe:

To say that this man burst onto the scene last season would be an understatement. Starting in every single game he was available for, combined with five goals and three assists, were only some of his impressive achievements on the way to earning a maiden Socceroos call-up in July this year.

Early on last season, when things weren't going right for him and the team, Kisnorbo stuck by the youngster and that perseverance paid off. Is that likely to change in 2021/22? I doubt it.

Florin Berenguer

Like Metcalfe, though in a different way, Berenguer was rewarded for his contributions to last season's league double with a new contract for the upcoming season - and how could he not be? His calming, controlling influence on our midfield was evident when he ranked first amongst this trio for passing accuracy, successful passes and fouls won.

It'd be cruel not to start Berenguer regularly this season given his loyalty and service to the club but now that Pucciarelli is part of the squad, that outcome may be best for the team. This is especially given that the Frenchman can be so effective at introducing tempo and control to the midfield when brought on from the bench. If we're trying to hold onto leads in games, Berenguer could be exactly the role player that the squad needs.

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