Fortune tellers or frauds? Revisiting our pre-season predictions
At the beginning of the 2021/22 season, 10 members of the Talking City crew gave their predictions around the upcoming campaign as Melbourne City appeared bound for another successful year in the A-League Men.
Giving predictions across four categories (POTY, Breakout Player, Best Young Player, and one unrestricted bold prediction), some of our contributors were spot-on, some were laughably off the mark, and others were brought undone by circumstances that weren't foreseeable at the time of prediction.
All in all, reading back through each contributor's predictions makes for a much-needed laugh following the disappointment of Saturday's Grand Final loss, so if you haven't already read the original article, check it out here.
Otherwise, we'll launch into our review of our pre-season predictions, starting with where we were least wrong: the three major awards.
Player of the Year
Who we predicted: Mathew Leckie; 5 votes (Jamie Maclaren; 3 votes)
Who it actually was: Florin Berenguer
Hats off to any City fan that actually did tip Florin Berenguer to be crowned Player of the Year. The irony is, we didn't even know if he'd be in the starting XI pre-season due to the arrival of Manuel Pucciarelli, and as it turns out, the foreigners' fortunes couldn't have been any more different in 2021/22.
Mathew Leckie wasn't too bad of a tip on our end, though. Behind Berenguer, the Socceroos winger was one of City's top performers this season, doing well to bounce back from a slow start that saw him attract plenty of criticism.
Leckie finished the season leading the league for non-penalty goal involvements per 90 minutes, making him the competition's most impactful player once spot-kicks are removed from the equation. It was also the most productive campaign of his career, based on this metric.
Leckie finished second in the Talking City fan-voted Player of the Year, and would have been a deserving winner of the club's top award if not for the drastic improvement of Berenguer, whose 2021/22 heroics ensured that our panel of contributors were wrong with this prediction.
Young Player of the Year
Who we predicted: Marco Tilio; 4 votes (Anthony Lesiotis, Stefan Colakovski; 2 votes)
Young Player of the Year is a bit of a murky category sometimes.
There's a bit of an unspoken understanding that this type of award shouldn't be won by an established player (i.e. Ellie Carpenter having a stranglehold on it for years in the old W-League), so contributors tended to avoid regular starters like Connor Metcalfe, Nathaniel Atkinson and Aiden O'Neill.
From the young players that remain, only Tilio, Anthony Lesiotis, Stefan Colakovski, Jordan Hall (1) and Jordan Bos (1) received votes.
Though Bos received the club's Rising Star award last night and tied with Tilio on votes from fans in Talking City's Player of the Year (ALM only), it'd be hard to place his individual season above Tilio's, especially after considering the latter's performances in both the Asian Champions League and ALM Finals.
City's diminutive winger has had another standout campaign and continues to attract plaudits (and potential suitors) as he seemingly draws closer to a European move.
Breakout Player (Most improved)
Who we predicted: Jordan Bos; 3 votes (Aiden O’Neill; 2 votes)
Whilst this was the most polarising major prediction category (our 10 votes were split amongst SEVEN different players, probably saying more about the individuals' tips than the Talking City consensus), you'd have to hand it to Matty, Josh and BT; 2021/22 was most definitely Jordan Bos' breakout season.
In his debut senior campaign, Bos made 22 appearances - more than Scott Galloway and not far off Aiden O'Neill, Rostyn Griffiths and Stefan Colakovski's tallies - and scored an unforgettable maiden A-League Men's goal against Sydney FC.
Whilst it'd be hard to conclusively say that Bos was THE breakout player of the season, given the equally impressive elevation of Florin Berenguer's game to the next level, you'd have to put a tick next to this prediction overall.
Moving onto everyone's bold predictions for the season, it's pretty easy to pick up on the optimism we were feeling in the lead-up to Round 1. We've asked each contributor for their reaction after being reminded of what they had said nearly six months ago. Prepare for some genuinely 'if you don't laugh, you'll cry' moments coming up.
Matty B: City has six players called up to a Socceroos camp.
"Had four called up at one stage. Could've been five but for the Curtis Good situation. Probably a bit optimistic in hindsight but given the strength of our crop of Australian players it's definitely a number I think we can feasibly achieve in the near future."
Tom: City to go undefeated in Melbourne.
"I truly wish I’d been right. Our home didn’t feel like a fortress this year, and that showed especially on Saturday night."
Angus: City will break the league's consecutive wins and clean sheets record.
"I will assign myself half a point for us breaking our own unbeaten run record. The defence was considerably worse this season post the covid outbreak in December, which impacted our ability to keep a clean sheet. Oh, and Tom Glover..."
Josh: Atkinson to record at least 10 goals + assists and secure a European move.
"This has 'team that won their league on points-per-game because COVID ended it early' vibes to it. The man was on one goal and three assists after five games, going at a goal involvement every 55 minutes. 10+ goal involvements looked pretty likely, but that European move came just a little too early for this one to come true."
BT: Multiple clubs post league profits.
"Missed by a mile. Bit of a sad state of affairs that the pre-season optimism turned so quickly, but plenty of mitigating circumstances."
Matt M: City to win the league and make ACL final.
"I was half right with City winning the title, not quite in the manner that I initially anticipated but the Premier's Plate was secured. ACL glory eluded us with mistakes costing us our chance to advance and see where we could’ve gotten to. Overall, I'm content with the initial prediction and hope to see City take another step forward next season."
Jesse: City to average over 12k home crowd in revitalised A-League.
"Well, this one speaks for itself, but nobody foresaw midweek fixtures for the entirety of the season. Hopefully we can build upon the huge South End turnout that we saw on Grand Final day next season."
Rene: Treble-winning season, winning both Finals (FFA Cup and A-League Men's) against the Vuck.
"I think I might have been close to right on the money... if not for the incompetence of City in the FFA Cup... and Victory in the A-League Finals series...
So, in my opinion, I'm still a prophet."
Christian: Excluding games against Victorian teams, half of our home matches will have attendances in excess of 10K.
"Every supporter has their own life, but there's no doubt that bigger home attendances outside of all-Victorian encounters would have been nice. Nonetheless, I got this quite wrong."
Lachlan: City to get out of the ACL group stage at the first attempt and make the QF.
"Well... shit. Frustratingly, if we'd topped the group I would have been reasonably confident in us being able to beat Kitchee at home, but poor tactical decisions, performances and luck with COVID/injuries kyboshed that."