Where Are We At?
Our ambition certain, yet the road still rocky, what represents success for Melbourne City in Season 2021-22? Nothing less than a step forward again from last season. A season in which we already ascended to the top of the league, shattered records, won trophies and seemed to finally find the winning formula. Yet, we are still the hunter… So what are we in the hunt for and how can we know we are on our way? Adelaide. Away. Round 2 of Season 21-22. It seems as good as any indicator of answering these questions.
Here are three things to keep in mind heading into this early season encounter with Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium this Saturday.
Bucking the Trend
Irrespective of squad strengths and recent form, Adelaide away has always proved a difficult task. Whilst on paper, City seem to dominate almost every position, Adelaide thrive as the underdog and collectively demonstrate through strength, determination and unity that good football teams are worth more than the sum of their parts.
The last time Melbourne City beat Adelaide away was December 16, 2018. On the day was a very different looking City side under then Manager, Warren Joyce, with an own goal and some individual brilliance from Luke Brattan ultimately making the difference. Since then, Melbourne City have managed only one win from six games against Adelaide United, including two draws and three losses. All three of these defeats have come on the road away at Coopers Stadium. This does not include the demoralising 4-0 loss during the FFA Cup of October, 2019.
If we approach the game with the expectation to win and show little respect towards our opponent, history surely swings the pendulum in favour of the home side. If we are to remain in the hunt, we will need to have learnt lessons from our past experience and approach the game with humility. As defending champions, City will be hungry to put the past behind them and etch a new path forward but, at the outset, the odds remain in the favour of the home side. One thing is certain: if we win, it will be because we have earnt it, not because it was deserved.
A Conservative Approach
In three of the last four games against Adelaide United, Melbourne City have been dealt red cards and played the game out with ten men. Considering our often level-headed and commanding style of play, this recent trend reveals just how well Adelaide have managed to get under our skin.
Adelaide know that preventing us from playing our style is key. Ensuring they set up in a way that minimises our dominance in possession, stifles our attacking play and prevents speed in transition from back to front, will force us to take risks that may afford opportunities for Adelaide to exploit. This makes them particularly dangerous with the speed with which their players can unleash on the counter.
As a result, chances for both teams may be few and far between. Both teams will need to capitalise on chances created to ultimately gain the advantage. Fortunately for us, we have the players across the park who can find their way to goal, though we may again be reliant on individual brilliance from the edge of the box to ultimately find the back of the net. If we can manage to keep a level head, buck the trend and assert our dominance and style, we may just edge in for three points.
No Need for Panic Stations
Despite relatively few changes in the squad from last season, we must not underestimate the time it will take for the squad to be back at the level at which it dominated our season past. With new additions into the team, including a front three who will take time to gel, Round 2 may not yet offer up an occasion for a goal-fest.
As PK always reflects, what matters is the performance, not the result. A good performance at Coopers may simply be improved interplay between our front three. After a solid defensive effort in Round 1 from our back four and some comfortable and positive midfield play, the front three will definitely be the ones to watch in terms of progress and growth, but may not serve up the difference that will ultimately get us the result just yet. All of this is not to say our front three are not capable either and, if they can find a way to click at Coopers, it may be enough to break the shackles of our past.
All things considered, it would be great to see history play out differently as we visit Coopers this Saturday but it looms as a tough test for City. Whilst it most likely will not be remembered as a season-defining game, the result almost comes secondary to the performance.
We may have ascended the heights of Australian Football last season, but dominance away at Coopers still continues to elude us. 1 point gained, rather than 3 lost, may serve as a good outcome for what history suggests will shape up as a fiery and fierce 90 minutes of football.
Prediction 1-1 (Galloway & Mauk)