Move over PK: City fans select our ALM best XI for 2022/23
Following yesterday's arrival of Valon Berisha, Melbourne City has officially exhausted its five VISA spots in its 2022/23 A-League Men's squad, and with just over a month to go until the new campaign kicks off, fans could be looking at the finalised playing group that Patrick Kisnorbo will be taking into the new season.
The Kosovan's introduction to the squad, particularly to an already busy midfield, has only added to the feeling amongst fans that competition for places in the starting XI will be at an all-time high.
With young prospects battling it out with more senior positional rivals and foreign newcomers looking to displace more established members of our best XI, there's no end to the possibilities around how our strongest lineup might look by the time the season rolls around... so for this article, we're putting it in your hands.
Read on for a summary of the selection dilemmas facing PK in each position on the park, accompanied by a poll asking you for the player that you would include in that role in City's 'best XI'*.
*Ignore current injuries and any time for adaptation that you feel might inhibit new signings from immediately bedding themselves in.
2021/22 was a campaign that left Tom Glover with few backers after a series of high-profile errors. The 24-year-old showed glimpses of his potential, pulling off the occasional big save and even putting in the rare Man of the Match performance, though fans have tended to overlook/forget about these highlights amidst an abundance of lowlights. Although City conceded the fourth-fewest goals in the 2021/22 ALM season, this appeared to be in spite of Glover's performances, not because of it - the save percentage of City's goalkeepers was a league-worst 63.5%.
The fragility of Glover's place as City's #1 was evident last season, with Matt Sutton replacing him in the starting lineup for two consecutive games in March this year. Though his 180 minutes is an extremely small sample size, it is worth noting that Sutton's save percentage of 50% is the worst of the 26 keepers who were called into action at least once in 21/22 - if he'd played more, would he have had the chance to improve this figure?
The other option between the sticks is 18-year-old NPL goalkeeper James Nieuwenhuizen, who is very highly rated by those at the club. From an outside perspective, you'd have to assume that he recently overtook Ahmad Taleb in the goalkeeping ranks, with the latter making the move to crosstown rivals Melbourne Victory at the end of last season.
Who's our best goalkeeper for 22/23?
Our outfield selection dilemmas begin at left-back, where it seems we've got an 'unstoppable force versus immoveable object' predicament. Beginning with the latter, whilst it'd be hard to replace the leadership and experience of Scott Jamieson, the 33-year-old showed late in 2021/22 that it's not just his captaincy role that's keeping him in the team. The left-back was influential particularly late on in the campaign, coming up with a trio of inspired performances in the Plate-clincher against Wellington and our two-legged Semi Final against Adelaide.
Of course, there could be just as much support for the wildly popular Jordan Bos, who continues to impress fans with every chance he gets. The 19-year-old already has 24 senior appearances to his name and is quickly becoming one of Australia's most exciting young players. His versatility allows him to play in an attacking or defensive capacity on the left, so he'll also feature later in this article.
Who's our best left-back for 22/23?
Though Curtis Good and Nuno Reis formed City's fairly established centre-back pairing throughout 2021/22, that partnership could be broken up by the arrival of Finnish international Thomas Lam. The 28-year-old last played for CSKA Sofia in Bulgaria, so has recent experience at a higher level than what he'll soon be adapting to. Lam also has age on his side, younger than both Good (29) and Reis (31) respectively.
Who's in our best centre-back pairing for 22/23? (Pick two)
You can vote for more than one answer.
With Scott Galloway injured at the time, Carl Jenkinson was able to come into the squad and immediately bed down his starting spot at right-back upon his arrival from Nottingham Forest earlier in 2022. With the Englishman now gone, competition for that place in the starting lineup will be fiercely contested between Galloway and new man Callum Talbot.
Galloway has the runs on the board already with 68 City appearances to his name, all of which have been to a generally high standard that holds him in good favour with the fans. However, the breakout form of 21-year-old Talbot in what was effectively his debut season at senior level for Sydney FC in 2021/22 can't be ignored. It was a great bit of scouting and early transfer business that brought the right-back down to Melbourne, with City beginning negotiations with the youngster even before he began to show the standout form that would later have the Sky Blues desperate to keep him.
Who's our best right-back for 22/23?
Though Aiden O'Neill had been our clear defensive midfielder of choice until his injury late in the 2021/22 ALM campaign, Taras Gomulka's quick adaptation to the rigours of consistent senior football has been impressive. The soon-to-be 21-year-old has now started in 11 of his past 13 appearances for the club in the #6 role. However, O'Neill's value to the team simply can't be understated, and nowhere has that fact been more obvious than in analysing City's results before and after his injury. In last season's 23 domestic fixtures prior to O'Neill's injury against Sydney FC, City boasted a win percentage of 57%. In the eight domestic fixtures played since, this figure has dropped to just 38%.
New signing Lam has also been touted by the club as a defensive midfield option, and given his prior experience as a central defender rather than a #6, the early evidence could be pointing towards him starting the season in midfield before shifting into defence when O'Neill is ready to return to action.
Who's our best defensive midfielder for 22/23?