We’re less than a week from our opening fixture of the 2019/20 A-League season and there certainly seems to be an abundance of optimism amongst City fans ahead of the new campaign.
With an FFA Cup Final looming against Adelaide United later this month, the boys will have a chance to stamp their intent on the season in which supporters are dreaming of Asian Champions League qualification.
Erick Mombaert’s brought with him a refreshing, attacking-minded philosophy and is comfortable with affording opportunities to younger, promising players.
It begs the question, who’s set for a breakout season?
We’ve scoured the list and come up with three players to watch in season 2019/20:
It’s hard not to start with the most obvious one, but Metcalfe really was the standout ‘bolter’ of the preseason. Having reportedly impressed Mombaerts right off the bat, the 19-year-old has just about guaranteed a starting spot in midfield for our opening round Derby clash, especially after his goal in the FFA Cup Semi against Brisbane Strikers last Tuesday.
The midfielder has consistently exhibited offensive and defensive proficiency, regularly dropping back to halt opposition attacking movements, whilst also demonstrating a tendency to find dangerous positions just outside the opposition penalty area where he contributes to attacking buildups.
Metcalfe continues to keep Rostyn Griffiths – a proven A-League quality – on the bench, having been selected in every FFA Cup starting lineup thus far; an important indicator of his value to Mombaert’s plans for 2019/20.
Luke Brattan registered four goals and four assists in his final season at City, and whilst Metcalfe obviously doesn’t possess Bratts’ creativity or quality just yet, we’re confident he’ll be able to lock down a starting midfield spot and seems decent odds for five or six goal contributions; a modest, though respectable, foundation in his first campaign as a starter.
We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to promising youngsters at City, but even at 27, Harrison Delbridge is the name that stands out to us as the player who could take his game to the next level and become one of the league’s elite central defenders by the end of the season.
Having spent his entire senior career in the United States prior to his City move in January 2018, Delbridge has demonstrated considerable improvement across his 40 appearances for the club, proving to be a capable deputy at right-back throughout the 2018/19 season.
The defender looks surprisingly – and occasionally, worrisomely – comfortable on the ball and isn’t averse to driving into the midfield looking for a dangerous pass.
Whilst our central defensive partnership seemed a little shaky during our earlier preseason and FFA Cup fixtures, particularly in regards to dealing with long aerial balls, the partnership of Delbridge and Good has improved considerably as the season’s grown closer.
It’s certainly a long shot, but it wouldn’t be out of the question for a career-best season to land Delbridge a call-up to a Socceroos camp.
Coming to a decision for this last spot was nigh-impossible; Nathaniel Atkinson's name was almost here instead, considering he has the quality, versatility and overall potential to force selection dilemmas on just about any line of the teamsheet. Additionally, Lachie Wales could realistically look to challenge Javier Cabrera on the right-wing whilst Florin Berenguer NEEDS to have a strong season to justify his marquee status.
There’s just something about Ramy Najjarine that demands his inclusion here. He’s been tipped as the next Arzani-level youth product to come out of City’s academy and made 13 appearances throughout 2018/19, including scoring an absolute belter against Central Coast in a 5-0 rout at home.
The primary hesitation regarding his inclusion has been his poor performances in his two FFA Cup starts this campaign, in which he looked a shadow of the promising player he’s been described as. Ironically, however, those two starting appearances are also the reason we’ve got him down as one of the three to watch.
Mombaerts clearly has faith in the 19-year-old, and has previously stated his desire to develop youth players whilst at the club. Hence, despite two poor showings, it seems likely that he’ll continue to earn opportunities off the bench throughout the season, and we’re optimistic that he can contribute with a handful of goals and assists.