We’re not even a third of the way through the season yet, but the upcoming Round 8 Bye is as good a time as any to take a look back and reflect on the largely successful period we’ve witnessed over the past seven weeks.
Here are three things Melbourne City fans have learned from Rounds 1-7:
We’re playing genuinely good football
The club’s mundane ‘Joyceball’ era is over. The only proof you need is to watch a game this season under Erick Mombaerts.
The Frenchman has completely transformed our build-up play, incorporating the widely-applauded inverted fullbacks tactic and encouraging players to drive aggressively up the pitch in order to create chaos and force opportunities rather than waiting for them.
Unlike last year, fans can now comprehend the intent of City’s attacking moves. We can understand why a particularly good transition moment is so effective and we can understand, in most cases, the instances where our defensive structure breaks down, allowing players to get in behind for promising opportunities.
It all makes for a far more entertaining brand of football to watch regardless of whether you’re a foundation member with boundless knowledge of the team or a first-time attendee who’s come along with a friend.
And there’s one man benefiting from this exciting new game plan more than anyone else…
‘Jamie Maclaren, he scores when he wants’: a Talking City statistical deep-dive
This number nine of ours is quite alright.
15 shots. 12 on target. 9 goals.
Aside from his ridiculous shooting accuracy of 80%, the even scarier statistic is his goal conversion rate (shots/goals); if you’re one to take it literally, his first shot of the game against Perth in just under two week’s time has a 60% probability of being a goal. Incredible.
For context, though the comparison is a little stretched, Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy is the most clinical of Europe’s top ten strikers in 2019-20. From 23 shots, he’s put 16 on target (70% shooting accuracy) with 11 of those ending up in the back of the net (48% goal conversion rate).
Our point is that JMac’s not just scoring goals, he’s scoring them with world-class efficiency.
A little closer to home though, there’s a record to be broken.
Former-Sydney FC import Bobô took the piss out of the league in 2017/18, breaking Bruno Fornaroli’s single-season goals record by netting 27 times in 28 appearances for the eventual Champions; his 104 shots and 51 on target give him a shooting accuracy of 49% and a goal conversion rate of 27%.
Whilst Maclaren’s theoretically on course to smash that, it’s hardly likely that his 2.25 goals-per-game form can be sustained over an entire season (Bobô’s, by the way, equated to 0.96).
Even without missing further matches due to injury, Maclaren’s sure to miss a handful through international duty with the Socceroos as he competes for a starting spot against Adam Taggart.
The good news is that JMac’s currently got four more goals than Bobô had at the same time of the 2017-18 season (five goals between Rounds 1-7), though the Brazillian really established himself as the league’s best in Rounds 12 and 13, with consecutive hattricks against Wellington and Perth.
In summary, it’s going to be one hell of a record chase and City fans have got prime seating.
We’ve got legitimate depth and it’s going to put us a long way towards winning the league
Whilst we’re not completely stacked in every position, we’re at a comfortable stage where there’s a more than adequate backup – if not multiple backups, allowing for tactical flexibility depending on each individual player’s style – for just about every position in our starting XI.
As we alluded to there, a pleasing aspect of this year’s squad is that the composition of our team is dynamic, allowing for tactical changes mid-match.
Our midfield depth is especially central to this, with Florin Berenguer's upcoming return from injury highlighting the gluttony of depth options we have in midfield and creating a selection headache for Erick Mombaerts, who now faces the task of choosing between Berenguer, Metcalfe, Genreau, Luna and Griffiths to accompany the player we’ve argued is City’s most important, Josh Brillante.
Beyond the benefit of tactical flexibility, our squad depth also allows for injuries to important players to be accounted for. With no disrespect to the following players, Berenguer and Windbichler have hardly been missed throughout their time on the sideline, and the team scored six goals in two games whilst we were without Jamie Maclaren.
Champion teams are built on the foundation of great squad depth and we’ve got exactly that.