The Newsroom previews the 2014-15 A-League teams
The 10th season of the A-League marks the second coming of expansion club, Melbourne Heart. In January this year, 80 per cent of the club was bought by the City Football Group, who also own English champions Manchester City. This has brought in a whole new club for last season’s wooden spooners. New facilities, new strips, new philosophy and big name players such as Damien Duff and 2010 World Cup winner David Villa joining the frame.
Last Season: 10th
Ins: Connor Chapman and James Brown (Newcastle Jets), Aaron Mooy (Western Sydney Wanderers), David Villa (loan from New York City FC), Damien Duff (Fulham), Jacob Melling (Adelaide United), Robert Koren (Hull City), Marc Marino (AIS), Erik Paartalu (Muangthong United FC)
Outs: Jeremy Walker (Hume City), Orlando Engelaar (Released), Sam Mitchinson (Bayswater City), Patrick Gerhardt (released), Harry Kewell (retired), Aziz Behich (Buraspor, end of loan), David Vrankovic (Bonnyrigg White Eagles)
Strengths: The star quality in the side should bring in crowds, money through merchandise and more importantly, on field results. Damien Duff and Robert Koren both played in last season’s English Premier League while David Villa won the La Liga and made the UEFA Champions League final with Atletico Madrid. Along with Erik Paartalu and Aaron Mooy, the competition’s eyes will be on the AAMI Park side.
Weaknesses: Big signings such as Villa, Koren, Duff and Paartalu, have overshadowed the fact that City have only signed one defender in the off-season, 19-year-old Connor Chapman. The former Newcastle centre back has the assests to be the next big thing but, for a side that conceded 42 goals last season (third highest in the league), bulking up at the back should have been seen as a priority. Other than experienced duo, Rob Wielaert and captain Patrick Kisnorbo, Chapman is the only specialist defender in the team. The lack of depth at the back could be a severe issue if injuries and suspensions catch up with them.
Key Player: 28-year-old Erik Paartalu, arrives back in the A-League with high expectations. The two-time championship winner, with former club Brisbane Roar, is back after an 18 month stint in Asia. At this time, under Ange Postecoglou, he was one of the best holding midfielders in the country. Dictating play with his strength and vision to match, Paartalu will be a vital component of the born again Melbourne City and the incentive of representing his country at the Asian Cup should be enough for Paartalu to deliver this season.
Manager: John van’t Schip is the man being trusted with taking City to the top of the table. The inaugural manager will be backed by new assistant, Luciano Trani, Brisbane’s assistant last season. Having worked at Ajax and with the Dutch national team, van’t Schip will bring the experience and tactical prowess needed to rebuild this club.
Prediction: Filled with big name players from both home and abroad, City will be expecting to challenge for the title this year. However, how they gel as a unit as opposed to individuals will be tested. 5th. – Chris Matthews-Darby
Top photo from Magnus D’s Flickr photostream.