Despite the backing of the City Football Group (CFG), Melbourne City have had an inconsistent and under-performing first A-League season under its new identity. Even after qualifying for the finals, many believe that City are just filling in the numbers and won't mount any kind of challenge in this seasons A-League finals. Many people were expecting a more enjoyable brand of football from this club, but most have been disappointed, unless your a Victory fan of course.
After CFG bought a market share of 80% of the now former Melbourne Heart 14 months ago, the team has under gone a large change in identity and management. The club has new training facilities and access to some of the most advanced technology for elite sporting cubs across the globe through CFG. Even with these advantages, City have rarely caused much concern to A-League teams this season.
A minimum target for City this season would have been to make the finals. Tick. They have done that, with two games left as a result of Perth Glory's ban after a salary cap breach. Some people though are asking questions about City's form and how inconsistent they are. Out of the teams above them, they have beaten Victory, Adelaide and Sydney. Yet have not beaten Wellington, Central Coast or Perth this season and have only beaten bottom of the ladder Western Sydney once.
One strongly talked about reason for this lack of consistency is the quality of marquee players. Robert Koren, a former English Premier League player is City's international marquee. He is 34. City's Australian marquee is Socceroos cult hero, Josh "Jesus" Kennedy, who is 32 but injury prone. There was also David Villa who was meant to play 10 games, but only played 4, as a guest marquee on his way to fellow CFG team New York City.
All three players have severely under performed. Yes, Villa scored 2 goals in 4 games, but really just laboured around the pitch waiting to get his pay. Kennedy has struggled to acclimatise to the style of play in the A-League compared to the Japan-League, but is too often offside and has already missed numerous games to injury. City just can't allow that from its marquee players.
Koren has had one standout game against Newcastle where he scored a very neat hat-trick, but apart from that, he has done very little. Another example of a promising, but ageing marquee failing to perform in the A-League. One common 'excuse' for marquee players is the surprise in physicality and intensity of the A-League. However, Koren has had more than enough time to adapt but his performances have shown he hasn't, which for a player of his experience is not acceptable.
With the backing of CFG, Melbourne was confident that its marquee players will perform as expected for this season, and so were most of the fans. Yet, this has not been the case and have been an overall disappointment. Has the only real success story for any A-League marquee come from Del Piero? If you go by money for value, then yes. He helped bring crowds to Sydney FC games and scored numerous goals, while playing in an entertaining manner.
If City really want to challenge for the title next year, which is no doubt what CFG will want, they need to bring in some younger, more enthusiastic, skillful and entertaining players to have a chance. Just like Harry Novillo, but with a bigger name. He is probably too big for the A-League, and considering his potential may stay at Manchester but someone like Marcos Lopes could work. He is an example of a reasonably big name player, who has skill and potential to both entertain and win games. If City can have him on loan, why not? They have the backing and the resources- they should go ahead and bring in the best they can as marquee's are special. They are there for skill, headlines, fan affection and still ultimately want to win- just what both CFG and Melbourne want.