Season Preview: Rookie Kisnorbo aiming to take City one step further
With the new A-League season right around the corner, Front Page Football will be breaking down each club's chances and what we can expect from them in 2020-21.
Today we analyse Melbourne City's chances.
How did they fare last season?
Under Frenchman Erick Mombaerts, City put together one of their most consistent seasons, only finishing a round of fixtures outside the top two on three occasions.
The former Paris Saint-Germain manager revolutionised City's attacking play with new ideas such as inverted fullbacks.
They scored a joint league-high 49 times.
The Citizens eventually finished second to secure a semi-final place.
An extra-time Rhyan Grant winner, coupled with the Video Assistant Referee's questionable decisions, were the only factors standing in the way of a maiden A-League crown.
What is expected of them this season?
Given the investment that goes into the club each year and just missing out in 2019-20, a championship would have to be the target.
I wouldn't go so far as to say new coach Patrick Kisnorbo must win silverware.
However, City will hope to build onto last season's performances.
They have to be ready to pounce on any slip-ups by current champions Sydney.
This task will be less daunting because they have retained most of their key players from last season and added some intelligent signings.
It is a challenging first gig as a head coach for Kisnorbo.
It is not often a rookie is expected to come in and challenge for success immediately.
But that is the challenge he faces, made easier because he has a squad of players more than capable.
Players to watch?
Jamie Maclaren has been the main man up front for City since joining in January 2019.
His record has been nothing short of phenomenal, netting almost every game on average for the club, with 34 in 39 appearances so far.
It is almost a certainty that he will hit double figures again this season.
Maclaren celebrates a winner against the Wanderers last season. (AAP)
Florin Berenguer had a difficult first season in the A-League back in 2018-19, failing to score in his first campaign.
However, he started to adapt nicely last season, netting his first few goals and generally being a more dangerous attacking threat.
New signings Ben Garuccio and Andrew Nabbout will also be looking to hit the ground running.
Garuccio returns to the club after spells at Adelaide United, and with Scottish club Heart of Midlothian, where injury problems prevented him from nailing down a regular place in the side.
In one of the league's more bizarre transfer sagas, Nabbout was meant to play for Perth this season after signing a two year deal with Richard Garcia's side.
But issues over relocating due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement meant City snapped him up.
The ex-Victory man will need to show end product immediately if he wants to win over the fans that despised him last season.
Any youngsters coming through?
Taras Gomulka made a breakthrough out of nowhere with Adelaide United post-lockdown.
City will be hoping he can continue his rapid rise at AAMI Park.
The 19-year-old was promoted from the Reds youth system and started in the number six role in every game under Carl Veart, even showing off his ability from dead-ball situations.
Gomulka in action for Adelaide United last season.
Keep an eye out for Marco Tilio as well.
The striker made the right decision to join City and leave Sydney, as the former put far more trust in youth than the latter.
He did feature a handful of times under Steve Corica last season, even managing to pick up a goal and an assist in a 3-0 victory over the Mariners back in February.
Nathaniel Atkinson and Connor Metcalfe were outstanding at times under Mombaerts.
Kisnorbo should be continuing to give them regular minutes.
And how's the manager?
As previously mentioned, it is never easy when the rookie, in his first year, has to improve on what the experienced foreign manager already set up.
That task is only more demanding when an improvement means silverware.
Kisnorbo has been involved at City in several different coaching roles for quite a while, and no doubt understands all of the ins and outs at the club.
He has probably built up a good rapport with the players, working with them last year as an assistant, and with the younger guys in the youth system.
The 39-year-old said in a recent interview that the experience working with Mombaerts has perfectly prepped him for the leading role, and gave a hint about the way City will play this season.
Kisnorbo was Mombaerts' assistant coach last season. (AAP)
"Erick wanted us to be closer to the [Manchester] City style of play and he implemented that. I will continue on the same way. I believe in it, we have an identity, and nothing will change," he said.
It makes sense to continue a formula that worked in the previous campaign.
However, Kisnorbo will need to be wary about becoming too stubborn if he doesn't get the required results.
If he has to deviate slightly from Mombaerts' style to change results, then he must.