With the A-League season set to kick off tomorrow, FVS have got you covered with the most comprehensive Melbourne Victory season preview you could ask for!
Mitch Austin (Central Coast Mariners); James Donachie (Brisbane Roar); Stefan Nigro (youth team); Alan Baró (Ponferradina, Spain); James Troisi (Liaoning Whowin, China); Marco Rojas (VfB Stuttgart, Germany); Sebastian Pasquali (youth team); Alistair Bray (Central Coast Mariners).
Mitch Austin: Pacey winger who was one of the best players at Central Coast last season. An excellent crosser of the ball and can finish as well. With the arrival of Rojas he probably becomes the first back-up for either of the wing positions in Kevin Muscat’s preferred formations. He will provide excellent competition and is seen as an upgrade on Pain, who went in the other direction to Central Coast.
James Donachie: A young central defender whose stocks are rising in the A-League. A few weeks ago I would have said he is probably third in line with The Vuck central defenders – Ansell and Baró the preferred starting combination. Though now, after seeing a bit more of him I think he’s very much a chance to start regularly. Looked very good against some of the European opposition in pre-season. He’s not afraid of playing out from the back and taking an adventurous run forward with the ball.
Stefan Nigro: Not new to the club, but inked a senior deal in the off-season. Played a couple of games last season at right back due to injuries in the first team and impressed. Nigro can play in that full back role, but his preferred role is as a defensive midfielder. The Vuck faithful love nothing more than a youth team prospect breaking through, Nigro’s door could be widened significantly if a big transfer for Geria eventuated.
Alan Baró: Baró was signed fairly early on in the pre-season so the defender/defensive midfielder has had plenty of time to adjust to life in Australia. There are not too many players in the A-League’s sphere of influence that could fill the imperious boots of the departed Mathieu Delpierre. If he can be ¾ of the player that Delpierre was it will be a good signing. So far, he has shown himself to be calm and confident on the ball.
James Troisi: A former Vuck player who returns after a couple of unsuccessful ventures abroad. Much loved by fans of the club because he was one of the league’s best players in the year he was here. Troisi can play in a variety of attacking roles but looks set to take on the #10 position left vacant by Finkler. Creative, tricky and dangerous near goals – he is a former golden boot winner of the league. Perhaps somewhat worryingly, he looks to be the man to also replace Finkler with set pieces. His dead balls (to date) have not inspired much confidence.
Marco Rojas: Another former Vuck player returns to the fold on a two year deal. The Kiwi international left the A-League as Johnny Warren medallist but couldn’t quite crack it in Europe. At 24 he is still very much in his prime and his return to the A-League is still very much a stepping stone move. Rojas is a fleet of foot winger and attacking midfielder who can play out wide or in the #10 role. He also hates the Heart. A good finisher as well, an extremely good addition and for the moment will be seen as the direct replacement for Barbarouses.
Sebastian Pasquali: Another youth team prospect who has dazzled in a couple of cameo performances during the off-season. An attacking midfielder, with lots of tricks and plenty of potential. At only 16 years of age, he’s one to watch for the future and may only get a look-in this season in the event of injury.
Alistair Bray: A young backup goalkeeper and final signing of the pre-season. He was on trial at the club for most of the off-season and the club decided to reward him with a senior contract. He replaces the departed Vukovic on the roster and whilst he does not have years of experience at the top, he will make for an acceptable understudy to Thomas.
Summary: Replacements for all departed players have been signed except for Vuck legend Archie Thompson. If Berisha was to get injured, there are no other recognised strikers in the squad barring George Howard. So far, Howard has not shown that he has what it takes to fill that void, should circumstances require it. In every other position upgrades have been made, barring the centre of defence as the jury is still out on Baró as to whether he will be as reliable as the man he replaces.
Thomas Deng (season long loan – PSV Eindhoven); Danny Vukovic (Sydney FC); Dylan Murnane (Kongsvinger IL Toppfotball, Norway); Jesse Makarounas (Adelaide United); Connor Pain (Central Coast Mariners); Giancarlo Gallifuoco (Torquay United, England); Archie Thompson (released/retired); Matthew Delpierre (retired); Kosta Barbarouses (Wellington Phoenix); Gui Finkler (Wellington Phoenix).
2016/17 full strength, Vuck team:
4-2-3-1 / 4-3-3:
We expect The Vuck to mainly stick to this kind of formation, but the composition of the midfield will change depending on the opponent and the circumstances. Now let’s break it down, player by player in each role:
First XI – player by player
GK: Thomas – Has bided his time now for two seasons running and finally gets #1 custodian status after starting as the backup the past two seasons. A solid though unspectacular ‘keeper that has impressed with limited game time. A little suspect with his decision-making when coming out of his area, but an excellent shot-stopper and decent with distribution (#distro). He replaces Vukovic who was somewhat unreliable, particularly with #distro. Thomas came in late over the past two seasons and has done enough to earn the confidence of the manager as the permanent #1.
DR: Geria – One of the league’s best right-backs now; his performances last season earnt him a Socceroos call-up. It’s only a matter of time before he leaves the A-League so The Vuck will be pleased to have him on for what will probably be his final year before some overseas suitors come knocking. Full of energy, great defensively and decent going forward as well with overlapping runs.
CD: Baró – A central defender and defensive midfielder that comes in as the replacement for Delpierre. Not exactly the same as Delpierre from a physique point of view, but comes to the A-League with a decent CV in Spain. This signing continues the trend of Muscat signing experienced central defenders who have been captains at their club. He captained Ponferradina in Spain during his 167 game stint there in Spain’s 2nd division.
CD: Ansell – Should continue as first choice and will be hoping his injury issues are behind him. Rarely has he managed to play out a full season, but when he is fit he’s quite capable. Had an injury-riddled season last season. Donachie will be putting a lot of pressure on him this season so he will have to perform from the get-go.
DL: Georgievski – Fell in and out of favour with the manager last season. Can be a little erratic and prone to brain fades. Generally a good full-back at this level and the fact that he is comfortable on both sides of the park, means his value to the squad is still high. Needs to keep a level head and find some consistency this season.
CM: Bozanic – Struggled last season when Valeri was injured as he ended up having to do a lot of the heavy lifting in midfield. More of a creative type, so he was not used to having to defend and tackle as much as he did in 2015/16. On big wages though and the Vuck fans are getting restless with him a little. Consistency was an issue for him last season; if he can get that right this season he will be formidable.
CM: Valeri – Missed a large chunk of last season due to a brain injury and was a sorely missed. Captain of the club and defensive midfield general. What The Vuck discovered last season is that he’s the sort of player you only begin to notice when he’s not there. Great tackler and passer of the ball. Captain Carl is pivotal to any potential success The Vuck may have this season.
AM: Troisi – The A-League seems to be the right level for Troisi to excel in, so it would be great to see him commit to a club for more than one season. An attacking midfielder that can play in any of the 3 attacking midfield/winger roles we see The Vuck employ tactically. Not as crafty as the guy he replaces, and Finkler was also an excellent set piece taker. Troisi has been taking set pieces in the off-season and has been poor in comparison to Finkler. He makes up for this with his work-rate though.
FW: Khalfallah – An underwhelming 2015/16 season after setting the A-League alight the season before that. FBK stays on at the club but now faces a lot more competition for his spot in the side. Can be a bit petulant at times with his body language. Austin will be gunning for his spot in the side on that left-flank. FBK likes to cut inside so he’s capable of playing centrally if required. I expect to see Kevin switch his players around during games quite a lot this season.
FW: Berisha – Berisha’s importance this season cannot be understated. There are no other quality strikers on The Vuck’s list. If he was to go down; The Vuck would be in all sorts. Berisha always finds ways to score and had another great season in 2015/16 where he broke the club record for most goals scored in a season. In Muscat’s system he is shouldering a lot of responsibility as the sole striker. His ferocity and never-say-die attitude is incredible though, and he leads the line admirably. With no Asian Champions League this season the workload should be a little less strenuous.
FW: Rojas – The diminutive Kiwi is a great addition and arguably an upgrade on the man he replaces – compatriot Barbarouses. He had reasonable loan stints in Switzerland last season; but parted ways with Stuttgart which opened the door for a return to The Vuck. A proven and quality player at this level. Extremely quick, lots of trickery in his kit bag as well. Has been on fire in the pre-season. Can play all across the front third.
Tactics and game style for the season
We don’t anticipate too many changes here. Kevin Muscat’s quick transition, possession-based/wide-play with three attackers will continue. The personnel acquired lends itself to the aforementioned 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 and Muscat will oscillate between these two approaches for most of the season. It’s likely he will employ two holding midfielders against the better sides.
Coaching and backroom changes
Jean-Paul de Marigny, who was Muscat’s #2 in their title winning season in 2014/15 returns to the club. He replaces Rado Vidosic. JP de Marigny is a great addition not only because of the good chemistry he and Kevin have, but also his breadth of knowledge across the league.
How’s the mood at Vuck Headquarters right now?
The club is fairly confident about its prospects this season and record membership looms once again. But it hasn’t all gone The Vuck’s way this off-season: The Vuck have had two transfer attempts for ‘special marquee’ roles scuppered. Both Alessandro Diamanti and Michael Essien were sought after by the club. But here’s a summary of some of the elements in play at the club that could serve as a bit of a barometer on where we are at:
- There are no major injury concerns as we approach the new season.
- The squad is settled; and apart from the striker position we here at FVS feel that Kevin Muscat has two quality players for each position on the park.
- The pre-season produced zero losses for the club across against opponents ranging from Juventus to Hume City in both friendly and competitive contexts.
- Progress in the FFA Cup – Semi-final reached. A Melbourne derby now beckons for the semi-final on October 25th.
- Very few goals conceded across the entire pre-season. Importantly the defence appears to be sound which is of course is a foundational aspect of any serious title aspirations in football.
- Finally, progress on the MVFC Academy appears to have been realised with the recent appointment of Paulo Cardoso as Academy Director.
Expectations for 2016/17
The club and its fans expect silverware again after a 2015/16 that saw us lose the A-League title. I would say that The Vuck have certainly have assembled a squad that is capable of winning the A-League title. Except there are quite a few teams this off-season that have also put together extremely good squads. Last season was one of the closest we’ve seen in the A-League and here at FVS we expect to see a similarly close and exciting finish this season.
The Vuck to finish 2nd behind Perth Glory on the table, and then to reclaim the Championship with a Grand Final win against Perth Glory.