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Is Melbourne City heeding the lessons of Guardiola and Postecoglou?

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    Manchester City have dominated the Premier League this season, but their influence extends globally, all the way to Melbourne.

    The Sheikh Mansour takeover in September 2008 heralded a new era for the English club, resulting in Premier League titles in 2012 and 2014.

    During this time, the City Football Group began plotting a series of moves that have been described as the ‘Disneyfication of football’ – a cooperation of teams under the same banner that identifies and develops talent, buys and sells players and creates marketing opportunities across the world. The City Football Group, with its roots in Manchester, now extends to America, Uruguay, Japan, and of course Australia.

    The Melbourne Heart takeover was a groundbreaking moment for Australian football. The club was renamed and recoloured in the City image and has benefitted from a string of investments, including a new training base, backroom staff and cutting-edge recruitment methods.

    This was to bring best practice to a club that could then feed the ‘first team’ in Manchester or at the least generate funds to support the overall mission of the City Group.

    The signing of Aaron Mooy and his subsequent sale to Manchester, from where he was loaned and eventually sold to Huddersfield town for £10 million ($A17 million), sums up Melbourne’s role in the City empire.

    (AAP Image/David Crosling)

    From an Australian perspective what has been interesting about the success of Manchester City under Pep Guardiola in the Premier League this season (they currently have a 12 point lead) is the style of football they have been playing.

    True to Guardiola’s vision, they dominate games. They currently have a 12-point lead on the table and the highest possession count in the league at 66 per cent. They have reached the final third more often than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues this season, and City has one of the highest shots taken-lowest shots faced totals ever at 17-5.

    It is beautiful to watch and devastatingly effective.

    It is the vision of the City Football Group that all teams in their network, from the seniors of Manchester to the under-14s of Melbourne City, play a similar style of football. This has the dual effect of creating a network where players can switch teams effortlessly and also helping City develop that global brand that will appeal to marketers and fans alike. Given Guardiola’s previous coaching resume and philosophy it is no wonder the group was so keen for him to become the figurehead of their flagship club.

    If the playing style is to become ubiquitous, however, then the City Group needs like-minded coaches at their sister clubs. That makes the recent appointment of Ange Postecoglou as Yokohama F. Marinos coach entirely logical given his blatant preference for a style of play similar to Guardiola’s.

    (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

    While they have differences, the broad brushstrokes of Guardiola and Postecoglou are similar. They like to dominate games through possession, emphasise constant attacking and promote aggressive, proactive defending. Another obvious similarity is their default system – a 4-3-3 – as well as a penchant for changing formations on the fly, even if it is a little obscure. Guardiola has used systems far more extreme than Postecoglou’s 3-2-4-1.

    Where the two coaches are most similar, however, might be in their stubbornness, persistence and unwavering belief in their style of play. Both coaches refuse to compromise their principles regardless of results or context.

    Therefore, given the scale of their scouting network and the trajectory of Postecoglou’s Socceroos, it is no surprise the City Group saw him as someone who can bring their global playing style to life in Japan. In fact Postecoglou has already spent time in Manchester observing Guardiola. Knowing the opportunities and potential stepping stones ahead of him as a head coach in the City Football Group, Postecoglou’s departure from the national team is not surprising.

    In this context the current situation in Melbourne seems out of character for the City Football Group. While Warren Joyce has done an interesting job changing the internal culture, the style of play is at odds with the philosophy being espoused by Guardiola and the group.

    (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    Joyce has used a 4-4-2 for most of the season, preferring the likes of Nick Fitzgerald, Stefan Mauk and Bruce Kamau because of their willingness to track back and make the side compact over bigger names like Tim Cahill and marquee Marcin Budziński.

    Melbourne City play defensively – they sit back in a solid, organised block and are happy to play longer balls from the back in attack to avoid turnovers in deep positions. Furthermore, the constant selections of defensive-minded players, like Michael Jakobsen and Osama Malik, as central midfielders demonstrates Joyce’s safety-first approach.

    A defensive setup is entirely justifiable, but in the context of Melbourne City as a fish in the City Football Group pond, it surely is not part of the club’s long-term plan.

    It’s possible Joyce wants to get the culture right and is therefore focusing instead on creating an environment that rewards defensive discipline and hard work, but Guardiola and Postecoglou’s teams work hard and are disciplined in a different way and still play the kind of football the City Football Group wants their teams to be known for.

    Without being privy to internal machinations it is not possible to pass proper judgement on the direction of Melbourne City and Warren Joyce. At face value, however, given the success of Manchester City and the appointment of Postecoglou, it is hard to see how City can continue on their current path.

    Tim Palmer
    Tim Palmer

    Tim is a football coach, writer, analyst and sports scientist. He has worked with the Socceroos in an analysis role, has completed the FFA B Licence, is currently a player in the Australian Deaf Football Team and coaches in the NSW NPL. You can follow him on Twitter @timpalmerftbl.

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    The Crowd Says (71)

    • January 3rd 2018 @ 8:42am
      Redondo said | January 3rd 2018 @ 8:42am | ! Report

      Joyce always seemed a bizarre choice as coach of a Man City affiliate. Limited coaching background and limited success as both player and coach.

      Under Joyce, Melbourne City are playing awful and conservative football, and it’s not even very effective. You always get the sense that if they go down a goal their limited attacking approach will make it hard for them to recover.

      I can’t see Joyce lasting – Melb City fans probably hope he won’t. The A-League doesn’t need his kind of football.

      • January 3rd 2018 @ 8:49am
        Fadida said | January 3rd 2018 @ 8:49am | ! Report

        Agree with all of that. The Englishman looked an odd choice to begin with, his Englishness when it comes to football something the A-league long grew out of

        • January 3rd 2018 @ 9:13am
          Redondo said | January 3rd 2018 @ 9:13am | ! Report

          True. Hopefully Joyce lasts until Fornaroli returns. It’ll be interesting to see Fornaroli’s reaction to Joyce’s approach.

          • January 3rd 2018 @ 9:31am
            Waz said | January 3rd 2018 @ 9:31am | ! Report

            So:

            first it was John Aloisi’s fault
            then it was JvS’s fault
            now it’s Joyce’s fault

            Maybe, just maybe, the problems at Heart/City aren’t down to the coach??

            • January 3rd 2018 @ 10:26am
              Redondo said | January 3rd 2018 @ 10:26am | ! Report

              They were good to watch when jvs was there and mostly did ok too.

              • January 3rd 2018 @ 10:49am
                Waz said | January 3rd 2018 @ 10:49am | ! Report

                City had one if the worst defences in the competition under JVS and finished no higher that third on the ladder. Plenty of people were blaming JVS at the time and calling for him to be replaced.

            • January 3rd 2018 @ 1:15pm
              Fadida said | January 3rd 2018 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

              No, just 3 average coaches leading to average outcomes Simple Waz.

              • January 3rd 2018 @ 2:26pm
                Waz said | January 3rd 2018 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

                Or an average club with too many chiefs and no accountability?

              • January 3rd 2018 @ 9:09pm
                Fadida said | January 3rd 2018 @ 9:09pm | ! Report

                Are the Chiefs picking the teams and the tactics?

    • January 3rd 2018 @ 9:37am
      chris said | January 3rd 2018 @ 9:37am | ! Report

      To be fair though to Joyce, City have been devastated by injury to many of their players who would be able to play the “City Group Way”. I still think he is a strange choice however given the coaches that were probably available to City group.

      • January 3rd 2018 @ 9:48am
        Waz said | January 3rd 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

        “devestated by injury” ????

        • January 3rd 2018 @ 10:36am
          chris said | January 3rd 2018 @ 10:36am | ! Report

          too strong a word for you Waz?

        • January 3rd 2018 @ 10:40am
          chris said | January 3rd 2018 @ 10:40am | ! Report

          Yes thats correct Waz. You of all people should see the negative in something right?

          • January 3rd 2018 @ 10:53am
            Waz said | January 3rd 2018 @ 10:53am | ! Report

            Devastated would be something like 10 or more players injured, see Glory and Roar.

            City have got how many injuries?

            Fornaroli is a big loss but City have McCormack as replacement and, until they misplaced him, Cahill.

            I just think devastated is too strong a word – in last months article City were listed as having three players injured which was average for the competition.

            So devastated = average now?

            • January 3rd 2018 @ 11:01am
              chris said | January 3rd 2018 @ 11:01am | ! Report

              Its disruptive. Regardless of who the replacements are. Take Adrian and Ninko out of the SFC lineup and see what the impacts that would have.

              • January 3rd 2018 @ 11:36am
                Kangajets said | January 3rd 2018 @ 11:36am | ! Report

                Take Adrian or nincovich out

                Or Vargas and O’Donovan

                Milligan or troisi

                Injuries to key players are major factors for sure

              • January 3rd 2018 @ 3:08pm
                Footoverhand said | January 3rd 2018 @ 3:08pm | ! Report

                Kilkenny was one of our better players last season, Joyce has him playing in the youth league.
                I would say he was a key player, who isn’t even making the bench.
                Then there is our marquee Budzinksi, who has hardly set foot on the pitch.
                Instead he is playing players out of position, like Jakobsen in midfield and Mauk as 10 and last week took off the only striker when we were chasing the game, to put on a young winger instead.
                Carrusca has started training again and could be back to fitness soon, will Joyce freeze him out as well?

            • January 3rd 2018 @ 2:05pm
              Kangajets said | January 3rd 2018 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

              Devastating is what the jets injury toll is

              Do Sydney FC have better injury management too , hence why so few injuries overall

              • January 3rd 2018 @ 3:42pm
                Lionheart said | January 3rd 2018 @ 3:42pm | ! Report

                less travel must help

              • January 3rd 2018 @ 4:04pm
                Kangajets said | January 3rd 2018 @ 4:04pm | ! Report

                Lionheart

                Yeah jets flew back from Melbourne
                While Sydney played at home 2 in a row

                Looks like your New Years resolution is over . Nobody made u live in Brisbane if travel is your biggest whinge in life . I know it must be hard surrounded by Queenslanders to be happy
                But

                Lighten up dude. Again x 1000

              • January 3rd 2018 @ 4:31pm
                Lionheart said | January 3rd 2018 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

                classic answer KJ. Who’s complaining? Why would I complain? Less travel is a fact, not a complaint, and it most certainly helps. I’ve lived the vast majority of my life in NSW and Vic but wouldn’t give up Qld for anything, but I know there’s less travel to Newcastle and Parramatta from Sydney than any other home club location.
                Honest, if anyone needs to lighten up “dude”, it’s you mate.

              • January 3rd 2018 @ 4:53pm
                Kangajets said | January 3rd 2018 @ 4:53pm | ! Report

                Ok mate

                Explain to me

                How Sydney go from Moore Park to Moore Park

                Is less the Melbourne to Newcastle then to Sydney

                Anyhow

                I seem to have irked your mate waz today by stating injuries

                I know roar have had injuries. You and waz state it 10 times a week that roar have injuries. I actually sympathetic towards Brisbane but feel Aloisi is your biggest issue

                Sometimes I praise u Queenslanders and still get brickbats in return .
                Must be that siege mentality that mal meanings thought up

              • January 3rd 2018 @ 5:47pm
                Waz said | January 3rd 2018 @ 5:47pm | ! Report

                And I thought it was just me KJ was having a go at lol

              • January 3rd 2018 @ 6:07pm
                Kangajets said | January 3rd 2018 @ 6:07pm | ! Report

                Waz

                You choking and contradicting abt mental toughness, but blaming injuries is all only applicable to Brisbane, in you world , if Newcastle has injuries, they are mentally week , but not Brisbane.

                You have confused and contradicting yourself today

                All the best

                Would love to see a full strength Brisbane v Newcastle knockout final , may the best team win.

                Cheers

              • January 3rd 2018 @ 4:43pm
                Lionheart said | January 3rd 2018 @ 4:43pm | ! Report

                In fact Kangajets, reading your replay above again, I see it as quite outrageous and believe you should apologise.

              • January 3rd 2018 @ 6:03pm
                Kangajets said | January 3rd 2018 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

                Apologies lionheart

                I misunderstood your point earlier

                My dig at siege mentality and Queensland is a compliment. I believe that is a great asset to their team . I have no alliance to nsw as a state having come from west aust

                Apologies once again

    • January 3rd 2018 @ 9:55am
      Nemesis said | January 3rd 2018 @ 9:55am | ! Report

      As they say: A week is a long time in football

      And: 8 weeks is a long time in football analysis.

      From 1 November 2017

      “Dour, defensive and dominant: The keys to City”, by Tim Palmer

      http://www.theroar.com.au/2017/11/01/dour-defensive-dominant-keys-city/

      • January 3rd 2018 @ 10:15am
        punter said | January 3rd 2018 @ 10:15am | ! Report

        Somethings remain the same, SFC still 15 pts clear of MV.

        • January 3rd 2018 @ 10:32am
          Nemesis said | January 3rd 2018 @ 10:32am | ! Report

          It was 17 points at the end of last season.

          Victory is much much worse this season.

        • January 3rd 2018 @ 11:33am
          Kangajets said | January 3rd 2018 @ 11:33am | ! Report

          Punter

          I see Sydney FC going a few more points clear tonight. I love to be optimistic about my Newcastle boys but we are down to bear bones , Merrick even rang me fill in the numbers, but I can’t get there cause of work .

          Be fair and give Newcastle a 3 goal headstart will you 😁

    • January 3rd 2018 @ 10:22am
      punter said | January 3rd 2018 @ 10:22am | ! Report

      BTW Tim, loving your more analytical articles, hopefully one day these are the articles that will gets the most clicks as we develop into a footballing nation.

    • January 3rd 2018 @ 11:30am
      Petratos said | January 3rd 2018 @ 11:30am | ! Report

      Warren Joyce appears to be of Sam allardyche school of coaching or maybe a good fit for league 1 in England

    • January 3rd 2018 @ 11:42am
      Will said | January 3rd 2018 @ 11:42am | ! Report

      They hardly play the style set under Guardiola, in fact you could say it’s the total opposite.

      JVS played the closest football that mirrors the City Group/Pep philosophy.

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