Could Melbourne City derail Sydney FC’s title challenge?

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

 , , , ,

81 Have your say

    Melbourne City wunderkind Daniel Arzani. (AAP Image/Hamish Blair)

    Related coverage

    Daniel Arzani and Dario Vidosic may not make the plane to Russia, but they could still have a major say in the destination of the Premiers’ Plate.

    Arzani is the best young player we’ve had in the A-League for ages, and barely a handful of games into his career, it’s clear the teenager is destined for big things.

    But will he and his agent make the sort of decisions that put him in contention for Socceroos selection? Perhaps they should have a chat with one-time Melbourne Victory wunderkind Sebastian Pasquali.

    Or better yet, talk to Dario Vidosic. At age 30, he’s now at his eleventh different club – and fifth in the A-League.

    Has Vidosic truly lived up to his potential? Probably not.

    But he and Arzani could yet prove a pair of aces for Melbourne City coach Warren Joyce, judging by their display in yesterday’s 5-0 drubbing of Adelaide United.

    What was most impressive about the thrashing was not the scoreline, but the way it was constructed.

    And Arzani was at the heart of everything early on, before the experienced Vidosic took centre stage at the death.

    Vidosic had already clipped the crossbar from long range before he launched a goal of the season contender, controlling a high ball with his chest before lashing home an unstoppable half-volley into the top corner.

    He then slotted home another expertly-taken goal soon after, before substitute Ross McCormack smashed an exocet missile into the top corner to round things out.

    It was no less than a dominant City deserved, and it came on the back of youngster Nathaniel Atkinson suffering what looked like a serious ankle injury.

    The question is whether Melbourne City possess the quality to provide a genuine title challenge to Sydney FC.

    Or, it’s worth asking, whether Sydney FC might otherwise sink themselves.

    Is Graham Arnold’s mind fully on the job? Or could continually being linked to the vacant Socceroos job prove somewhat of a distraction?

    And is it worth asking some questions about the way Arnold sets up his teams?

    Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold

    Why, for example, did he wait until the 85th minute to make his first substitution in Sydney FC’s tired-looking 1-1 draw with the Central Coast Mariners on Saturday?

    Why do youngsters like Charles Lokolingoy and Aaron Calver struggle to get any significant game time?

    And what does it say about Arnold’s man management when a club stalwart like Sebastian Ryall chooses to quit the sport altogether midway through the season?

    It may just be that Sydney FC’s continual ability to win – or at least avoid defeat – has limited opportunities for players outside their core starting eleven.

    But their upcoming AFC Champions League campaign will test Sydney FC’s depth like never before – not least because none of Kashima Antlers, Shanghai Shenhua or a third team, likely to be Matt Jurman’s Suwon Bluewings, will be overly concerned by the prospect of facing the Sky Blues.

    The ACL is a huge step up in class, and if Sydney FC aim to mount a serious challenge, they may need to sacrifice some exertion in the A-League.

    That could leave the door open for teams like Melbourne City.

    And with clubs like Brisbane Roar making strides off their pitch – their new Academy program officially kicks off today – the idea that Sydney FC might dominate the A-League for years to come may not be entirely realistic.

    The Roar’s Academy program is a seriously impressive initiative, and it’s overseen by a seriously impressive director in former Southampton academy coach Drew Sherman.

    Sherman is as sharp as a tack, and in overseeing a custom-designed Academy program, the Roar will soon provide a clear pathway to professional football for some of Queensland’s most talented young footballers.

    The ultimate aim is to produce plenty more players with the talent of Daniel Arzani.

    That kid is a superstar in the making.

    But first, he’ll be looking to make Sydney FC look over their shoulders in the race for the Premiers’ Plate.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (81)

    • January 22nd 2018 @ 7:41am
      Waz said | January 22nd 2018 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      Arzani is showing a lot of early promise, it comes with an attitude though which I suspect is the engine that drives his talent, so you get both as a package and not one without the other.

      Hopefully CFG can keep him in the right place long enough to develop him further and then successfully manage his club move & development because he does look genuinely talented. Wouldn’t mind seeing him on the plane to Russia as a squaddie tbh

    • January 22nd 2018 @ 7:42am
      chris said | January 22nd 2018 @ 7:42am | ! Report

      Mike all serious questions that only time will tell. The AFC games will certainly test Sydney which I’m looking forward to. I get the impression lately that Sydney are just going through the motions and whilst the scorelines suggest teams are pushing Sydney, watching them live at the game you get the feeling that Sydney are their own worst enemy. Ie complacency.

    • January 22nd 2018 @ 7:43am
      Nemesis said | January 22nd 2018 @ 7:43am | ! Report

      The only thing impressive about the City win was the scoreline.

      What exactly did City do yesterday?

      They played an average to good 1st half and scored 2 goals in 5 minutes. Then they did nothing for the 2nd half until the 89th minute.

      In between, with his team losing 2-0, but doing all the attacking, George Blackwood had a superb chance to bring the score back to 2-1 and set up a nervous finish for City. I’ve no doubt McCormack or Vidosic would’ve scored from the same opportunity.

      So, City’s 5-0 win looks great, but the score is flattering.
      Bit like MVFC’s 0-3 win away looks great, but the score is flattering.

      • January 22nd 2018 @ 7:46am
        chris said | January 22nd 2018 @ 7:46am | ! Report

        Yes you wouldnt have been pleased if you went to a bathroom break. 2-0 and still quite a tight contest, and minutes later its 5 lol.

        • January 22nd 2018 @ 8:18am
          Buddy said | January 22nd 2018 @ 8:18am | ! Report

          That’s always an interesting debate. As a fan you’ll take a 5-0 thrashing anyday feeling really happy with life but as a neutral observer of the game you will spend far more time considering whether the result will spur a side onto even bigger and better things and create a run of results that might lead to a title or grand final appearance or will it cause complacency amongst the players, believing the publicity and perhaps thinking it was an easy win and all they have to do is turn up and they’ll win each week?
          Nemesis’ view reflects the Fox commentators last night in that even at 2-0 down Adelaide were not out of the game and could/should have at least pulled one back making it a grandstand finish esp given there was going to be plenty of time added on – 10 minutes. However, as we know, there was a couple of minutes of madness with two sublime strikes from Vidosic and then McCormack that really changed the whole look of the game.
          The real mystery was who in the Adelaide side was going to score and how long will they persist with Blackwood?
          At ANZ on Friday, perhaps 3-0 was slightly flattering, but not in the attitude and drive stakes. The difference between the two sides was the verve and drive and sense of purpose when going forward and Kosta Barbarouses was dangerous all night, attacking with pace and carving out numerous chances for the more laboured style of Berisha who is always a menace even if he is slowing down. The second KB goal was worth the price of admission alone!

          • January 22nd 2018 @ 9:09am
            chris said | January 22nd 2018 @ 9:09am | ! Report

            There is no way Adelaide will cause any teams problems with Blackwood leading the line.

      • January 22nd 2018 @ 8:05am
        Waz said | January 22nd 2018 @ 8:05am | ! Report

        Tend to agree with this. The result says more about the state Adelaide are in rather than how City played. Other than some spectacular finishing of course.

      • Roar Guru

        January 22nd 2018 @ 10:36am
        That A-League Fan said | January 22nd 2018 @ 10:36am | ! Report

        It wasn’t a dominant display. It was pretty even actually. City should be lucky to go away with a win.

        • January 22nd 2018 @ 10:52am
          Kangajets said | January 22nd 2018 @ 10:52am | ! Report


          Adelaide didn’t take their chances and city took 5 of theirs . City were not lucky to win .
          Same as the games involving Newcastle v Wellington, Sydney v ccm .

          Gotta put the ball in the back of the net , no use saying that the other team was lucky to win.

          • January 22nd 2018 @ 2:29pm
            Midfielder said | January 22nd 2018 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

            very very very interesting

    • January 22nd 2018 @ 8:36am
      marcel said | January 22nd 2018 @ 8:36am | ! Report

      When I watch Lokolingoy play I wonder ..why is he on at all…not why doesn’t he get more game time….he just doesn’t have the goods.

      • January 22nd 2018 @ 9:26am
        punter said | January 22nd 2018 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        He’s been banging goals for fun in the NPL, but yes upon entering the A-League, just shows nothing, a real shame.

        • January 22nd 2018 @ 9:49am
          marcel said | January 22nd 2018 @ 9:49am | ! Report

          I’ve been resisting rushing to judgement on takes time to adjust to a higher level.
          But he seems to be lacking in the basics…balance, first touch….the sort of things that if he doesn’t have at this age he never will.

    • January 22nd 2018 @ 8:38am
      Kangajets said | January 22nd 2018 @ 8:38am | ! Report

      The weekend provided some good performances . No doubt city win stands out because of 5-0 .

      Also Brisbane showed some good touch with some nice goals

      Melbourne Victory and in particular Barbarouses, who’s form in the last 5 weeks has been excellent.

      The mariners prove tough to beat again , but didn’t win .

      Wellington have some good players in Lujic , burns and Krishna and they well deserved there win .
      The jets scraped wins last week , but imo opinion they are losing the midfield battle most weeks .
      It could be a case on kantarovski being out for 4 games , with Kantarovski , Champness and Riley magree available this Thursday , the shape of the midfield might change , possibly seeing petratos play on the right .

      But well done Wellington for some nice goals . I hope the nix player who grabbed Hoffman by the Crown Jewels gets suspended, time will tell .

    • January 22nd 2018 @ 8:47am
      j,binnie said | January 22nd 2018 @ 8:47am | ! Report

      The lad Arzani is a “throwback”, back to the days when fans loved to see a player with not only the confidence, but the speed of foot and body skill, to “entertain” in the manner of some of the greats in our game,Garrincha,Hamrin,Gento, Best,&,Johnstone,not to forget the ageless Mathews& today’s Messi..
      Why is it these players are in apparent short supply around the football world?
      The study of the game by “technicians” over the years has seen to it that it has become harder and harder for players of this ilk to come to the fore, with “set-ups” that are perfectly executed defensive placements, in order that a player like Arzani has to take on a 1st,2nd ,and 3rd defender, all in ever reducing space.
      It is this type of defending that the lad is going to have to be made aware of, for already ,after only a few short weeks in the public eye,it has become obvious that although his inherent talent invariably takes him past the aforesaid 1st and 2nd defenders, it is the 3rd defender who is simply kicking the ball away from the lad’s control.
      Is there room for Arzanis in today’s game?.
      Of course there is,they are true football entertainers ,but they also have to learn that “holding” the ball too long will become harder and harder, as defenders get to know his “habits” when on the ball
      He has a tremendous asset with his ability to quickly go past an opponent, but he then has to learn that having done so and moved the ball to a “mate” he can contribute by moving forward at his pace ,into a space, where ,if he is given a return ball, he can go past another defender, thereby piercing a defence.
      Let us hope his exposure to the bigger league teaches him that simple lesson. Cheers jb

      • January 22nd 2018 @ 8:57am
        Nemesis said | January 22nd 2018 @ 8:57am | ! Report


        There’s an 18 year old bloke at MVFC who I think is just as exciting as Arzani. Christian Theoharous has all the tricks, just a bit younger.

        Maybe, we are now starting to recognise the benefits of such players like Arzani, when before technical players in AUS were overlooked for physical players?

        Kamau, Mabil, Ibini all like to play with flair. Golgol Mehbratu is having a terrific season in the Czech Republic Top Division. He’s equal 5th top scorer in the league.

        Pretty sure I read Arzani built his technical repertoire playing futsal. As did Tommy Rogic.

        There is an abundance of football technical talent out there in suburbia & regional towns.

        Perhaps, it’s not that “we don’t have the cattle in Australia”.
        Perhaps, the issue is “we don’t have the scouting networks”?

        • January 22nd 2018 @ 9:31am
          j,binnie said | January 22nd 2018 @ 9:31am | ! Report

          nemesis – The “improvement” in organised football over the years has as it’s basis the mathematical or geometrical triangle.
          This applies both to defence and attack where players are instructed to operate in threes, thereby always having support on hand whether trying to stop an attack, or conversely, start to build a successful attack.
          Comprehension of how these “triangles” function on the field is necessary before starting to analyse how a team,or a player, is performing.
          I personally have had occasion to test the theoretical success factor in the idea by getting the best ball playing winger in my team, take on three amateur players, instructed in”triangular defence”, in a game situation.
          Not once did the ball player penetrate.
          It is this situation in our “modern ” game that has made it difficult for kids who like to “play with the ball” to advance into the higher echelons of the game, even at our level.
          To be honest, size and strength has very little to do with how to harness a players size and skill ,for as a basic in thinking he, the player ,still has to learn how to use his skill and pace in a manner that benefits his team.
          Watch the gifted youngsters ,of whom you correctly state there are many in our game,and see how often ,when practising their undoubted talent , they manage to pass three (that word again) defenders, set up in such a manner to break that very possibility down.
          That is the tactical mantra being practised in today’s game at all levels. Cheers jb.

          • January 22nd 2018 @ 12:01pm
            reuster75 said | January 22nd 2018 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

            A further issue is the fitness levels of players these days is much higher which makes it easier for them to close down space making it hard for players to dribble past numerous defenders. There has been an interesting debate that flairs up every few years about reducing the number of players on the pitch from 11 to 10 in the hope of freeing up more space. It’s an idea that could be worth exploring further.

            • January 22nd 2018 @ 8:49pm
              Waz said | January 22nd 2018 @ 8:49pm | ! Report

              There is no debate on 11 v 10 players and if you don’t think players can dribble past other players today then (a) watch the EPL on Saturday nights where it happens a lot or (b) keep your eye on Arzani.

        • Roar Guru

          January 22nd 2018 @ 10:36am
          That A-League Fan said | January 22nd 2018 @ 10:36am | ! Report

          Theoharous? He can’t pass if his life depended on it!

          • January 22nd 2018 @ 12:36pm
            Nemesis said | January 22nd 2018 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

            Nonsense. He’s assisted with a goal, or passed to a player who assisted with a goal, nearly every match he’s played.

            • Columnist

              January 22nd 2018 @ 11:36pm
              Stuart Thomas said | January 22nd 2018 @ 11:36pm | ! Report

              I agree Nemesis, he looks like a quality player to me.

        • January 22nd 2018 @ 2:36pm
          Midfielder said | January 22nd 2018 @ 2:36pm | ! Report


          I would add DDS and Wales as well as the Perth kid to that list … to me it shows we need some regulation pertaining to playing squads and arguably one less overseas player.

          At the Mariners we have four local kids in our squad, these are Liam Rose, McGing, Trent Bah, Wales… all four have come via our youth teams via the CC Association rep teams and then advanced into Mariners rep teams…

          • January 22nd 2018 @ 2:49pm
            Nemesis said | January 22nd 2018 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

            Good point, Middy.

            Jacob Italiano & Danny DeSilva are technical gems.

            Was impressed by Trent Buhagiar in the u23 matches he played. As soon as he came on, things started to happen. My only annoyance, a couple of times he was a bit selfish when a square ball for a tap-in was the better option.

      • January 22nd 2018 @ 10:58am
        Will said | January 22nd 2018 @ 10:58am | ! Report

        There are more talents like Arzani around the country, i heard that futsal played a major part with his development from a young age alot like the Brazilian greats!

        As we know futsal plays a major part in Brazil’s football culture whom i would love to see the FFA encourage more, its developed the skill sets of Rogic, Antonis, Petratos and im sure there is more that would have benefited from it here.

        The question is where are they? Im sure there many players out there whom has that high technical skill set in australia in the suburbs as Nemisis has mentioned, its a matter of finding them from an earlier age.

        There has been too much emphasis on physique over skill in australia for too long for mine!

        • Roar Guru

          January 22nd 2018 @ 1:27pm
          Griffo said | January 22nd 2018 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

          From my perspective I don’t think the FFA sees the benefit of futsal, especially as a development platform.

          Within football it is seriously undervalued here, and the game itself doesn’t promote itself enough, imo, although it wouldn’t surprise me the resources are much lower than what is apparent.

          Still some clubs here use a futsal size 3 for the mini-roos over a regular size 3 football. Not entirely due to just using a ball but the training and usage with it, along with the clubs investment in their coaches, is noticeable.

          Going back to the likes of Rogic developing their skill via futsal, I am amazed he isn’t the poster boy for FFA and futsal.

          Almost cynically I think it’s because FFA have invested heavily in the curriculum as the sole means of youth development. From that business and marketing point of view they have, why would they divert customers away to a ‘competing’ platform?

          • January 22nd 2018 @ 3:38pm
            Will said | January 22nd 2018 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

            I agree Griffo, it’s a great shame the FFA don’t see the value of futsal enough.

            If you look as to the likes of why Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and middle eastern are overall technically better than us is through sheer amount of playing football and a lot of it is through futsal.

            The late Johnny Warren was a big advocate for futsal for a long time but I suspect a main reason why futsal is catching on here is through globalisation, given how popular it is around the world.

            I’m surprised it’s not an Olympic sport yet for that reason.

            But it’s good some here have recognised the value in it with there younger guys

            • January 23rd 2018 @ 12:28pm
              Vicfootballer said | January 23rd 2018 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

              The issue with futsal is that it has progressed in such a way that the state federations or the FFA can’t regain control. Private enterprise holds a monopoly and as it is so unregulated it makes it hard to regulate. Private companies make ridiculous amounts out of social and semi pro futsal and the federations don’t have the power to reverse this trend. In a system that is trickle up rather than trickle down, it is only when money can be pushed up to the federations to improve quality and make legitimate competitions with reasonable funds that the game will grow. Until then, futsal will mainly exist within school gyms and factories. Watch Vic Vipers in the AFC last year. They got absolutely outplayed. And they’re supposed to be our best.

              • January 23rd 2018 @ 4:28pm
                Will said | January 23rd 2018 @ 4:28pm | ! Report

                My point was about how effective it can be for player development and how its helped some of the world’s best players development years, and not so much for futsal as a different pathway to play it solely as a profession.

                Every kid these days play SSGs up to age 12, imagine if we can combine futsal in the summer along with the outdoor stuff in the winter.

                Australia needs to work towards a year round envionment when trying to compete with the rest of the world, i beleive futsal would go along towards this filling the gap which exists once the outdoor stuff ends in August/September.

    , , , ,