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Have we already determined this season's A-League pretenders?

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Expert
4th November, 2018
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Three rounds into the new season is too early to write off any team, but you wouldn’t necessarily want to be one of a handful of A-League coaches right now.

Nine years after they were founded as Melbourne Heart and nearly five years after the City Football Group took over and rebadged the club, the question still remains – what, exactly, are Melbourne City?

I’m happy to state on record that I have no ideological problem with Melbourne City as a football club.

The fact is the A-League can ill-afford to turn away owners with deep pockets.

But after watching Sydney FC methodically turn over Warren Joyce’s team on Friday night, it’s hard to escape the feeling that every City game isn’t simply a footballing version of Groundhog Day.

The lacklustre performances. The empty seats. The seagulls. We’ve seen it all before – over and over and over again.

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It was nice of the City Football Group to bring down former Manchester City star Paul Dickov to showcase the English Premier League trophy on Friday night, but there was just one problem.

If you weren’t a Manchester City fan, why would you care?

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And if you’re not a Manchester City fan – quite possibly because, as logic would dictate, you’re actually a Melbourne City supporter – wouldn’t you be more concerned with your club putting a competitive team on the park instead?

How ironic, then, that the most effective player on the pitch was an Englishman from Stockport.

Plenty of critics have dismissed Sydney FC’s form over the past couple of seasons as nothing more than the product of good scouting – as if scouting isn’t actually a key component of football.

City coach Warren Joyce

City coach Warren Joyce smiles for the camera. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

It’s no surprise to see the wonderfully-named Adam le Fondre in Sky Blue this season – his first name is actually Glenville – but not for the first time, Sydney FC have schooled the City Football Group in how to sign a decent foreign player.

It’s not like le Fondre should have been hard to find – he was playing down the road from Manchester at Bolton Wanderers before decamping to Australia – yet the native Lancastrian is now scoring goals in Australia against a mini-Manchester City. Go figure.

And it’s about time Melbourne City signed another marquee star, because without one, they look like a second-string team playing second-rate football.

That sounds like a decent segue to talk about Brisbane Roar. I know, I know – I’ve been praising them a lot for all their impressive off-field work of late.

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But after once again failing to get out of the starting blocks in their 2-1 defeat at Perth Glory on Saturday, the club may soon need to face up to a difficult decision.

John Aloisi is a legend of Australian football – there’s no two ways about it – but as close as he came to reaching the grand final in his first season in charge, the results haven’t really been impressive since.

There’s no way the club would pull the trigger just three rounds in, but suddenly Brisbane Roar’s trip to Mudgee to face Western Sydney Wanderers next weekend has taken on renewed importance.

Brisbane Roar, of course, are the club that sacked Mike Mulvey barely six months after he won the championship, however the Central Coast Mariners don’t look like winning anything anytime soon.

John Aloisi speaks to his players on the sideline

Is John Aloisi in trouble? (AAP Image/David Crosling)

They were dreadful in their 3-0 defeat at the hands of Adelaide United yesterday, and for all the outcry over Usain Bolt’s trial, the dismal attendance of just 6,043 in Gosford should have alarm bells ringing across the league.

But then, apathy seems to reign in the A-League these days.

There won’t be too much pressure applied to the strugglers just yet, however the clock is ticking.

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And after a pre-season that promised so much for every A-League club, a handful of them will already hope this isn’t the year of the pretender.