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What is Warren Joyce doing to Melbourne City?

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10th January, 2019

Melbourne City is sitting a solid fourth on the table, just three points off second place and six points off the top, so should I really be complaining about Warren Joyce?

With only league leaders Perth and the tied Sydney and Melbourne Victory ahead, and with a two-point buffer to Adelaide United and Wellington Phoenix behind, coach Joyce is doing okay, right?

Well, he has a very good team. He has possibly the two best centre-backs in the league. At right back he has a Premier League winner and at left back he has his captain, Scott Jamieson.

City have Puskas nominee Riley McGree and Dario Visodic as well as Luke Brattan, Rostyn Griffiths and Kearyn Baccus in the midfield. They have young speedster Lachlan Wales and Bruno Fornaroli as options in attack, so they definitely have on paper one of the best teams in the league.

The formation that Warren Joyce has opted for City to play in is possibly my least favourite formation. It just doesn’t work well, and if he wants his team to succeed to the next level, he must change the formation so it works better for his players.

At the moment they have been playing a 4-2-3-1 narrow, which means they have a back four, two hardworking defensive midfielders, a narrow midfield three and a lone striker. This formation just doesn’t work.


First of all, it’s way to dependant on the fullbacks. Because of the narrow midfield three, the fullbacks have to act as wingers in attack, making themselves the only players on the wing in defence. This means they’re overloaded and forces the defensive midfielders out of position, so either way the attacking team will have too much space, whether it’s down the wing or down the middle.

Second, the midfield three is way too narrow, as having three creative players means that they all come into the centre to collect the ball, which means that the final third in the middle becomes too narrow, which makes the game quite boring to watch. This was, apart from the two goals, the reason for a very boring first half against the Wanderers. Also, the striker becomes completely isolated, and all you really need to do to take them out of the game is to put a player on them.

Warren Joyce

(Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Brattan at attacking mid?
Luke Brattan is not and will likely never be an attacking midfielder. He is the perfect defensive midfielder, he is comfortable on the ball, he has a good amount of stamina, he has enough skill to get around an opposite attacking midfielder, he can cross the ball well and he has great passing ability.

The problem when he is deployed at attacking midfield is that every time he looks up for a run, and by the time he’s seen the run, it’s too late, because the other team has already done the same. This means that every time he ends up playing the ball, he plays it either back or short.

If Warren Joyce deployed a player like Riley McGree or Dario Visodic in that position, he would be well on his way to improving his team.

Why not Bruno Fornaroli?
Along with pretty much every video assistant referee call made so far, this is one of the most controversial decisions in the A-League this season. Leaving out your best striker can be a statement, which will work really well or not well at all. In terms of the fans, this decision has not worked well.

Fornaroli has been a fan favourite ever since he joined Melbourne City in 2015, so it’s obviously not going to go down well with your fan-base, but it was worse than City could have even imagined. There was automatically a lack of attendance at their home games, and at one game there was even a protest to add him back into the team.


Even though it is now very unlikely that Joyce will suddenly make amends with Fornaroli, it would still really benefit everyone in the City community to see him back. He may not have been fully focused on football at the start – the emotional celebration after his first goal and only goal for the season said that he was back – but Joyce didn’t really give him a chance to show that.

He undoubtedly has a lot of quality, and even though City may not be short of that at the moment, it couldn’t hurt to have him playing again. But, sadly, it is looking very likely for him to leave this transfer window, with a number of other clubs after him.

Bruno Fornaroli

(Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Who Warren Joyce should play
In the next game, against Brisbane Roar, Warren Joyce should play a 4-2-2-2, with Eugene Galekovic in goal, Harrison Delbridge and Bart Schenkeveld at centre back, Richie De Laet at right fullback, Scott Jamieson at left fullback, Kearyn Baccus and Luke Brattan in defensive midfield, Dario Visodic and Riley McGree in attacking midfield and Lachlan Wales and Bruno Fornaroli up front.

This would be a really good formation, as McGree will really get to shine, and when on attack they can sometimes switch to a 4-3-3 attack, with Wales playing right-wing, Visodic left-wing, Fornaroli striker and McGree attacking midfield.

I think Fornaroli and Wales would work really well, with Wales’s burst of pace going along with Fornaroli’s ability to hold the ball up for teammates. Visodic has the freedom to be able to make runs into the box and finish off the crosses with his head, something he’s been doing really well all season.

De Laet and Jamieson will not be isolated on their wings, with McGree and Visodic able to come back and defend. Also, Wales will not be isolated up front, as he has a strike partner, and I can see a partnership where Fornaroli stays quite central and more of a target man and Wales can drift onto either wing to receive the ball and use his pace, like what Melbourne Victory do with Ola Toivonen and Kosta Barbarouses.

Even though it is unlikely we’ll see Bruno Fornaroli back in the team or see Warren Joyce make a complete formation change, you never know what could happen.