Finally this season, City broke out of Victory’s shadow, showing that there isn’t only one team in Melbourne.
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold’s recent comments caused some to groan and others to giggle.
Essentially, the man in charge of developing a new wave of Socceroos talent and birthing a bright new age in Australian football claimed that by the time this next cycle of World Cup qualification was done, his current team could well be labelled the greatest Socceroos team ever.
It certainly sets a high bar.
In making that claim, Arnold has tiptoed out onto one heck of a limb and made a bold and dangerous statement – dangerous due to the real prospect of the Socceroos failing to even qualify for the tournament at all.
Of course, no one in Australian football wants that situation to unfold, however it is a realistic possibility. Hopefully – and with Arnold’s new-look squad performing well above the standard many believed they were capable of – the Socceroos will qualify easily, without the dreaded play-offs that litter the national team’s history.
Then, it will be Arnold’s task to justify his comments and prove to us all just why the incumbents are the greatest Socceroos team we have ever seen.
Part of me wants to say, ‘Good luck with that one Arnie’ and my alter ego wants to believe his prophecy. If it were to come true, there would be a number of expert faces covered in the runniest of eggs.
My first thought was to wonder why Arnold would make such a claim, seemingly setting himself up for failure should the upcoming campaign pan out as ugly as a few greats of the Australian game have suggested in social media during the week just passed.
However, Arnold is an aggressive man, prepared to put himself on the line – a dangerous tactic in the age of comeuppance, where the media rarely let such confidence and arrogance slip through to the keeper in retrospect.
As a loyal servant to the boss, Melbourne City striker Jamie Maclaren jumped to Arnold’s rescue on Tuesday with a prophecy of his own that may even top the one provided by his national mentor.
With City fans well and truly pleased that former manager Warren Joyce has boarded a plane and skipped town after his frustrating tenure, there is a sense of freshness and new hope within the club.
The arrival of Erick Mombaerts only fuels those feelings and while the debut of Western United may be pinching a few headlines from Melbourne’s second team, plenty has taken place in the off-season to suggest that City will indeed be a different proposition this time around.
Everyone’s hope is that they are markedly different from the stodgy, negative and hesitant group that showed rare patches of courage and fortitude in 2018/19. The majority of new A-League signings are now complete and with just the odd spot to be filled, City appear as well stocked as Clive Palmer’s pantry.
Scott Galloway arrives in Melbourne after a break-out season in Adelaide, Englishman Craig Noone has already impressed in his FFA Cup appearances and the Uruguayan duo of Javier Cabrera and Adrian Luna could well explode on the league this season. Acquiring the services of the man with the coolest name in the A-League – German import Richard Windbichler – and former Sydney FC holding midfielder Josh Brillante could also prove shrewd moves.
However, more powerful than new personnel will be the style of football that Melbourne City play under Mombaerts.
Maclaren alluded to such a shift in tactics when he said, “The way we want to play is sort of the City style,” referencing English champions Manchester City.
Contextually, Maclaren’s comment formed part of an overall promise to local fans and the A-League as a whole that Melbourne City will produce a “whole new style of football” this season.
One can only hope.
Sure, football is undoubtedly a tactical game and Maclaren is definitely not suggesting that his club is about to morph into a world power, yet such prophetic comparisons do little for a cause other than set up comical headlines and provide opposition fans with great mirth and merriment should irony play out. A quietly confident approach might be prudent considering the circumstances.
However, both Arnold and Maclaren think differently – and good on them. If they do pull off something remarkable over the next 12 months, we will be applauding and they will be telling everyone that they told us so.