Socceroo stars absent, Melbourne City adopting “broader picture” thinking

After losing some of his biggest stars to international duty, Melbourne City coach Patrick Kisnorbo is keeping the bigger, finals-shaped picture in mind as he prepares for his side’s final two regular-season games. 

Sunday’s clash with Melbourne Victory will mark the first in which City is without the services of striker Jamie Maclaren, midfielder Connor Metcalfe and defender Curtis Good; the trio called into Graham Arnold’s squad for the Socceroos ongoing World Cup qualifiers in Kuwait. 

Andrew Nabbout had also been slated for a call-up, only to suffer a torn adductor that ruled him out of both club and international duty. 

See Also: With win over Kuwait, Socceroos set table for a strong campaign to come

While City’s loss of three of its most impactful players was, very slightly, alleviated by title rivals Sydney FC losing three players of their own — Andrew Redmayne, Rhyan Grant and Ryan McGowan — to international duty, the loss of the triumverate is a significant blow to the Premiers-elect. 

Maclaren, Metcalfe and Good were the only three outfielders to log more than 2000 minutes for Kisnorbo’s side this season — next best Craig Noone recording 1,796. 

Furthermore, Maclaren added 25 goals and five assists – equal to the total offensive output of Melbourne Victory and Western United and nine better than Newcastle Jets — Metcalfe five goals and three assist and Good anchored the third-stiffest defence in the competition.  

“It’s an opportunity for a couple of players to play, Kisnorbo said when asked how he would plug these gaps. 

“It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow. We sort of focus on ourselves, we give opportunities to players and it’s up to them to take them. 

“Every player is different. There’s only one Jamie. 

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“It’s [about] working on the strengths of what the other player has and really trying to improve them every day in training. 

“We can’t replicate Jamie Maclaren, but we can make whoever comes in for Jamie Maclaren better at the skills that he’s already at a good level at.”

Seeking to add an A-League championship — the toilet seat — to the Premiership that he has already led the club to in what is his first year of senior men’s management, Kisnorbo has two regular-season before City’s finals campaign: Victory on Sunday evening and the Newcastle Jets at a time and venue TBC due to Melbourne’s COVID lockdown. 

See Also: Melbourne City’s success “validates” CFG business and football model – Khaldoon Al Mubarak

“Nah. Nothing,” he said of the Jets game. “I know as much as you do, to be honest.”

But regardless of when the latter game takes place, these two fixtures, he indicated, would likely serve as pieces of a much larger puzzle surrounding his club’s finals campaign. 

“I think for us it’s having a look at the broader picture sometimes as well, not just short term,” he said. 

“Obviously, we’ve still got two games, then we have the semifinal. So, having a look at the larger picture of what’s best for us and how to prepare for our semi-final. 

“Tomorrow, it gives people a chance to play tomorrow and to get the opportunity to play and we’ll see how they go.”

Having started six of City’s last nine games since returning from a fractured back, Aiden O’Neill looms as one of the most likely figures to pick up the slack in the absence of Metcalfe in the midfield.

See Also: Aiden O’Neill’s back-breaking road to A-League return and Olyroo contention

The former Burnley prospect said that while he wasn’t sure exactly how his side would lineup against Victory, but that he was enjoying the chance to mix things up. 

We’ve been working on a couple of different things,” he said. “We’ll just have to wait and see tomorrow. We’ll see what the formation will be and who will be the people [filling it]

“All managers and all teams try different formations in case there are injuries to this person and that person, so it’s definitely good to be able to play different styles or different formations or the same style with different formations. So yeah, we’ve been working on different things.”

Beyond callups, City and Victory’s preparations for Sunday’s game have also been affected by Melbourne’s latest COVID lockdown, which has forced its relocation from Marvel Stadium to AAMI Park and it to be staged without fans in attendance. 

See Also: Steve Kean keen to kick on in Australia at end of Victory stint

“We come into work and we do what needs to be done and then we have to go home,” said Kisnorbo. “We’re thankful, grateful and lucky that at least we get out and are still able to do our jobs.”

“We’re actually really lucky I think to still do what we do and still be able to go to work,” added O’Neill. 

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Header Image Credit: Melbourne City

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