Once again, the big money experiment at Melbourne City has failed to produce the goods, as the club were dumped out of the A-League finals at the first stage following a 2-0 defeat to Perth Glory. In the third year of their existence, the City Football Group's sizeable investment into the A-League club doesn't appear any closer to paying off. Attempting to create a team capable of dominating Australian football, the owners of Manchester City and New York City will be looking at what has gone wrong after a 2016/17 campaign that saw the club fail to keep pace with teams with much smaller financial clout.
It was Perth who handed City their first defeat of the season in round three, just six days after John van't Schip's men had beaten Melbourne Victory 4-1. Tipped by many to be the strongest contenders for the title during much of the preseason, Perth Glory showed just how vulnerable City were by putting on a counter attack masterclass – a tactic used by a number of teams successfully throughout the season. Having earned their place in the finals, though, the Glory again did a number on City, running out comfortable 2-0 winners to book their place in the semi-finals.
While Perth's season will continue – they are now 9/1 with bet365 to go all the way – the decision makers at City will be left to consider just what they are doing wrong. After replacing van 't Schip at the start of the year following a disappointing run of form, Michael Valkanis has only managed to deliver six wins from his 15 games in charge. It now remains to be seen whether the 42-year-old will still be in his position come the start of the new season. He might have not arrived in the best situation but Valkanis possibly hasn't shown enough to prove that he is the man to guide this team to the level of success the owners expect.
The fact is, this City squad is the most expensive in A-League history, containing the likes of Tim Cahill and Anthony Caceres. While the club did lift the FFA Cup last November, not making the last four in the league has to be seen as a significant step backwards for the club. Having made the semi-finals in their first season, last year saw City finishing fourth before losing again in the next round. While there were some positives to take from this season, they won't be enough to convince City fans this has been a successful campaign.
From the lack of consistency in terms of formation and style, to the failure of certain key players to step up when it really mattered, there are a host of aspects that need to improve if City are going to have any chance of competing with the league's strongest teams next season. One thing is for sure, though, these owners won't be scared to throw money at the problem in a bid to find a solution, and this could be a fascinating offseason for the club.
Image credit: (CC BY-ND 2.0) by Nasya Bahfen.