Hyundai A-League season preview: Melbourne City

​Tim Cahill has arrived as Melbourne City opened up their cheque book to give John van ‘t Schip the best chance of winning the club’s first piece of silverware in the Hyundai A-League.

Cahill has been signed under the A-League’s revamped guest marquee rule, while Bruno Fornaroli and Nicolas Colazo have both been signed outside the salary cap, as City have attracted a large group of fringe Socceroos and impressive imports for the 2016-17 season.

With Fornaroli and Cahill up front, Van ‘t Schip should again have one of the most potent attacks in the A-League and if he can make City harder to break down, they will be justifiable favourites for the championship.

Melbourne City strikers Bruno Fornaroli and Tim Cahill.

The burning questions

City had the worst defensive record of the clubs that reached the A-League finals last season, so has Van ‘t Schip done enough to improve down back?

Will Cahill make City a bona fide giant of the A-League both on and off the field?

Can City survive the departure of Socceroos midfielder Aaron Mooy (11 goals, 20 assists in 2015-16)?

Lessons learnt from last season

All-out attack isn’t enough – City broke all sorts of scoring records last term but failed to win both the premiership and championship.

City can build a dynasty around Fornaroli – if the Uruguayan stays in Australia for long enough he could surpass the likes of Besart Berisha, Archie Thompson and Shane Smeltz as the A-League’s best striker. Giving him the captain’s armband may help keep Fornaroli here for the long haul.

City striker Bruno Fornaroli celebrates one of his two goals in the Melbourne Derby.

Road ahead

Van ‘t Schip’s side will start the A-League with a trip to New Zealand to play Wellington Phoenix before three straight matches in Melbourne.

Melbourne Victory will host City at Etihad Stadium in Round 2 before the Cityzens welcome Perth Glory and Adelaide United to AAMI Park.

Throw in an FFA Cup semi-final against Victory and City can relish the comforts of home for the majority of October.

A run of six home games out of nine from mid-November to early January could see City pull clear of some of their rivals, while three away games (Western Sydney Wanderers, Sydney FC and Glory) in their last four fixtures will be tough.

Expected strengths

With Cahill, Fornaroli, Colazo and Fernando Brandan, City have plenty of experience and quality in the forward third and could be the A-League’s best attacking side again.

Luke Brattan and Neil Kilkenny have both been in and around Socceroos squads during their respective careers and could be one of the better central midfield partnerships in the competition.

Neil Kilkenny in action during his Leeds United days.

Potential weakness

City will rely heavily on Danish duo Thomas Sorensen and Michael Jakobsen to hold their defence together, which looks light on top-line quality.

Tactical approach

Van ‘t Schip generally likes to play some variation on a 4-2-3-1 but judging by City’s 4-1 FFA Cup demolition of the Wanderers, the Dutch coach may add some Guardiola-esque tweaks this season.

Against Western Sydney, Van ‘t Schip’s formation transformed into something like a 3-1-2-4 when City had possession, with centre-back Osama Malik stepping into midfield, Cahill pushing up from an attacking midfield role to join Fornaroli as a striker, flanked by very advanced wingers.

Breakout star

Steve Kuzmanovski. After scoring a double in the Young Socceroos’ 5-1 win over Thailand in the final of the AFF U19 Championship, the 19-year-old winger could finally be ready to capitalise on his potential and earn regular game time in the A-League.

Steve Kuzmanovski - Melbourne City

Best-case scenario

As the only club to have filled all three marquee slots for the 2016-17 A-League season, City are under clear pressure to win their first piece of silverware in senior men’s football.

Lifting the FFA Cup, the Premiers’ Plate or the Championship is a must for owners City Football Group and the knives will be out for Van ‘t Schip if his side doesn’t start well.

Almost more importantly for City, however, is that they need to turn any on-field success – and the buzz around Cahill’s arrival – into a larger membership base and stronger attendances to build for the future.