Melbourne City are set to be the chameleons of the Hyundai A-League this season, with John van ‘t Schip’s men having worked hard on their tactical flexibility.
Van ‘t Schip utilised three main formations last season as City reached the A-League semi-finals and it appears the Dutch coach has gone even further with his tactics during pre-season.
City will open their A-League campaign against Wellington Phoenix on Saturday and how the visitors will line-up is anyone’s guess.
During City’s 4-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers in the FFA Cup quarter-finals on September 21, their 4-2-3-1 formation morphed into a 3-1-2-4 when they had the ball.
Centre-back Osama Malik advanced to anchor midfield, Luke Brattan and Neil Kilkenny became the chief playmakers, while the attacking quartet of Bruno Fornaroli, Tim Cahill, Fernando Brandan and Bruce Kamau all pushed high.
“I think it gives us a lot of flexibility and it makes it harder for teams when they come up against us,” Kamau said on Thursday.
“It’s not just ‘Melbourne City play this way’. There’s a lot more to it and with the players we have, we have such a strong squad, we can easily change from one formation to the other.”
Kamau added that City can tweak their formation easily because “the principles are very similar”.
Connor Chapman paid tribute to the role assistant coach Michael Valkanis has played during pre-season since arriving from double-winners Adelaide United.
“He’s [Valkanis] got a lot of knowledge about the game and he’s brought a lot into the club,” Chapman said.
“We’re not just working on the three at the back. We’ve worked on a few things.
“So at any possible time we could switch to whatever suits the team.”
The past two A-League campaigns have seen City drop out at the semi-final stage but Chapman reckons the Bundoora-based club are ready to go to the next level in 2016-17.
Key to City’s campaign could be an improved injury record, with Van ‘t Schip having close to a full squad to choose from, apart from Cahill, who is away with the Socceroos, as well as Corey Gameiro (knee) and Ivan Franjic (illness).
“It’s a very positive thing,” said Chapman, who has had his own injury worries in the past.
“I think Andrew McKenzie coming over from the Western Bulldogs, he brought a lot to the club in professionalism and in all aspects of things to do with injuries etcetera.
“I think that’s shown with the results this year and hopefully going forward it stays the same.”