Melbourne City’s Bruno Fornaroli (left) and Robert Koren celebrate a goal. Photo: Getty-ImagesFor Melbourne City skipper Patrick Kisnorbo, it’s the C-words that will determine whether his team can build on its fourth-placed finish from last season and snare a championship and Asian Champions League place, the club’s ultimate aims this A-League campaign.
Consistency and competition are the words that encapsulate City’s future, the centre-back believes: if the club can find the first it has the personnel to deliver on the pitch.
If the squad strengthening that has taken place in the off-season leads to greater competition for places, and thus improved on-field performances, then City will be well placed to improve on its 2014-15 efforts, he says.
“The expectation is always high, but for us it’s about improving the consistency game by game from last year to this year. We did well last year but it left a bit of a bad taste in our mouth the way we finished [a 3-0 semi-final loss to cross-town rivals and eventual champions Melbourne Victory] so we really want to go better.
“We have had another year together, we have been working on our consistency a lot in training and I think with the signings we have brought in it shows which path we want to take this year. It’s a strong pointer to the way Melbourne City wants to go.”
Coach John van ‘t Schip has presided over a huge change and brought in virtually a new team of players, including the likes of Premier League veterans Thomas Sorenson, an experienced Danish international goalkeeper, and Aaron Hughes, a Northern Ireland international who, in the twilight of his career, is close to making the European Championship finals with his country.
Their addition, along with a host of others headed by Uruguayan striker Bruno Fornaroli, will lead to much greater competition for places.
Kisnorbo will have to fight off the challenge from Hughes and youngster Connor Chapman to seal a starting spot, but he argues that while it makes life uncomfortable at times it is to the overall benefit of the team.
“The coach has brought in competition in every place and that makes us work harder as a squad. Individuals want to keep their place in the team and that has to be good for the playing group and the squad as a whole.”
While some have raised eyebrows at the signings of Hughes and Sorenson, Kisnorbo, who spent a decade overseas, much of it in the Scottish Premier League and the English Championship, says such views are wide of the mark.
While players of their ilk can contribute on the pitch they can also offer a huge amount off it as well, something that is essential if City wants to iron out the in-and-out nature of the performances which cost them so dear last season.
“They are natural-born leaders who played in the biggest league in the world. They have vast experience and that definitely improves our squad. We put pressure on ourselves as a playing group, and to set standards for ourselves as a club. We want to bring a winning culture, and we are doing that step by step. These sorts of players come from that background, they are mentally strong and can help the younger boys develop that.”
He is also looking forward to the contribution that can be made by Fornaroli, who has played in his native Uruguay, Argentina, Greece and Italy before moving to .
Last season City used Josh Kennedy as their main target, but the tall Socceroo striker struggled with injury and the demands of the game finally took its toll and he retired.
Fornaroli is an all together different player, smaller, quicker and more mobile.
“We have to adapt to what we have up front. Bruno is not the tallest, but we will be doing our best to accommodate him and play to his strengths. There are others there who he can play off like Aaron Mooy. Mooysy has been great in the past year.
“But we have a squad that allows him to do that. Hopefully that continues. We have got a great work ethic amongst our squad, people like Mooysy and Robbie Koren are given the scope to express themselves and score goals.”
City played Sydney away in their first game last season too – a 1-1 draw in which David Villa scored the equalising goal – so Kisnorbo is well aware of the challenge Graham Arnold’s team offers.
“Sydney have brought in some big signings themselves. It’s always a difficult start when you are away in the first game of the season. Both teams will have hopes and expectations high. We just want to focus on our performance and hopefully the result will then come and we can get off to a good start. We will definitely improve as the season goes on as our injured players get back to fitness.”