With the end of the torturously long A-League offseason on the horizon, Melbourne City Head Coach Erick Mombaerts says that he is just about ready to zero in on his best XI.
Unveiled as the new boss of City in June, Mombaerts is approaching his fourth month of pre-season preparations with his new charges and on Wednesday night will have the first opportunity to see them in action against in a competitive fixture against an A-League side when they take on Western Sydney Wanderers in the FFA Cup.
Whilst it presents an increasingly irksome wait for fans and media as it drags on, the long break between seasons does enable new coaches like Mombaerts to get a greater appreciation for the task at hand compared to if they were coaching overseas.
Whilst some players such as goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis, captain Scott Jamieson, winger Craig Noone and striker Jamie Maclaren are obvious starters, other positions are less clear to an outside observer but the Frenchman, who arrived in Bundoora after spending two years as a consultant within the City Football Group, says that he coming close to a determination on his XI.
“Yes, I’m close to thinking like that,” Mombaerts said at the City Football Academy (CFA) on Tuesday morning.
“But it’s also important that some players have to challenge themselves to be in the starting XI. I’m happy with the attitude of our players and the squad so. There is a good competitive attitude to challenge to be in the first XI. That’s good.
“We have a chance to have some good young players and I expect more from these young players, more ambition. More ambitions to challenge each other and also to be in the first team.
“The first one is Connor Metcalfe. But also Ramy Najjarine. Ramy scored many goals in the NPL team so he can score and he can help the team to score more. And maybe also, in the future, maybe Denis Genreau, Lachlan Wales, Moudi Najjar. All these attacking players can help the team.”
Mombaerts suffered his first defeat in charge of City in a 2-1 loss to A-League newcomers Western United in a behind-closed-doors friendly played at the CFA last week.
A horror own goal when a back-pass from Harrison Delbridge snuck under the boot of Bouzanis gifted the lead to United on that day before Najjarine equalised for City just after halftime.
Exciting former Adelaide City and Bentleigh Greens player Valentino Yuel then won the game for Western United when he capitalised on some sloppy defending to pounce on a loose ball and fire home.
“There are two ways to analyse a game,” Mombaerts said when asked about the loss to United.
“The result was not good because we lost but, also, there’s the performance. The performance was not bad, athletically and we had a lot of possession.
“Yes, we had a lack of penetration and we need to create more but, as you know, we didn’t have all our players [City was missing Maclaren and a bevy of Olyroos for the fixture].
“In a friendly game it’s more important to analyse the game’s performance and the performance was good. After this, I was positive.
“We know that in our style of play we want to have possession, but we also want to create more chances and to score more goals. And also, if you remember, we gave them the first goal and also the second.”
The 64-year-old thoughts then turned to Western Sydney on Wednesday night.
“I enjoy this kind of competitive game,” he grinned.
“I hope I will be ready for this important game. As you know, in a cup game we need to play well but also, we need to win. It’s a good test for us and we will see what level we are.
“The coach [Markus Babbell] played a long time in Germany. His team looks like his style; with a back three with the full-backs very high. It is his style. It’s a good team, they have good possession. It’s a good test for us to challenge this team.”