The A-League's richest club spent more than any other this season, but still couldn't get past the first week of the finals. So where does Melbourne City go from here?
By
Greg Prichard

16 May 2017 - 6:10 PM  UPDATED 16 May 2017 - 6:10 PM

Melbourne City midfielder Luke Brattan got it right when he described this season as a failure for the club.

Even allowing for their FFA Cup win, fourth place out of 10 teams in the A-League regular season and elimination in the first week of the finals series is well short of what a club backed by the huge financial resources of the City Football Group would have been aiming at.

City have brought plenty of high-profile players to the club during their three years in charge, including David Villa, as a short-term guest player, Damien Duff, Thomas Sorensen, Harry Novillo, Bruno Fornaroli and Nicolas Colazo.

Manchester City have bought a couple of players - Brattan and Anthony Caceres - from other A-League clubs and loaned them to Melbourne City. And, of course, Socceroos legend Tim Cahill came to the club under the newly-created third marquee rule.

Colazo and veteran goalkeeper Sorensen have played their last game in City colours, with more departures and arrivals to follow.

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But regardless how much cash you throw at the problem, you can't just manufacture greatness.

City have the potential to be great, but how does it happen from here?

Former Heart captain Matt Thompson says having the right coach is crucial.

John van't Schip departed for personal reasons mid-season and was replaced on an interim basis by his assistant, Michael Valkanis, who's disappointing end to the season has almost certainly ruled him out of keeping the job next season.

The club are expected to appoint their new coach by the end of the month and Thompson says they needs someone who will take charge.

"City have got a lot of players with strong personalities, so they need a coach with a strong personality above that," Thompson said.

"Someone with a big name who knows football and who is genuinely in charge. Someone who takes control and isn't persuaded by someone on his left or right, but who is his own man.

"They've got quality players on paper, no question, but it's not working."

Former Heart goalkeeper Clint Bolton says the insipid, 2-0 loss to Perth Glory in the elimination finals, which was the final act of a season that started well but became a disappointment, had created a "line in the sand moment" for the club.

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"The coaching job is just the starting point, I believe," he said. "It's not just the football department, you've got to look at the entire organisation.

"I look at the squads City have had and they've under-achieved, so I ask the question: why? More often than not when a squad has under-achieved it's because they lack direction and leadership.

"The leadership isn't there that I can see and they need to put a microscope over everything and make significant changes if they find these type of areas are failing them."

Some people think Cahill, at 37, is a player whose effect these days is too restricted to what he can do getting on the end of set pieces, but Bolton and Thompson are adamant he has been a huge success in his first year for City.

"He only played 21 games and some of them were off the bench, but he still scored 11 goals and that is a great result," Bolton said.

"He was a big part of the reason City got off to a good start in a lot of games, because he'd score the opening goal. I thought his contribution was outstanding."

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Thompson added: "It was huge for the club when Manchester City came on-board and when Tim arrived he made it even bigger.

"It was more personal to everyone. Everyone cheered for him in the Socceroos and now they could see him close-up every week. It helped the club's profile and it worked on the pitch as well."

Thompson believes the club's next phase of recruitment has got to put a greater accent on defence.

"Their defence has been weak and that means too often City have had to score three goals to win a game," he said. "They've spent a lot of money on attacking players and I think they need a better balance.

"They've created a profile for the club, now they have to get the side right. I expect them to improve next season. I think they'll get it right, to be honest, and be higher up in the finals series."

Bolton said City have got to find the right playmaker, which they haven't had since Aaron Mooy left the club at the end of last season, if they are going to compete with clubs like Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory next season.

"It's something they've lacked all year, a creative number 10 like a Ninkovic at Sydney or a Troisi at Victory," he said.

"Fornaroli lacked the chances he had last year because he didn't have an Aaron Mooy. Look at the teams that finished one-two in the regular season, they had Ninkovic and Troisi - simple as that.

"You need a creative number 10 in the modern style of football."