Three weeks ago, Bruno Fornaroli superbly controlled the ball on the edge of the eighteen-yard box and placed his strike in to the top corner of the ‘auld onion bag to seal a much needed three points for City…
Fast forward to the week after the international break and Melbourne City faced another test against the winless Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium.
The team-sheets were released and one name was a glaring omission from the final squad.
Not just the starting XI, but the bench itself.
Bruno was nowhere to be seen.
Was there an injury? Nope.
Was there anything that was missed in the week leading up to the game? Nope.
Strange and bewildering, hey?
Considering El Tuna was their only recognised number nine in their entire senior squad, the questions began to be asked.
Especially after City were defeated by the Roar and rarely managed to test Jamie Young between the sticks.
Young winger, Lachlan Wales was trusted with the role through the middle and did a commendable job for a player who has never played as a pure number nine at the senior level.
So why was Bruno Fornaroli omitted by Warren Joyce?
The former Wigan Athletic manager, stated that the decision was purely tactical and claimed he was pleased with their dominant spells of possession.
Now, any manager would be pleased with heavy spells of having the ball as Joyce had a side on the field with around five-to-six players who are comfortable in possession from midfield into attack.
However, football is a simple game and if you don’t have a player to put the ball in the back of the net, you are going to struggle to win games. It’s a results-based business – and you don’t get points for possession statistics.
If this worked and Warren Joyce’s charges had gone on to win on the road, he would have been lauded a genius by fans and pundits alike.
But to drop your only number nine against a winless under-pressure Roar outfit – and lose – is where the questions start to get raised.
He had just scored his first goal of the season before the international break and looked to be hitting some form after regaining some much-needed confidence.
He is their highest paid player and his record in front of goal speaks for itself.
Since joining City, he has scored an incredible 46 goals in 63 games in the league which makes him one of the most prolific strikers to have ever touched down in the A-League since its inception.
So once again, why drop a player who not just knows how to score goals but is just starting to find confidence and form after shaking off his terrible injury he suffered last season.
As Monday rolled around, the discussion about Bruno’s skinfolds began.
Reports began to circulate that Bruno was not in the XI was due to his skinfolds not being up to scratch and his condition not meeting the demands passed down by the hierarchy from the gaffer down.
I understand why coaches wouldn’t be pleased with his conditioning but as I have stressed throughout the week on Evenings on FNR, his demands as a striker are not the same as a midfielder who must cover extra ground.
He may be carrying that extra weight but the problem is that they have no one who can fill the role of a number nine in their squad right now and his style of play allows for him to utilize his strength and size to shield possession from opposition defenders.
He is not required to track back and play as another midfielder if you stick him on the final defender, the role where he plays his best football.
The problem is that this omission has created a significant amount of noise to the point where City fans are demanding answers.
As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald this morning, Melbourne City fans are staging an open protest against Warren Joyce’s actions to once again leave Fornaroli out of the side to take on the Newcastle Jets this weekend.
This is not the first time Joyce’s decisions tactically have been questioned the fans.
Being a Wigan supporter, I saw the Joyce tenure which ended in abysmal failure.
He would utilize similar tactics such as playing central midfielders out wide, wingers as a lone number nine (Gabriel Obertan anyone?) or even pure number nines out wide.
During this stage he even had rumoured fallings-out with a number of key players.
His time as coach didn’t last long as he won just six of his twenty-four games and was sacked after only four months in charge.
What I see now is an almost parallel scenario.
The rumoured rifts between himself and the likes of Fornaroli, Tim Cahill, Neil Kilkenny, Luke Brattan and co are leaving a stench over City which we haven’t seen since the City Football Group took over.
The point I want to stress is that El Tuna is their only proven goal-scorer.
The continuous discussion over Fornaroli’s condition is overblown.
Even if he is a touch over what is the supposed ‘ideal’ skinfold, he should still be out on the park as his influence is second to none.
One of the greatest strikers to ever grace this game, Ronaldo – was still leading the line for Brazil in 2006 in a shape most high-performance coaches would look down upon.
But would Carlos Alberto Parreira have dreamed of dropping him? Not a chance
Suddenly, this weekend’s game becomes one of the most crucial in the tenure of not just Warren Joyce but since Melbourne City became an entity four years ago.
If they fail to get a result, Joyce could well be on the chopping block – lest they risk losing the faith of their few remaining rusted-on supporters.