Warren Joyce answers critics with Melbourne City's best ever season

The former Manchester United reserves manager has steered City through an impressive campaign despite several hurdles

There was too much fitness work in pre-season. They don't play entertaining football. Why does Daniel Arzani keep getting taken off?

Critics have constantly questioned Warren Joyce's first campaign as Melbourne City coach, yet the Englishman has emerged with the club's best ever regular season result.

And it wasn't without a list of significant hurdles along the way either.

Star striker Bruno Fornaroli suffered a broken ankle in August meaning he wouldn't play a match until February.

His replacement, Scottish attacker Ross McCormack, did bang in 14 goals in 17 matches but then left to go back to Aston Villa before the January transfer window shut.

Australian football royalty Tim Cahill abruptly decide to leave in mid-December because of a lack of game time.

Tim Cahill Melbourne City

The club's marquee Marcin Budzinski has struggled for form - only starting eight matches and being left on the bench for 10 others.

Experienced midfielder Neil Kilkenny departed the club for Perth in January after a clear difference of opinion with Joyce.

Exciting winger Bruce Kamau and defender Ruan Tongyik were revealed to be joining Western Sydney Wanderers next season.

The list goes on. With all the negative noise from pundits along the way, you could be forgiven for thinking City haven't made great strides this season.

Instead Joyce has guided the club to third place in the league and likely Asian Champions League qualification.

First of all, the 53-year-old used pre-season to get his players super fit, in a bid to avoid the late match fadeouts that have plagued the club over the years.

With a defence first approach, Joyce has used the experience of European centre-halves Bart Schenkeveld and Michael Jakobsen to build a back four that conceded the second-least amount of league goals.

The challenge was set for Luke Brattan to become fitter than he has ever been and become an all-action midfielder instead of a classy water-carrier. His performances this season speak for themselves.

With personnel injured or leaving the club regularly, Joyce reached into the transfer market during the January window and signed two quality A-League players in Dario Vidosic and Oliver Bozanic.

And in a huge positive for football development in Australia, Joyce gave opportunities to young duo Arzani and Nathaniel Atkinson - with both starring throughout the back end of the season.

Daniel Arzani Melbourne City

A club-high finish is a superb result for Joyce's first season in charge and their continental qualification will be sealed unless Melbourne Victory, Adelaide United or Brisbane Roar win the grand final.

Considering Newcastle Jets have been struggling for form of late and Victory's defensive woes, there is no reason why City can't challenge Sydney FC and possibly win the club's second ever trophy.

Forgetting last week's dead rubber against Wellington Phoenix, City kept three clean sheets in a row with several players appearing to find form right in time for finals. 

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Fornaroli looks to be back to his devastating best in front of goal with Arzani the chief terrorizer of defenders down the flanks.

Vidosic and Bozanic have added significant experience to the first XI, and Brattan is pulling the strings all over the pitch.

Joyce has no doubt built a City team to be reckoned with and those critics have gone awfully quiet recently.