Key Battle: Metcalfe v O’Shea

Melbourne City FC will host Brisbane Roar in its home opener at AAMI Park this Friday night as the team looks to get its title defence off to a strong start in season 2021/22. 

Connor Metcalfe was one of the breakout players of last season, establishing himself firmly in the City midfield and capping a fantastic domestic campaign off with a Socceroos debut in June.

Set to battle Metcalfe for control of the midfield on Friday is Jay O’Shea, who has proven to be Brisbane’s primary creative force in recent years.

The pair made 24 and 27 appearances for their sides respectively last season, starting almost every one of those games and subsequently proving their importance to their sides throughout the 2020/21 campaign.

A key feature of Metcalfe’s elevated game, the youngster found the back of the net on five occasions last season, whilst O’Shea netted four times in comparison. Metcalfe already has one up over O’Shea this season, netting in City’s FFA Cup Round of 32 win over South Melbourne.

Renowned for his creative passing, O’Shea recorded an impressive  74 shot assists in 2020/21, with Metcalfe having 25. City’s clinical finishing in front of goal – often thanks to a certain number nine – saw the pair finish equal of assists with three, despite O’Shea’s much higher shot assist rate.

In terms of passing, both had similar competitions rates with Metcalfe having a slight edge (86% v 84%), but there was a noticeable difference in the direction of these passes. O’Shea passed the ball backwards 36% of the time, highlighted his importance to his sides build-up play, while Metcalfe virtually a complete midfield role, almost perfectly distribution his passes across the pitch throughout the season, 25% backwards, 26% to the left, 25% to the right and 24% forward.

The midfield pair are comparable in their volume of defensive work, but Metcalfe’s box-to-box role enabled him to take an edge on the key defensive statistics.