2021/22 A-League Women Season Preview: Is Melbourne Victory destined to go back-to-back?

After taking out the championship last year, can Victory go back to back in 2021/22? (Picture: Melbourne Victory)

Having taken out the championship in dramatic fashion last season, Melbourne Victory will be expected to defend their crown in the new season.

While their form during the regular season was patchy, the club was strong throughout the finals series and ultimately took out the A-League Women’s crown.

Retaining the bulk of their championship winning squad, Victory will be looking to be one of the premiere teams of the competition once again.

Last season: Premiers (seven wins, three draws, two losses)

Biggest in:

Full-back Courtney Nevin joined the Victory during the offseason making the move across from the Western Sydney Wanderers.

The 19-year-old has impressed in her early career with the Wanderers since debuting in 2018-19 addition of the W-League at age 16, where’d she go on to make 28 appearances for the club.

During her time at the Wanderers, she was voted by her teammates as the club’s W-League Player of the Year and was also awarded the Wanderers’ Medal.

Having recently broken into the Matildas side featuring against Brazil, Nevin is a great young talent which coach Jeff Hopkins will be a long term option in defence for the Victory.

A full-back that can play further up the pitch, Nevin provides another dimension to Hopkins’ side, with her assisting and playmaking ability having been on display with the Australian national team at youth levels.

With Hopkins preferring to play a 4-3-3 formation, relying on its full backs to join the attack while in possession, the side’s style plays perfectly to Devin’s strengths and should be an impactful signing in the upcoming season.

Biggest out:

The Victory were able to retain most of their championship winning side from last season despite several key players from last season moving on, one of which was its club captain Angela Beard.

The left back was a revelation for the Victory since her arrival from the Brisbane Roar back in 2017, registering 51 appearances and being one of the premiere defenders of the A-League Women’s competition.

Though she left the club on good terms with the Victory wishing her all the best, coach Hopkins will understandably regret seeing her leave as the side now loses a great leader who was instrumental in the club clinching the title last season.

More A-League Women Season Previews:

2021/22 A-League Women Season Preview: Sydney FC back to business after last season’s heartbreak

2021/22 A-League Women Season Preview: Brisbane Roar set for battle

2021/22 A-League Women Season Preview: Canberra United has pace to burn

What to expect:

After taking out the title last season, it’s expected that the Victory will be thereabouts again and be on a quest to be back-to-back A-League Women champions. Unlike last year, the club should push to finish the regular season in the top two.

Though runners up Sydney FC and semi-finalists Brisbane Roar recruited smartly during the offseason, the Victory still boasts arguably the strongest squad in the competition.

Given the success Hopkins had with a 4-3-3 formation last year, it will be expected that he’ll structure his side in the same way.

Defensively the side will be similar, with the premiership trio of Kayla Morrison who was announced as the new captain, Claudia Bunge and Polly Doran having all re-signed during the offseason with new signee Courtney Nevin likely to slot in at left back.

The Victory will also make a change between the sticks with Argentinian international and championship keeper from last year Gaby Garton stepping on the sidelines as an expectant mother. While the club’s number two keeper from last Melissa Maizels has been re-signed it is likely Casey Dumont who re-joined the club during the offseason will be Hopkin’s number one choice after spending last season out with an ACL injury.

A rotation playing during the finals last season, MelindaJ Barbieri will likely assert herself back into the starting line up to replace Annalie Longo in central midfield, with Hopkins likely to play her as a ball-winning midfielder. The other likely replacement would be Tiffany Eliadis.

Though not expected to be a regular in the starting line-up, 16-year-old Elite Girls Program’s graduate Alana Murphy could be expected to get some minutes in the senior women’s side this season.

New signee Harriet Withers who comes across from Melbourne City will replace Lisa De Vanna who retired at the end of last season.

With the club’s retaining its joint leading scorers and championship winning forwards Catherine Zimmerman and Melina Ayres, Withers will be expected to join them as part of a front three and add some extra firepower, a dynamic player, it’s likely Hopkins will utilise her as a wide forward, with either Ayres the centre forward.

With the core of his championship winning squad retained, Hopkins should have his side challenging again (Picture: MyFootball)

Predicted XI:

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