Titles aren’t won in pre-season.
But should Melbourne Victory go back to back in the 2018/19 Hyundai A-League season, they might look back at August as the moment their Championship defence was set in stone.
TOIVONEN: 'I want a title with Victory'
The month started with the signing of Keisuke Honda and finished with the capture of Ola Toivonen on Friday - both players arriving fresh from their goal-scoring exploits at the FIFA World Cup™ in June.
As Kevin Muscat confirmed on Friday, Toivonen will step into the role vacated by arguably the greatest Hyundai A-League striker of all time. But how will Victory rejig their attacking line up with Toivonen in the side?
Stepping into the boots of Besart Berisha
Toivonen was one of two up top for Sweden in Russia and has led the line regularly for Sweden over the years, but has also been utilised as an attacking midfielder throughout his career, particularly at club level. And although he’s arguably not the most conventional number nine, Muscat made it clear that’s where his plans for the big Swede lie.
“Ola brings proven quality to our attack and he will play a big role in leading our forward line this season," Muscat told Melbourne Victory’s official website.
“He is exactly the kind of player we wanted to recruit, he is an accomplished striker so I’m delighted he’s decided to come to Melbourne.”
Few are able to sway Toivonen’s imposing 6’4 frame and he’s a player that will relish the physical side of the Hyundai A-League. The striker’s commanding presence was a key factor in Sweden’s run to the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ and tournament itself, and Toivonen has long been the commander of this team of battlers.
Besart Berisha’s fearsomeness could often inspire his Melbourne teammates, and in the Swede Victory have a similarly rousing presence.
The reigning Hyundai A-League Champions have also acquired a player who will challenge defenders in all areas of the pitch. Despite his battering-ram physique, Toivonen is a smooth carrier of the ball on the ground able to unlock defences with a deft pass or powerful strike at goal.
How will Victory line up?
Muscat has deployed Melbourne in a 4-2-3-1 formation in almost every Hyundai A-League fixture over the past two years.
The Victory boss' welcoming statement and with Kenny Athiu the only other genuine central option in the squad, it appears certain Toivonen will lead the line for Victory this season.
Where Keisuke Honda fits into the setup is less straightforward, but the Japanese superstar could be destined for the central position behind Toivonen, a role that has been occupied by James Troisi in recent times.
There's also new Spanish recruit Raul Baena, a defensive midfielder who graduated from Barcelona's youth academy a decade ago.
The 29-year-old will vie with the likes of skipper Carl Valeri, Terry Antonis and Leigh Broxham for the two holding midfield roles Muscat likes to employ.
With Kosta Barbarouses almost nailed in for a position on the right, perhaps Troisi is set to return to the left flank? It’s a role the former Juventus attacker has scarcely played since joining Melbourne permanently in 2016, but one that might just complete Victory’s attacking quartet and get the best out of their new striker.