4. Aaron Mooy (Last Year: 56)
Huddersfield Town (ENG) / Australia / Central Midfield
Words by Martin Lowe
Australia’s PFA Player of the Year for 2016, Aaron Mooy truly deserves the credit he’s recieving. After two seasons of dominating the domestic scene with Melbourne City, he finally got his move to Europe, with a high profile switch to the Premier League with Manchester City. Despite being moved out on loan predictably to the Championship with Huddersfield Town this season, Mooy has been a sensation not only in Australia but also in gaining headlines in England for his all-round game. This runs alongside his blossoming national team career which has seen him bed in as Ange Postecoglou’s first name on the team sheet.
Mooy started the year with Melbourne City, on the title run in, finishing in a club high of 4th and making it again to the semi-final stage of the Final Series, finally being beaten by eventual champions Adelaide United. The difference this season, as opposed to the one before it, was that Mooy had someone to provide for, in the shape of Uruguayan goal-getter Bruno Fornaroli who swept the league with 23 goals in his debut season, clinching the golden boot. While the hotshot striker gained most of the plaudits, Mooy was pulling the strings once again; offering 20 assists to Melbourne, twelve more than anyone else in the entire league.
In the summer the inevitable transfer came, Mooy left Melbourne as their second highest ever top scorer with 24 behind the hot heels of Bruno Fornaroli. But where next? England seemed a logical choice, following in the footsteps of many Australians before him; he had the fight to impress and the passing ability to fit in with a possession focused side. It was surprising (or was it?) that such a giant club as Manchester City (newly managed by Pep Guardiola) jumped at the chance for Mooy’s signature. As I wrote at the time for SFG, I had been less than impressed by their previous raids of Australian top talent, and asked why this would be any different?
It’s yet to be seen if he will ever play in Cityzen Blue, but in the meantime, the “Australian Iniesta” got his head down and started where he left off with Melbourne, excelling with the team of the moment Huddersfield Town under former Borussia Dortmund youth coach David Wagner. Thankfully, Mooy has fell on his feet in the loan market, picked up by a club that gets his game, and play the way needed to get the best out of him. The Terriers quickly started the season in impressive form, topping the table within weeks, somewhat against the run of things, given their lack of star names or pedigree at this level.
As I write, Huddersfield go into the new year in similarly promising form, challenging for a playoff spot in hope of promotion to the Premier League, with Aaron Mooy at the fulcrum of everything positive that comes through the side, from defence through to attack. He opened his account emphatically, to win the hearts of the fans in Huddersfield’s Yorkshire derby win over Leeds United. Other notable performances included a dictatorial display away at league leaders and favourites Newcastle United at the beginning of the season, and in a similar vein against another former Premier League side Norwich City in December.
In what must feel like his longest year to date (he’s already played 24 matches this season, two shy of the whole of his campaign for Melbourne last term), Mooy has squeezed in some exemplar performances in Socceroo gold. His flexibility to fit the system, either at the base, on the side, or on occasion (for the second period against Saudi Arabia) at the tip of the diamond, or as part of an all action three; Mooy remains first choice for Ange Postecoglou in World Cup qualification.
He’s started all seven qualifiers this year, particularly impressing in the slow but controlled encounter with UAE in Abu Dhabi and their cruising victory over Iraq to start Round 3. His impact really hasn’t changed from last year, but his confidence has. Ever since he moved to England, he looks the part, he knows when to take on ball carrying responsibilities and he knows when to fill in defensively. Overall, he’s become a European class player who continues to push his boundaries forward. Come the summer, whether Huddersfield clinch promotion or not, Mooy will be in the Premier League, that’s for sure.
Highlight of the Year – Rubber stamped his place in the Socceroos starting XI with an all-round display against Jordan
Many looked forward to the final Round 2 group match between Australia and Jordan as a chance for the away side, coached temporarily by Harry Redknapp to unexpectedly clinch their place in Round 3. The calculators were out, assuming Jordan may nick a draw, they could be through? Within 45 minutes this was never going to happen, and one man to blame for it was Aaron Mooy.
He laid on Australia’s first and third goal, coolly finding Robbie Kruse who picked out Tim Cahill for a first half brace. In between time, Mooy picked up his second goal of qualification, bursting into space, through to the box from the left before clinically finishing with his unfavoured left foot. Jordan went on to lose 5-0, extinguishing their hope of progression, and while Redknapp fumed in the dugout, the biggest smile on the pitch was plastered over Aaron Mooy’s face who dispatched the West Asian side effortlessly within 45 minutes.