Thompson sets Heart challenge

Matt Thompson says the Melbourne Heart need to finish in the top four next season or they can consider the A-League campaign a failure.

On and off the field, the pieces are starting to fall into place for Melbourne Heart's Matt Thompson.

The 28-year-old is newly married and has two major reasons to look ahead to the month of October, the birth of his first son and the beginning of the new Hyundai A-League season.

For Thompson and his Heart team-mates, season 2011-12 offers the opportunity to build on the foundations laid during the club's inaugural campaign where they finished in eighth place.

Having learned some valuable lessons along the way in year one, Thompson knows that year two has to be the period where the club takes some important strides, starting with finals football.

"Deep down everyone knows a top four spot is something we definitely have to get," Thompson said.

"Last year was a disappointment, we had the team do it, numbers to do it and we just didn't - simple as that."

"I think if we didn't make the finals this year it would be a massive failure."

"Even fifth or sixth is something we wouldn't be too proud of either, you're not going to win (the league) from sixth and fifth, you're going to win it from one, two or three."

This season's version of the Heart line-up will have a different complexion to that which competed in the club's debut campaign.

Gone are former Socceroos John Aloisi, Josip Skoko (both retirement), Dean Heffernan (Perth Glory) and Michael Beauchamp (Sydney), and phlegmatic Dutchman Gerald Sibon.

Coming in are two Brazilians, striker Maycon and former Melbourne Victory playmaker Fred, another ex-Victory attacker Mate Dugandzic, the well-travelled David Williams (North Queensland via Sydney) and teenage defender Curtis Good.

While that change in personnel would be as hectic as Flinders Street at peak hour for most clubs, it's not the case for Heart as Thompson explained.

"It wasn't as big a turnover as last year, obviously having 20 new players, this year there's five and they'll fit straight in," Thompson said.

"Last year we finalised the squad a week before the first game, there's a massive difference there and you get more cohesion."

"We want to start better than last year and hold onto it."

The arrival of Maycon, Fred, Dugandzic and Williams signals genuine intent by Heart to hit the back of the net more than the 32 occasions they did in 30 games last season.

"We've got a very attacking line-up, that's something we lacked last year," Thompson said.

"Defence wins you the game, but at the same time you need to score goals to win games and that's something they want to work on this season by signing a few attacking players."

"To have Maycon come on board, we've only seen a couple of days of him - he looks quite good, we've seen Mate, Willo and Fred having played against them, there's definitely light at the end of the tunnel."

With those attacking riches at coach John van 't Schip's disposal, midfielder Thompson may find himself required to fill a role he covered with real aplomb in Heart's debut season - central defender.

It says plenty about the make-up of the HAL's most capped player (150 appearances - 121 at Newcastle, 29 at Heart) that he has not only the versatility, but mentality to play either role.

"Obviously with a few signings being attack-minded and losing Michael Beauchamp I might find myself back there again, which is something I'm more than happy to do," Thompson said.

"Everyone has a preference, but at the end of the day you just want to be in that 11, in the 15 and want to be playing."

"At training I've been at the back, so we'll just have to wait and see."

Heart opens their A-League campaign on October 8 against Newcastle Jets at Ausgrid Stadium.