The question at the start of the year was whether Adelaide United had the goals in them to be a finals threat. They don’t and it’s a chronic problem for the Reds and here’s why.

Early in the season we flagged in our season preview Adelaide’s fortunes would be decided by whether they had resolved their striking issues; now we know they haven’t even come close, as the lowest scoring team in the top six, Adelaide have only out-scored Central Coast Mariners this season.

Correct as of 5 April 2019

Many strikers have graced the fields of Coopers Stadium from club legends like Bruce Djite to wannabe legends like Sergi Guardiola and Ken Ilsø, so with so many options having wandered through the door why are Adelaide utterly terrible in front of goal?

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History suggests that while United are the fifth highest scoring team overall in A-League history, finding a continuous avenue to goal has proved an issue.

In the past five seasons, only Bruce Djite has managed to end the season with double digits in goals and while Craig Goodwin currently sits on nine goals for the present season, that hardly screams attacking juggernaut.

In the past five seasons, Adelaide has only managed to be in the top three for goals scored twice (2014/15 and 2015/16) while they were the worst side in terms of goals scored in 2016/17 and on-track to repeat that feat in this season.

Now one possible reason for this amongst a series of other mitigating factors are the strikers. Is it harsh to blame the woes on a team on a select few? Sure, but historically Adelaide strikers haven’t contributed much to the cause.

This graph shows each teams striker’s contribution to their teams overall goals. Adelaide are the lowest at 24 per cent while Wellington are top at 61 per cent

The graph above shows strikers contribution to their A-league teams overall goal tally for the 2017/18 season. Adelaide United strikers managed just a tick under a quarter of their teams goals which was the lowest of any side. Now there are some caveats of sorts because Bobo had the season of his life and other sides like Wellington scored fewer goals but Andrija Kaludjerovic was their main avenue to goal which equate to higher percentages.

Shows a strikers contribution to his team’s total goals over a three season period (2014/15 to 2016/17). Wellington is the lowest at 31 per cent while Sydney are top at 71 per cent

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However, it is a statistic which holds generally true because over the 2014/15 to 2016/17 seasons, as shown above, Adelaide’s strikers contributed 41 per cent of their goals in that period, which is the third lowest contribution in that span. So it seems Adelaide’s strikers have been generally a class below the likes of Besart Berisha and co.

Adelaide are also comfortably last in this season’s comparison trailing Wellington by 12 per cent, partly because Craig Goodwin, a left winger, leads their goal-scoring charts but also because their leading striker is George Blackwood with three goals which is the lowest return for a leading striker in A-League team.

But lets park the history lesson for a minute, why is Adelaide struggling this year?

Firstly, there is a minor caveat in that all their striking options from Baba Diawara to Apostolos Stamatelopoulos to George Blackwood have been injured for durations of the season. Throw in Ken Ilsø’s provisional suspension and there is another attacking option Marco Kurz will have to do without for the rest of the season.

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And partly, it is not down to just merely the strikers, but the quality of chances and attacking play which is an area Adelaide struggles in. In fact, they don’t just seem to struggle, there is a pattern which suggests a serious disconnect between the Adelaide forwards and the ball coming in.

Correct as of 5 April 2019. X axis = Crosses attempted, Y axis = crosses completed

As the graph above shows, Fox Sports Lab shows Adelaide are leading the league in crosses far and away ahead of Western Sydney Wanderers yet they drop to fourth for crosses completed, meaning they are struggling to find anyone in the box to take advantage of the ball-in.

That may be because few Adelaide forwards actually contest an aerial duel to meet the cross, as Fox Sports Lab indicates that Adelaide has no forward in the top 30 for aerial contests attempted with Craig Goodwin coming in at number 32.

Even new striker Jordy Thomassen, yet to score a goal for the Reds, rates behind Craig Goodwin at United for aerial contests won, which feels weird given Adelaide’s main avenue to goal is via a cross.

Correct as of 5 April 2019

Finally, Adelaide rank second-last in the league for shots per goal, with only the impotent Newcastle Jets fairing worse, which indicates Adelaide’s forwards lack clinical finishing to put away their chances, per Fox Sports Lab. An interesting note from the graph: the top four teams with the lowest shots per goal ratio (Perth Glory, Melbourne Victory, Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC) are also the top four teams in the A-League table.

So you’re probably wondering: so many statistics but what does that all mean?

Well long story short, Adelaide United are lacking a quality finisher which all the top teams possess and are failing to turn the opportunities into goals which is effectively what all the top four teams are doing and essentially separates Adelaide. However, this isn’t helped by an apparent disconnect in the way Adelaide go forward via the wings using lots of crosses and the players they have up-forward as they don’t have anyone to win an aerial duel.

It’s something to think over but also something Marco Kurz and Adelaide need to work out if they want to make it deep into finals.

Thanks to Fox Sports Lab and Ultimate A-League for statistics and player’s positions.

Feature image credit: Phil Radoslovich

 

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A student at University of South Australia who hopes his writing disguises his lack of sporting prowess and a fan who masquerades his choice in mediocre teams as being hipster