Can Adelaide United go back to back?

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After Adelaide United’s against-all-odds triumph of the 2015-2016 Hyundai A-League season, one needn’t doubt the existence of sore heads on Grand Final day plus one.

And it’s during the excitement of those memorable occasions when some of the most daring and interesting punting takes place, often to no avail.

But unlike the punters, the Reds’ poor decision making has come in the Premiership hangover. Manager partied with a gelled squad of champions, but will start the approaching A-League season missing a raft of the key players that helped his club lift the trophy for the first time in its history.

Out of contract youngsters Bruce Kamau and Craig Goodwin have shipped to other clubs; the former heading east to Melbourne City and the latter joining Dutch outfit Sparta Rotterdam. With these two gone Amor has lost a great deal of pace along his wings, which burdens ageing bullet Sergio Cirio with more responsibility out wide. This is to the detriment of his creative central abilities, a skill-set so valuable to United’s success in the latter part of last season.

Furthermore, the loss of attacking midfielder Stefan Mauk to NEC in the Eredivisie takes more meat from the bones of the Adelaide midfield. Granted, Mauk was sold for an undisclosed fee and money isn’t exactly growing on trees at Coopers Stadium, so one can only assume that it was a good piece of business that saw him book a one-way flight.

And then there’s the forward line. Adelaide’s two main strikers – club legend Bruce Djite and the versatile Pablo Sanchez – both walked away from the reigning champions over the winter. Djite’s services were sold to South Korean club Suwon FC while Sanchez’s contract was not renewed. With their departures secured, Adelaide’s gun attacking setup was starting to look a touch like Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard.

So Amor brought in the replacements; all free transfers and all having played football in Australia before. It’s not a bad recipe, but on paper the list seems underwhelming.

The headline addition is Henrique of Brisbane Roar fame. 39 goals in 136 games for the Roar isn’t the most spectacular strike rate for a number 11, and just one goal in his recent jaunt in Malaysia from 11 appearances is even less promising. This is the man to replace Djite.

Joining him upfront is local lad Marc Marino, who was released from Melbourne City. Marino offers versatility – he can play in front of goal or sit back in the centre – and at 20 his career is in its infancy, but it’s expected that Amor will play him off the bench in a rotating role with Henrique.

The two marksmen showed promising signs on the Club’s preseason tour to Malaysia, with Marino bagging two goals over the tour and Henrique burying a late penalty in the final friendly against Penang FA. But a good preseason tour against relegation embattled clubs in Malaysia is a far cry from continued A-League success in the season proper.

In the centre he has nabbed released Melbourne Victory youngster Jesse Makarounas and Newcastle Jets’ apprentice Ryan Kitto, the latter having spent time at Adelaide United in the early stages of his career. These two will bring youth to Adelaide’s centre, with Makarounas likely to sit behind the strikers and Kitto developing his top-level game interstate having been a star player for local Adelaide club West Torrens Birkalla.

There were attempts to add European experience upfront, with Amor firing offers at former German international Kevin Kuranyi. The 34-year-old received a number of offers to be Adelaide’s marquee player but eventually turned them down for family reasons. In a small league with capped salaries and foreign import restrictions, such a signing can be the difference between success and failure over an entire season.

But what’s also evident in these signings is the lack of faith held in the Amor’s squad management over the off-season. If you’re interested in the odds, CrownBet have Adelaide United at $7.50 to win the Premiership. Five other clubs have better odds. Essentially, those in the know don’t think Adelaide can lift the shield again.

Some pundits will argue that Amor’s transfers are inspirational, and the man obviously doesn’t give credence to his doubters. Eight games in to his last season his side had scored just three goals. By the end of the season it was a championship winning squad.

And that turnaround seems to have cost Amor much of his talent. His team was under a spotlight because of its outrageous turn in fortunes, and the stars that lead the way were snaffled by clubs with money to spend. In addition to this, it’s hardly fair to stand in the way of young Australian talent going to Europe to perfect their art.

But the hangover resulting from the party that was the 2015-2016 season is in full swing now. The only way to cure this headache is a big, greasy serving of continued success in 2016-2017. Whether or not the new additions to Coopers Stadium have what it takes only time will tell. In the meantime, sunglasses off, Guillermo.

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