A-League mid-season report card: Adelaide United

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We are at the halfway mark of the 2019/20 A-League season, so it’s about time The Football Sack takes a look at the performance of Adelaide United.

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Semester summary: Adelaide’s start to the season was scintillating and had everyone talking but after a string of poor results that optimism has faded. They kicked off their season with two straight losses but the signs were there that new coach Gertjan Verbeek was installing an attacking philosophy much different to his predecessor Marco Kurz.

What followed was an FFA Cup trophy and the confidence to go on a four-game undefeated streak. A loss to the emerging Wellington Phoenix derailed the Reds momentum and they have not been the same since. Injuries to key personal and Olyroos call ups also affected the side and they have lost four of their last five games.

United are capable of brilliance but of late, the results have dried up and their defensive frailties have begun to show. With 12 games played they have four points fewer than they did at this stage last season.

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Area of excellence: The Reds attack has been outstanding at stages during this season. They have scored in 11 of their 12 A-League matches so far.

The likes of Riley McGree and Al Hassan Toure have been a breath of fresh air. McGree has scored seven goals from midfield and interestingly, the Reds decline coincided with his injury.

Verbeek seems to be getting the best out of the young players in the squad and has introduced attacking movement that has the ability to cause any team problems. He has also visibly improved Nikola Mileusnic, who is on track to have his best goal-scoring season yet.

Louis D’Arrigo is another that deserves huge plaudits – for an 18-year-old to step so seamlessly into the ‘Isais role’ is nothing short of incredible.

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Areas in need of improvement: Michael Jakobsen and Paul Izzo have done their best to stop Adelaide’s defensive frailties from showing but the fact is they are conceding too many goals.

United have conceded 21 goals this season, that is 1.75 goals per game.

Form slumps and injuries to centre backs has not helped either and Verbeek will need to lock down a permanent partner for Jakobsen if the Reds have any chance of turning their form around.

There have been impressive defensive displays throughout the season but with only one clean sheet all season, this is definitely an area of improvement.

Top student: Riley McGree.

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The 21-year-olds estimated $100,000 transfer from Club Brugge was the very first fee paid by an A-League club and he is certainly living up to his price tag.

Despite missing three matches with injury, he has scored seven goals in eight appearances.

While honourable mentions should go to D’Arrigo and Izzo, McGree is one of the top-scoring midfielders in the league.

His performances provide the difference for Adelaide and they seem to play better when he is in the team.

It’s no coincidence that the clubs poor patch of form began without ‘the boy from Gawler’.

Class clown: Kristian Opseth.

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Admittedly, a slightly harsh evaluation because of the injuries and the short time he has had to adapt but when you are a foreigner you must perform. Especially one who came with such high expectations.

The Norwegian striker arrived in Adelaide as the saviour, the man who would turn all of the Reds striking woes around. But the emergence of 19-year-old Toure and Opseth’s inability to lock down a starting position has shunned those expectations.

Of course, it’s way too early to judge Opseth’s goal scoring output and his general play has been quite good but one goal in eight appearances simply is not good enough for any striker.

Grade: D

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Overall outlook: Sitting seventh at the midway point of the season is unacceptable for a team as ambitious as Adelaide.

They have shown on their day they can outplay anyone in the league. Even in defeat, they have put in solid performances with Verbeek’s attacking philosophy evident.

Outplaying opponents and winning football matches are two different things though.

If Adelaide can keep all their key personnel fit, there is no reason to suggest they can not recreate the form that saw them lauded as one of the best in the competition.

As Verbeek has stressed many times in his press conferences – mentality is the issue for this Reds side. They are good enough to cause any team problems but only if they are up for it.

If they can rectify their issues, a top-six finish is feasible but momentum is certainly not on their side.

Feature image credit: Phil Radoslovich

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Euan James
Lover of all things football. Covering Adelaide United matches in 2019/20 for TFS!