Cornthwaite’s Corner: A new year brings new optimism

It wasn’t a pretty end to 2023 for Adelaide United. Two wins in eight games doesn’t read well. 

Again, there were some decent signs in the loss to Melbourne Victory that show United is still capable of going toe to toe with the competition’s best but inconsistency and an inability to put in a 90-minute performance cost the Reds. It’s easy to say Adelaide was in the contest up until the last 20 minutes, but let’s be honest, Adelaide never really fired a shot in anger.

The first half was finely balanced, with Joe Gauci tested on a couple of occasions. Adelaide looked more solid once again with the new formation implemented for the second week in a row but unlike the week before Carl Veart’s side wasn’t able to link up to cause Victory any real headaches.

Hiroshi Ibusuki and Luka Jovanović had some nice moments, but not the impact they had against Newcastle. In the second half, things became even more dysfunctional when United rang in the changes, bringing on Ben Halloran and Nestory Irankunda. Neither player had an impact, and I can barely remember them touching the ball. Halloran has been excellent this season, and it’s now created a headache for Carl. Should he stick with the new system or revert to his favourite 4-3-3?

One thing is for sure: Adelaide needs to stop giving the ball away in the middle of the park. The only thing worse than that is compounding it and giving away a foul straight after. It happened on a couple of occasions where players gave the ball away and then a set piece in a dangerous position. It must stop.

Javi López looked good on his return, but he fatigued midway through the second half, with Adelaide paying the price – the first goal coming down the right. Overall, a poor second period cost United any chance of a point.

Another test

This week second placed… sorry, first placed Wellington Phoenix comes to Coopers Stadium.

They really worry me if I’m honest. The way they set up plays perfectly into their hands if Adelaide can’t keep the ball or doesn’t finish its attacks. 

The Phoenix’s ability to counter is probably the best in the league, as highlighted by some of the goals they’ve scored this season. They have players who can break forward quickly in transition and hurt you with devastating speed and precision. 

They’ll be licking their lips at the prospect of the home side coughing up the ball like they have so far this season.

A new year brings new optimism, but you’ve also got to be realistic. This is going to be one of the toughest tests this season, even at home. 

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