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Cornthwaite’s Corner: Merry Christmas, Reds fans!

Merry Christmas, Reds fans. The win against Newcastle was the perfect early gift, but I’m sure nothing would make you happier than three points in the Original Rivalry on Saturday night.

This time of year, it’s difficult to keep track of time, let alone know what day it is. I hope you’re one of the lucky ones and enjoying an extended break with family and friends.

The win over the Jets feels like a lifetime ago, but the biggest game on the calendar is only 48 hours away. The perfect opportunity to end 2023 on a massive high.

The win over Newcastle was long overdue and came in an unfamiliar formation, if not fashion.

For probably one of the first times I can remember, Carl Veart opted for a change in formation, which probably highlighted just how frustrated he’d been in recent weeks. After the game, he spoke about how he felt he wasn’t getting enough out of his wingers so far this season, and I must agree.

I also believe the regular formation l, for one reason or another, was affecting the impact of the full backs in an attacking sense. Last year, we became accustomed to seeing Ryan Kitto fly to the left, get into goal-scoring positions, and find the back of the net — something that’s been missing this campaign.

The combination of Isaías and Ryan Tunnicliffe in the middle of the park not only gave Adelaide more options and flexibility when playing out from the back or through the midfield but, for me, more importantly, condensed the middle of the park. With four midfielders central at times, it made United far less vulnerable in defence and in transition, which had been a huge concern this season.

With the ball, the combinations were more fluent and dynamic, with the player in possession being able to find support closer and quicker. At times, it was the best the side has looked playing through the middle, particularly in the front third, even if it wasn’t always pretty. When you lose the ball with more numbers present, you can press quickly and win it back sooner. The press looked more dynamic.

The best thing, though, for me was the combination between Hiroshi Ibusuki and Luka Jovanović. With Hiro as a central focal point, it gave Luka the freedom to roam anywhere across the line. I thought it was a coming-of-age performance from Luka and his best in a Reds shirt, despite not finding the back of the net.

He was the driving force in the win, and I loved watching him run a Jets defender in wide areas. Two or three times in the first half, he was able to get to the byline and cut the ball back, leading to Hiroshi’s opener. His constant, direct, aggressive play with the ball at his feet won a second-half penalty, sending the defender to the ground. He had plenty of looks on goal, and on another day, he could have walked off with a brace. A game like Saturday night could be built for him.

Victory is the only side yet to lose a game this season, and at home during the Christmas/New Year period, you’d expect a massive crowd. Tony Popovic has his team well drilled at the moment, and they are extremely hard to break down. They can be devastating on the break, and I would expect Carl to opt for the same formation to try and limit the space allowed in the middle of the pitch.

Bruno Fornaroli is at his career best, and with his tail up after being selected in Graham Arnold’s Asian Cup squad, he’s going to be a handful. Adelaide showed last week that when they are switched in and don’t give the opposition goals, they can be had to breakdown.

Absolutely, you want to win a game like this, but I don’t think a draw would be the end of the world for Adelaide. You won’t want to miss this one.

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