Reds not yet the real deal

Are Adelaide United the real deal? When the question was put to me and I was asked to write about it I thought: “This is going to be a tough one!”

Are Adelaide United the real deal? When the question was put to me and I was asked to write about it I thought: “This is going to be a tough one!”

If I say they-re not, there-ll be a whole lot of people that will see it as some form of ‘sour grapes’ given my controversial departure from the club last season – especially those in management that endured some pretty heavy scrutiny in the aftermath. If I say they are, then I know for a fact that many will disagree and say I-m just trying to keep the peace, agreeing with popular opinion.

Damned if I do and damned if I don-t. So I-ll do what I-ve generally always done, and not worry too much about what people think and be as objective as I possibly can. So NO…the Reds are not the real deal.

They will probably make the finals because six out of 10 teams qualify, but unless things change quickly even that might be confined to the realm of wishful thinking.

I-m not buying in to the ‘Cultural Revolution’ theme that has all the football groupies so excited, and the pundits salivating with expectation of plenty of superlatives. And I-m tired of hearing about “tika taka”.

I-m even more tired of the propaganda that is currently serving as an apology and justification for unacceptable performances and, more importantly, results.

One team, and one team only, play that style because they can. That’s Barcelona. Why? Because they have the players to do it, many of whom are the best in the world. And I-ll be interested to see just how well they go without Lionel Messi for the next couple of months.

That’s not to say teams shouldn-t aspire to play a possession-based game, but despite the philosophy of the coach, or the players, or the management (who should be managing and not philosophising) you have got to have the players to do it. Adelaide United do not. This may sound harsh, but it’s the reality. They have competent players, but not to play this style.

For me the cracks started appearing in the second half against Melbourne Victory when the visitors came out firing in the second half and pinned the home side back. Adelaide were lucky to come out of it with a point. They could have copped six but for poor finishing by Melbourne. Fatigue from playing two-men down for a short period the previous week, and a five-day turnaround, were the reasons given. Sorry, not good enough. That-s an excuse. The reason is a different story altogether.

A week later Central Coast Mariners worked them out tactically, and sat off and waited for them to turn the ball over, which they did with monotonous regularity, then hit them on the counter. Adelaide got no points that week and were once again lucky not to concede more goals. They put up a fair display against West Sydney Wanderers, but never really looked like they were going to win.

So the game against Newcastle Jets was supposed to be the real indicator of just where they were at on Josep Gombau-s road to Barcelona. At home, in front of a decent crowd, they were booed off at halftime, luckily only a goal down. The Jets picked up a second just after the break, and then weathered a late flurry by Adelaide United before taking the points. It was lacklustre to say the least.

Despite Adelaide-s wealth of foreign talent, the most technically effective player on the park was 20 year-old Jets midfielder Andrew Hoole, who has one of the best first touches I-ve seen in a while. And he used it to great effect, especially on the second goal when he left Jon McKain floundering on his backside to set up the chance.

Three losses back to back but that-s okay because the coach doesn-t expect to win things this season – it-s all about development. Hmmm. I hope Gombau was saying that to keep the pressure off the players and keep their minds on the game-plan. I thought it was about winning. To say they are working toward next season gives them a reason for failure and mediocrity now. The fans deserve better.

The facts are these. Adelaide can knock the ball around but they don’t penetrate. There is too much sideways and backwards passing. They don-t play forward often enough, and they don-t beat players in one v one situations so you can-t set up a killer pass. There-s not enough forward runs in the front half of the pitch either, so it becomes difficult to play the wide players in behind. They don-t play enough around the edge of the opponent-s box. That-s where you-ve got to keep the ball moving, quickly and keep probing. Out of their possession there is not enough pressure high up. If you want to play Barcelona style you press high up. But you have to be fit to do this, and Adelaide are not. Well, not enough to play the way they are telling everyone they want to.

It is only a few games in, so there is a bit of time up their sleeve to turn things around. The next three weeks could make or break their season with a run of games away from home. Then they have Australia-s answer to Barcelona, Brisbane Roar, coming to Cooper’s Stadium.

Like I said, things need to change quickly or the season could be just about over by Xmas. I hope I-m wrong. Am I? Prove it!