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Strike out the negativity: the Reds can come through this

Manton St Tales

History shows that Adelaide United doesn’t need to bring in an expensive striker to turn its season around, writes Paul Marcuccitti.

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We all make mistakes, ok? And while we don’t like to own them, one that I made nearly three years ago is worth revisiting.

In January 2016, after Adelaide United had just defeated Perth, the Reds – winless until round 9 of the 2015/16 season – had turned themselves from potential wooden spoon contenders into genuine finals aspirants.

Manton Street Tales posited that an “extra option (was) needed up forward”. A diplomatic way of saying “sign a bloody striker”.

Potential signings are always in the news around December/January as those months cover the lead up to, and opening of, the mid-season transfer window.

At that time, Adelaide United was being linked with a different forward, it seemed, every five minutes.

I can’t remember them all but Greek international Georgios Samaras was definitely one of them. Adelaide-born James Troisi was another and possibly former Western Sydney striker Kerem Bulut as well. And who can forget that, before that season began, we were told that Luca Toni – a World Cup winner with Italy – was a possibility.

But we could all agree that the Reds needed to sign someone to lead the line. It was the missing link – the difference between United being a good side and one that might win a trophy.

Ultimately the club didn’t add a number nine to its A-League squad. Sergio van Dijk, the only player to win a Golden Boot while at Adelaide United, returned to the club but he was only on board for the Reds’ campaign in the Asian Champions League.

And then the darndest thing happened. Despite the club’s decision/inability/failure to add a forward to its squad, United went on to claim both the premiership and the championship a few months later.

Indeed, after I wrote the “sign a bloody striker” equivalent, the Reds managed to smash home 36 goals in 15 games while conceding just 11. They would only lose once throughout that period.

Bruce Djite, who hadn’t been able to buy a goal in the first half of the season, helped himself to 11 and super sub Pablo Sánchez added another six.

Perhaps the most remarkable stat is that Isaías netted four times during that glorious run. In his other 124 matches for United, he’s scored just twice.

Instead of moaning about needing a striker, coach Guillermo Amor, his football staff and the players knuckled down and found a path to success.

I’m not about to tell you that we’re going to see a repeat. But there was a lesson for us from the 2015/16 season that’s worth recalling: as fans, we’re often too quick to apply the most basic logic.

In Adelaide United’s case now, as it was three years ago, that logic is something like this: we have a good squad but don’t score enough goals, therefore the answer must be that we have to sign a striker.

Will that solve everything (or even most things)? Will it turn the 2018/19 team into a contender for end-of-season honours?

From what we’ve seen in recent weeks, the answer is no. I’m even willing to go one step further and say that it could be a gigantic waste of money.

Just imagine, for example, if a new striker who commanded a salary of around $250,000 for the rest of the season was brought in and he becomes the latest victim of the injury curse. Sure, you could say that’s the owners’ money but it’s fans’ money too: the memberships you buy, tickets, etcetera.

Adelaide United’s previous owners gave Baba Diawara a contract for 2017/18 and 2018/19 which pays him at least $400,000 a year. He is unlikely to add to the 683 minutes he’s played and the two goals he’s scored in those seasons.

Yes, I’m sure he doesn’t want to be injured but that’s not the point. You want to get a return for investing in a player and if a new forward just gives the Reds a few more wins than they would have otherwise had (at best) or an injury-riddled few months (at worst), it might be best to keep those dollars safe.

If you look at last night’s debacle against Melbourne City, having a regular number nine wasn’t high on the list of United’s problems anyway. Because you’ve gotta get the ball to him first. Not for the first time this season, the Reds were fluffing their lines when trying to create opportunities.

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen so much bad decision-making on the pitch along with so many instances of players not being on the same wavelength. And must everything go through United’s wingers? Sure, they’re among the competition’s quickest but opponents have worked out that if you concentrate on blocking their balls into the area that’s much of the defenders’ work done.

A new forward will fix none of that – refining game plans just might.

Let’s not forget, also, that Adelaide United’s squad has three strikers – a normal amount (and that’s not including young Carlo Armiento who can be used in a few different forward roles). All three are currently unavailable with Apostolos Stamatelopoulos the latest player to suffer a soft tissue injury.

But one of them, George Blackwood, is nearly ready to return. This time 12 months ago, he was in the middle of bagging five goals in eight A-League games either side of representing Australia in the U-23 Asian Cup. Stamatelopoulos mightn’t have to be on the sidelines for much longer either.

Give those young men more opportunities instead of relegating them to being second and third-choice strikers and if they score goals – and realise the potential that they both undoubtedly have – they’ll have repaid the faith shown in them with interest.

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