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Adelaide United must regain its mojo - and quickly

Manton St Tales

Adelaide United’s recent run of bad form requires a rethink from the coach and a change in match-day mentality from the players, writes Spiro Karanikos-Mimis.

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I’ll put my hand up: if you want someone to blame for Adelaide United’s poor form, look no further.

Ever since I predicted that they could win all their fixtures in December, the Reds have won once – and that was a lucky win against Newcastle.

I jinxed them.

In Greek culture, it’s called giving someone the “evil eye”.

To undo the curse of the evil eye, you need someone to perform a reversal ritual. It goes something like this: someone says a special prayer whilst dropping olive oil into a glass of water. The oil moves in the glass and shows if the individual who the ritual is for has been jinxed. If they have: then they have three sips of the water.

Voilà. Jinx over.

 

I haven’t quite managed to get around to the players’ houses yet and get them to drink the water. And I’m not sure how they’d react to seeing an overweight individual of Greek extraction at their front door imploring them to drink water with oil in it.

So until then, it’s up to them to end this poor run of form.

What has gone wrong over the last few weeks?

Gertjan Verbeek spoke openly at a few press conferences about the mentality of his players, specifically on match day.

It was quite evident in the games against Wellington, Newcastle and Central Coast that the mindset of the players wasn’t right. Though, to be fair, the Newcastle game was played in conditions even Saharan silver ants would find exhausting.

Against the ‘Nix and Jets, Adelaide was second best for long periods of the game – despite taking the lead in both games.

Against the Mariners, Adelaide was better but a slow start cost them and it was they couldn’t claw back a two-goal deficit.

United should have had the game wrapped up by half-time against the Wanderers but failed to convert multiple chances. Defensive errors also cost them badly.

Sure, if George Blackwood had slotted the second penalty Adelaide would’ve got a share of the points against Western Sydney. Many fans made him the scapegoat that day, which was not fair. Many of his teammates had a bad game.

And we can’t be relying on injury time penalties to get something out of matches, especially against a team whose most recent highlight was their coach dropping F-Bombs at press conferences.

Against a weakened Sydney FC, a dire 20-odd minutes in the first half, poor defensive structure and an inability to take chances cost the Reds at least a point.

It was another “what if” performance.

What if Michael Maria didn’t slip trying to defend his opponent as Sydney scored their second goal?

What if Jordan Elsey had taken a shot with his preferred right foot instead of his left and not missed a completely unguarded goal?

Unfortunately “what ifs” won’t win games.

I’ve made no secret of the fact I like Verbeek: his tactics (and press conferences) are particularly enjoyable.

[If you want to see the best reality TV going around right now, forget those crappy series on free-to-air and watch a Verbeek presser. United’s media team is now posting most of them in full on their social accounts.]

There is no internal pressure on Verbeek at the club – he is, of course, owner Piet Van Der Pol’s hand-picked choice. I’m not even suggesting there should be – that would be ludicrous.

But I won’t hide my frustration that he didn’t shuffle the deck during the barren spell.

For example, I think it’s time both Marrone and Kitto returned as our full-backs.

Maria and Strain have been struggling in those roles for a few weeks.

Kitto has had a few good moments in his limited opportunities and Marrone’s form wasn’t bad when he lost his spot to Elsey.

When McGree got injured, Verbeek kept Troisi and D’Arrigo as the traditional six and eight. They’ve been superb all year and so it made sense.

He interchanged the 10 between Blackwood and Konstandopoulos but Adelaide needed more creativity at this position.

Troisi should have been given some minutes at 10, with either Konstandopoulos or Lia slotting in the middle with D’Arrigo.

Lastly, I’d like to see Opseth given an extended run in the starting 11, especially now that Al Hassan Toure is on international duty with the Australian U-23s.

Yes, he’s been injured, but now that he’s back, he should be starting.

It would be harsh dropping Blackwood, who has scored twice in the last three games (and had one ruled out against Sydney).

But Opseth was brought here to score goals and he needs to be given that opportunity.

With another tough away game to Perth coming up on Saturday night, it seems like the right time to re-jig the starting 11.

It’s not time to panic, but the A-League can be unforgiving at the best of times and a few more losses will see Adelaide well and truly chasing their tails.

Spiro Karanikos-Mimis is InDaily’s soccer columnist.

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