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No backward steps if United wants to improve

Manton St Tales

James Troisi is right. Things need to improve.

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Speaking to the media on Wednesday, the midfielder made the point that Adelaide needs to be better, and there is a lot to work on.

It’s hard to disagree.

It was an honest summation of Adelaide’s recent form and one that needs to be heeded by his colleagues and coaches.

Adelaide isn’t in the greatest form – even the win against Central Coast was dour until the last 10 minutes – and without putting too fine a point on it: when it comes to defending, Adelaide struggles.

Last week’s capitulation to Western Sydney highlighted something we’ve learnt this year: Adelaide’s defending can be exposed.

It’s probably something the players know as it seems they’ve taken their concerns directly to Gertjan Verbeek.

Verbeek lauded the fact that his troops had become more active in the tactics he employs, but is the Dutchman listening?

This season, in two games against the Wanderers (who are not a quality unit), the Reds have shipped eight goals. It could’ve easily been more.

Adelaide has scored the equal second most goals (32) but has third leakiest defence (32).

They have conceded two or more goals 10 times.

A tweak is required.

Before last week’s game, Verbeek spoke strongly about his preference for attacking football.

“It’s the way you see football,” he said.

“I don’t believe in defence football.”

That’s okay, it’s his philosophy. But there is something which Adelaide must consider.

If the Reds need to be slightly more pragmatic (and by no means am I suggesting they revert back to defensive tactics) then Verbeek should consider it.

Fans (me included) get swept up in the emotion of results week-to-week, whilst the club must also be looking at the bigger picture.

Adelaide, in its own way, is going through a rebuild process.

Young stars are coming through, a new tactical philosophy and generally a new way the club approaches most of its interactions with the football community and South Australian public.

And whist you can tolerate losses if a team is playing well, or you’re playing a team who’s obviously much better than you, last week wasn’t either of those.

There was far too much space in midfield and Western Sydney took full advantage.

Adelaide’s Riley McGree and Wanderers’ Keanu Baccus. Photo: AAP/Brendon Thorne

And the Victory will do the same tomorrow if Adelaide is not smart about how they approach this game.

The coaches need to revisit the midfield structure.

Having Blackwood partner McGree in midfield has been good in parts but often poor.

With Troisi returning from injury, Boland back and Mauk hopefully not far away, I would be surprised if the D’Arrigo-McGree-Blackwood combo remains.

This means Verbeek would need to make a call on Blackwood or Opseth leading the forward line.

Based on current form, you’d think Blackwood gets the nod over Opseth but the Norwegian is a talented individual. So the decision isn’t as easy as you’d think.

Also, I suspect it may be time to give Louis D’Arrigo a rest. He has played 1490 minutes of a possible 1530 (he’s missed one match due to international commitments, where he played a full game anyway).

The young star has played very well this but he’s looking a little tired and jaded. That’s not surprising since this is his first full season of professional soccer.

It easy to forget that he also played NPL in 2019, meaning he’s hardly had a break in 12 months (if not more, when you factor in pre-season for NPL team starts the preceding November).

It might be time to give Mirko Boland a start, with Troisi and McGree joining him in the middle.

And now that we know Ben Halloran will not play, Verbeek has an important decision to make.

The temptation is to play young Mohammed Toure from the start – that might be the mental spark the Reds need.

But, allowing Ryan Kitto to play in his preferred position may also just be the right tonic (this would mean moving Nikola Mileusnic to the right side of the forward three).

Since Kitto copped a public dressing down by Verbeek, he’s played roughly 100 minutes in five games.

He’s no doubt itching to get out there and prove a point.

The Victory’s season hangs by a thread and they’ll want to try and get back on track this weekend.

It’s unlikely they’ll make finals but it’s not out of the question either so they will not be throwing in the towel and time soon.

Adelaide must improve, or it could be another long night for the Reds and their fans.

Spiro Karanikos-Mimis is InDaily’s soccer columnist.

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