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Acton-packed match leaves Adelaide stranded

osamamalikA frustrating Adelaide United shows all the right signs of Gombau’s ‘Barcelona style football’, all but one key ingredient – results.

You wouldn’t know it from his results, but Josep Gombau is arguably the best coach in the A-League. His restructuring of Adelaide in the short five months he’s been there is astounding. He has restructured a squad missing key players from an unimpressive 2012/13 campaign into a dominating force playing a style that gets the crowd off their seats. He has turned the once unimpressive Osama Malik into a quality ball player, and has pragmatically introduced a possession based game.

And whilst all these attributes are significant, there is one that stands out from the rest and gives Gombau the upper hand in the A-League – the ability to adapt. Earlier in the season, Adelaide played a certain style when in possession of the ball. Malik would drop back from central midfield to the deepest player on the park; between the two centre backs. This allowed fullbacks Zullo and Elrich to attack with purpose, and whilst this gave Adelaide firepower on the flanks, it meant that they were somewhat compromised in Malik’s midfield role.

So against Brisbane, a side with arguably the best midfield in the league, Gombau swapped Malik to a permanent Central Defender. This meant that another player could step into midfield (Lustica) and Adelaide would still have Malik’s vision and passing ability when in possession. It was a tactical swap that demonstrated Gombau’s class as a coach, because he was able to adapt whilst keeping the integrity of his possession based game.

Despite all these qualities, Adelaide sits well below where they deserve to be on the standings table. Time and time again this season we’ve seen the same thing; a quality performance dampened by poor results. And it was no different against Brisbane.

Adelaide dominated several parts of the game with fast flowing football, and despite having several good scoring opportunities, they failed to capitalise. Osama Malik put it down to conceding unnecessary goals.

He said:

‘It’s so disappointing because we’re putting everything into it, we’re trying hard to play out from the back and play attractive football but at the moment we’re just copping silly goals at the back there and it’s a shame because I think we deserve more.’

Of course it didn’t help that Matt Acton had the best performance of his career, with several world class saves and some quality goalkeeping manoeuvres. Two saves stand out, the first a brilliant reaction save against Fabio Ferreria who should’ve done better from inside the 18 yard box, and the other against Sergio Cirio who should’ve scored after receiving a quality cross from youngster Awer Mabil.

And whilst conceding goals is obviously central to Adelaide’s problems, what seems to be the deciding factor in games like this, and what Adelaide has hitherto been without, is a stand-out individual performance. Brisbane has had several players step up in the past few games; Yeboah, Berisha and Franjic all playing their part when the time has come. Western Sydney has had Juric, Taggart and Burns for Newcastle, and the list goes on.

What Adelaide has been without is a Jeronimo Neumann or Djite at his best. Clinical finishers who will provide a quality touch in front of goal. With Djite back in contention and almost every player in the front two thirds playing well, it’s just a matter of time before Adelaide produces an onslaught of goals. And with these goals, as well as a shoring up of their defensive line, will come results.

About the author

avatarJames is a devout Melbourne Victory fan and a UQ Journalism student, writing for Ultimate A-League.

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    I agree with most of what was said except the suggestion that Gombau has re-engineered Malik from an agricultural squaddie into a ‘quality ball-player’. Malik played an instrumental role in distributing the ball through midfield last season – arguably one of our best players, well before Gombau arrived. The decision to keep him in defense alongside McKain rather than bring Boogaard straight back into the lineup was a good one though, and I think (aside from letting Berisha through for his second goal) the Malik / McKain CB combo showed some extremely promising signs. Isaias/Lustica/Carrusca in midfield were excellent, too, especially in the first half – outplaying the Brisbane midfield is no mean feat. A lot of it, it must be said, was aided by the physicality and workrate of Djite upfront. I really hope Gombau takes an unchanged starting XI into the Central Coast game.