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Where did all Adelaide's big names go?

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5th December, 2018

Tactical Awareness. European pedigree. Craig Goodwin. Adelaide seems the perfect package this season.

Sport is about a constant struggle for betterment rather than a contented laying on the laurels, yet that’s exactly what Adelaide have done this season.

Hold the howls of protest. To be clear, positives are hardly lacking for this slick fourth-placed side. Craig Goodwin is in the form of his life, and they’ve looked good going forward. Tactically they’re brilliant and their wing play is fast and incisive. So what’s the problem?

In two words, big players. Take a closer look and you’ll realise that Marco Kurz’s side lacks genuine household names. This is not an indictment of Adelaide, however; the A-League doesn’t possess an international star of world-class pedigree outside of Melbourne Victory’s blond assassin.

The indictment is this: the Mariners and others don’t have big players as they can’t afford them. Adelaide simply don’t want them.

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Big players come with tradeoffs. Their skill and experience mean that there is a propensity for them to relegate the coach to a secondary role as they become the de facto leader on the pitch. This is a problem even at elite clubs. Think Paddy McNair under Louis van Gaal and Scott McTominay under Jose Mourinho.

Young players who lack the skill of their more senior counterparts are more amenable to coaches instruction. Imagine trying to give the same instructions to Neymar or Cristiano Ronaldo – you’d be lucky if they even pretend to listen.

Yet managers earn their corn by dealing with the difficult types of players. Kurz has circumvented this issue by not signing these players at all. Yet for all their faults, you need big players in your squads. After all, they’re arrogant for a reason – they’re good and they know it. If you avoid them, you’re picking players from the vest of the rest.

To paraphrase England’s Gareth Southgate, there are some players who cost the club as much in squad harmony as they do in wages, yet for all that, you’d still want them on your team.