Teams without a backbone do not win a Premier’s Plate or an A-League title. Only a fool would disagree with the obvious simplicity of that statement.
It was all going so well for Adelaide United.
They were the form team of the A-League heading into Round 8. Confidence was swelling around Coopers Stadium. There were talks of a title charge under the stewardship of Gertjan Verbeek.
The Reds just beat bitter rivals Melbourne Victory 3-1 in a scintillating performance. All they had to do was beat Wellington at home to cushion themselves in third, a point behind Melbourne City in second. Things didn’t go to plan.
On a bleak Sunday afternoon at Coopers Stadium, Adelaide succumbed to an abject performance, losing 2-1 in the end. Wellington thoroughly dominated the Reds, having 20 shots to Adelaide’s six.
While Wellington got a controversial penalty that won the game for them, Adelaide were uninspiring and failed to create clear goal-scoring opportunities, aside from Nikola Mileusnic’s wonder goal.
This begs the question: was the Wellington performance a one-off, or the start of something worse?
Gertjan Verbeek went all out in the following press conference, labelling his side’s performance a “three or four,” adding that he wasn’t impressed by the previous training sessions, which he described as “disappointing.”
While it is refreshing to hear exactly what a manager is thinking, these kinds of comments could cause possible rifts throughout the playing group. Such discontent would surely disrupt and potentially derail Adelaide’s season and title push.
It was a bad day at the office for Adelaide, but problems could run deeper. On the flip side, however, given their form coming into the Wellington game, it is likely that the game was simply a one-off.
The Wellington game was Adelaide’s only poor performance so far this season, with the loss to Melbourne City in Round 2 having some positives. The Reds were on a level with Sydney in Round 1 and were the better team in every other game.
It’s not as if Verbeek is taking the loss lightly, either. Paul Izzo said that he expects changes to be made for the Newcastle game on the weekend, with both Ben Halloran and Al Hassan Toure being hooked at half-time on Sunday, with Riley McGree also making his way to the bench.
I like that Verbeek doesn’t do things by halves. He took two of his best attackers off because they didn’t look lively. He reshuffled the team in order to try and break down Wellington. He didn’t hold back in his post-match press conference, slamming the team’s intensity and performance.
He will make changes for Newcastle, and whether or not I agree with them, Verbeek is doing all he can to turn Adelaide into title challengers this year.
The devil’s pitchfork attacking strategy employed by Verbeek against Wellington may have shown some promise but was easily nullified by Wellington’s midfield marking James Troisi and Riley McGree out of the game.
Whether it was a blip or the start of something worse, Verbeek has the best interests of the club, fans and players in mind and isn’t afraid to mix it up when things aren’t going particularly well.
Compared to his predecessor Marco Kurz, who usually started the same core group of players, I welcome this change.