Adelaide United are proving hard to dislodge from the A-League top six after taking seven points from their first three matches since the competition resumed.
Watching Bruce Djite talk about Adelaide United coach Gertjan Verbeek last weekend, one question struck me: has the Dutchman become too big for the club?
Djite said Verbeek did not fulfill his pre-match obligations because the Adelaide manager apparently feels he has been portrayed by the media in a way he doesn’t like.
This is the latest episode in a recent trend of erratic but brutally frank moments relating to Verbeek in the media.
When the Reds’ form started to go downhill after the loss to Wellington in Round 8, Verbeek slammed the attitudes of his players and lamented the poor performances in training sessions.
It was with the 3-0 loss to Perth last week that Verbeek started to up the ante, hinting that he didn’t think that some of his players were A-League quality. He was particularly scathing of Ryan Kitto, singling him out after a mistake from the left back led to the Glory scoring. This coincided with Verbeek dropping Kitto for the Original Rivalry.
Speaking ahead of the Melbourne Victory game, Verbeek also spoke of the morale of the playing group. The Dutchman said: “I have never met a team who is losing four games in a row that are happy… If they are happy, I kick some ass after four losses.”
It’s this supposed ‘my way or the highway’ attitude that has sparked rumours of potential rifts within the Adelaide dressing room, and poor results have put Gertjan Verbeek under pressure for his job – something unthinkable in Round 7 when the Reds were third on the ladder.
Verbeek’s arrogance hasn’t just been limited to media appearances, either.
Three players – Carlo Armiento, Vince Lia and Daniel Margush – have been released from their contracts by the Reds since December, with more players potentially leaving the club.
You could make the case, however, that Verbeek didn’t have the chance to get rid of players he didn’t think would fit the system. The only player to leave before the current window was talismanic winger Craig Goodwin, who had his low release clause activated by Al Wehda, something Adelaide could do nothing about.
There is also the argument that Verbeek simply isn’t arrogant at all. He’s brought a new, exciting, total football-esque playing style to the City of Churches.
Although this style has been found out and its flaws have been exploited by rival teams in recent weeks, it worked with devastating effect at the start of the season.
Verbeek has also brought a lot of players into the team. One of the reasons the Adelaide board decided not to renew Marco Kurz’s contract at the end of last season was because the German didn’t use the youth system enough, picking the same core of players with youngsters rarely making the bench, let alone getting minutes.
Under the Dutchman, however, the youth system seems to have had new life breathed into it. Within the space of a few FFA Cup games, Al Hassan Toure and Louis D’Arrigo became regular A-League starters at the ages of 20 and 19 respectively.
Verbeek has also used Lachlan Brook, Nathan Konstandopoulos and George Blackwood regularly, with each of those three players under the age of 25 and only Blackwood not coming from Adelaide. With the arrivals of Riley McGree, Kristian Opseth and James Troisi, the average age of Adelaide’s squad is just 24, showing the trust Verbeek has in the younger players.
Whether you hate his arrogance or love his brutal honesty, you can’t argue that Gertjan Verbeek has added a personality that the A-League hasn’t often seen before.