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.
It’s been a positive, if not inconsistent start for Gertjan Verbeek’s tenure at Adelaide United. That being said, however, there is still plenty of room for improvement.
While Verbeek has brought some scintillating football to Hindmarsh at times, his United side has looked lacklustre, uninterested and lazy several times throughout the campaign.
That being said, here are three ways Adelaide United can improve and become a potential title challenger next season.
1. Fix the defence
The main problem for Adelaide this season has been undoubtedly their defence. While Verbeek wants to play attacking football, having a solid defence is the key to not getting exposed.
Individually, there are some good players such as Micheal Jakobsen, Jordan Elsey and Micheal Maria, but collectively, the defence has been caught napping many times this season.
The Reds are third for goals conceded and have only kept three clean sheets this season. It’s not just the numbers where Adelaide have looked defensively sloppy, either.
They have been allowing opposition attackers to breeze past and have conceded several goals that have come from either silly mistakes, poor defending or a lack of concentration. Making the defence more watertight, either with better coaching or improved personnel has to be a priority for the Adelaide coaching staff.
2. Find a goalscoring striker
For a long time, Adelaide has looked to one person to score their goals. Except it hasn’t been their designated striker.
This season, the goals have been spread across the team. However, the major scoring outlets have been Ben Halloran and Riley McGree, with the pair scoring just under fifty per cent of Adelaide’s goals this season.
Norweigan striker Kristan Opseth only has two this season, but has done well in off the ball work and hold up play.
If either one of the Toure Brothers or another player can step up and become a ten-to-fifteen-goal-a-season striker to accompany United’s other attacking talents, the Reds could be in business.
3. Keep hold of key players
Adelaide has recently become a breeding ground for talented youngsters. However, it has been keeping them that has become the problem of late.
As Adelaide can’t compete with the wages bigger clubs can offer, the side has lost several key players to overseas or bigger A-League clubs.
This trend continued last season, with the loss of key winger Craig Goodwin and inspirational captain Isaias to Saudi Arabia and Qatar respectively.
To counteract this, smart signings have to be brought in with the very real possibility of losing them within a year.
Re-signing Halloran is step one to bucking this trend.
4. Trust in the youth
One of the biggest positives from the arrivals of Verbeek and assistant coach Carl Veart have been the trust they have placed in local and youthful players.
McGree, Louis D’Arrigo and the Toures are all under twenty-one but are key members of the Adelaide side. As players such as Jakobsen, Mirko Boland, Micheal Marrone and James Troisi all start to age out, younger, local players are there to take their places.
This new-found trust in the youth system was nowhere to be found under Marco Kurz, but has certainly paid dividends under Verbeek.