Monday, 3 October 2011

Adelaide United 2011-12 Season Preview

A third of the way into last season, Rini Coolen was being hailed as one of the best managers to ever grace Australian shores. The team he inherited from Aurelio Vidmar was 10 games into what would become a record streak of 13 games unbeaten. The quintet of Lucas Pantelis, Travis Dodd, Matthew Leckie, Sergio van Dijk and of course the premiere trequartista, Marcos Flores, was tearing through opposition defences at will. To most commentators, it was a foregone conclusion that the Toilet Seat would finally go to Hindmarsh, after a half-decade absence of honours.

Of course, that didn't happen. Brisbane clicked into gear, and smashed that unbeaten record by doubling it. The 'title decider' between the Reds and the Roar became a 4-0 thrashing. Adelaide slipped into 3rd place as Central Coast overtook them as title challengers.

This off-season, Coolen has completely reshaped Adelaide, leaving barely any traces of the Vidmar era. Pantelis departed for Wellington. Long-serving captain Dodd left for Perth. No 10, Flores was tempted by the riches of China. Cornthwaite, Fyfe, Hughes and Reid; the defensive partnership and double pivot foundation on which that Adelaide squad was built, are all long gone, as is the exciting forward Matt Leckie.

Andy Slory
In their place is a squad brimming with speed and explopsive power; expect Adelaide to overwhelm opposition defences, rather than wear them down through patient passing. Coolen's new signings all possess impressive reputations, and there is quality and quantity in every department. Van Dijk, Djite, Ramsay, Vidosic and Slory are dangerous players, possessed of blistering pace and an eye for goal. Coolen will probably opt for his preferred 4-2-3-1, sitting two holders to protect the back-four, while letting his attacking quartet work the opposition. The departure of Flores probably means Slory will be deployed as an attacking midfielder, as Coolen favours an attacking trident behind a lone forward over a strike partnership. Van Dijk has the strongest claim to the No 9, so expect Djite to be converted to a narrow inside forward.

Crucially, Adelaide look equally strong in defence. Galekovic remains one of the better shot-stoppers in Australia, while a defensive pairing of McKain and Susak or Boogard could become reliably solid, if they can develop an understanding.

Danger Men: Cassio and Caravella. Cassio is one the best left-backs in the league, and his overlapping is crucial to Adelaide's build up play, while Caravella will probably be handed the keys to the midfield, and will be responsible for distributing the ball to the attacking-four.

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