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  • Adelaide United coach Guillermo Amor (AAP)Source: AAP
The reigning A-League champions have gotten off to a horrific start to the season, but what have been the biggest issues, writes Luke Sicari.
By
Luke Sicari

9 Nov 2016 - 8:04 AM  UPDATED 9 Nov 2016 - 8:04 AM

In a way, many could foresee a drop-off from Adelaide United.  

A number of key members from the 2015-16 championship winning squad, such as promising youngster Stefan Mauk, the electric duo of Bruce Djite and Bruce Kamau, the always-reliable Craig Goodwin and Grand Final goal scorer Pablo Sanchez departed the club.

This instantly made Adelaide’s title defence a tougher task than usual, but even the biggest United doubter couldn’t have predicated they would be sitting last on the table with no wins after five rounds.  

Not only did Adelaide enter the season with a totally different squad, but the injury bug has bitten them, too. United has players like Sergio Cirio, Henrique, Michael Marrone and spark plug Danny Choi on the inactive list, meaning manager Guillermo Amor has had to roll out make-shift line-ups all season.

The Reds should feel hard done by. The offseason departures were inevitable, as every A-League team undergoes personnel makeovers annually. The injuries Adelaide have dealt with, though, is simply bad luck and makes United one of the most vulnerable sides in the competition. 

The Central Coast Mariners took advantage of this, as they recorded their first victory over Adelaide on the weekend. Additionally, two of Adelaide’s defeats have been cruel, as the Western Sydney Wanderers beat them via a 91st minute Brendon Santalab goal, and Melbourne Victory recorded a 2-1 win over the Reds thanks to a 93rd minute Marco Rojas goal.

Fortune hasn’t been on Adelaide’s side. However, the Reds haven’t done much to get luck on their side, as Amor’s squad haven’t been able to capitalise on their ball dominance.

Amor’s philosophy is based on a strong defence and controlling the football in the midfield, with numerous attacking options. Of course, circumstances haven’t given Amor all of his attacking weapons, but United have still only kicked five goals this season, second-last in the competition.

This isn’t because they aren’t dominating the midfield battle. Across their five outings, Adelaide is averaging 53.4 percent of possession per game, winning the possession battle in four matches (the fifth was a 50-50 tie with Melbourne City).        

Isaias is still Adelaide’s focal point in the middle, and he is generating chances, but poor finishing in front of the onion bag has proven costly.

Defensively, Adelaide is a shadow of the team that conceded the fewest goals (28) and kept the most clean sheets (12) last season. United has given up nine goals through five games, the second-worst ratio in the league.

When breaking down the factors involved in Adelaide’s season to this point, such as injuries, wasted chances in front of goal and a softened defence, it’s understandable why Amor’s men are last. Those attributes aren’t conducive to winning football.  

Let’s not forget, though, that the Reds started last season without a win in the first eight rounds, so this is a situation that they’ve been in before. This fact provides some slight hope, but with an almost unrecognizable squad, history doesn’t seem likely to repeat itself.