With a catalogue of departures and arrivals occurring at Coopers Stadium during the winter, reigning champions Adelaide United will enter the new season largely an unknown quantity with boss Guillermo Amor hoping to repeat the success of last campaign.
Who can forget the Reds’ astonishing ascent up the table last term? After spending the first two months winless and rooted to the foot of the table, Adelaide accomplished the impossible. Under the tutelage of Amor, the team went on to complete an historic Premiership and Championship double, the latter which culminated in a 3-1 victory against the Western Sydney Wanderers in front of 50,000 at Adelaide Oval.
With the title winning side rather decimated over the offseason, the club had the arduous task of searching for suitable replacements. It was never going to be easy to retain the services of key personnel, with the club making it clear they would not stand in the way of players seeking a move abroad. However, the acquisitions of Sergi Guardiola, Henrique and in particular the capture of James Holland leaves Adelaide in a much better position than initially feared.
Guardiola could be one of the signings of the season if clinical in front of goal. James Holland offers resolve to the midfield, while Henrique is potent in and around the box and can also have a massive impact of the bench. The club also boast a core group of players with experience such as Isaias, Dylan McGowan, Marcelo Carrusca, Eugene Galekovic and Tarek Elrich, in order to maintain their possession-based philosophy.
A total of five players including Bruce Kamau, Craig Goodwin, Pablo Sanchez, Stefan Mauk and Bruce Djite – all involved in the A-League grand final – left the Reds. While some of the voids have been filled, it will take time to gel as a team given the plethora of changes.
The Reds appear to be lacking in defensive cover, compounded by the season ending knee injury to Jordan Elsey. Iacopo La Rocca may also miss the start to the campaign, while Michael Marrone continues his recovery from a ruptured Achilles.
Best XI (4-3-3)
Predicted finish – 5th
Amor will have to quickly find the right balance in his team with several new faces in the squad. It may take some time to adapt, testament of Adelaide’s position after the club’s infamous start last year. The depth of the squad will likely be tested given the travel exertions of partaking in the AFC Champions League in February. However, it could translate into more playing time for the younger contingent within the squad such as Marc Marino, Jesse Makarounas, Ryan Kitto and Nikola Mileusnic.
To use history as a precedent, teams usually struggle in juggling both competitions and as a consequence, form in either the A-League or Champions League may suffer. Nevertheless, the Reds can still be confident of a top six berth even with a few growing pains and that both Melbourne and Sydney clubs have strengthened along with Perth Glory and Brisbane Roar. But following the unprecedented events of the previous campaign, anything is possible.