Saturday, February 21, 2009

After the rocket it was back to foundations

Preliminary final wrap, AU 1 - QR 0

AFTER all the drama of the last week, the big questions leading into this crucial game were around how Adelaide would respond, both mentally and strategically.

The team we saw over the past fortnight, smashed by Melbourne, looked like it simply didn't want to be there. Unhappy.


At the final whistle last week it looked for all a Melbourne-Roar grand final. Vidmar's rant shifted things, forcing a heart-to-heart between the club and the players, clearing a few gripes (at least for now), and suddenly all the talk was about everyone being back on the same page.

The proof of course would be in the actions on the field tonight.


One way to often gauge the mood of this Adelaide unit is to listen closely to the the pre-match tone of their skipper. It tells much.

Throughout the ACL he was upbeat. Shortly afterwards his tone was tired and lethargic, and his team's performance followed that mood. Against Melbourne, ahead of the major semi second leg, you had no doubt from listening to Dodd speak to Fox in the pre-match that Adelaide had no hope.

Tonight the quietly confident tone was back. Mentally, Adelaide seemed happy again. They were up for it.


Now for the strategy.


For much of the season Adelaide had built it's success on a simple format; 4-2-3-1, defend deep, compete in midfield with three busy central men, keep the ball when you win it and counter swiftly when the opportunities present. Foundation first, attack to follow.

In recent times they had gone away from that template, playing a far more open game. It often comprised of only one holder, Reid, at times in a 4-4-2, with only two central midfielders. Against Melbourne it proved a disaster, with Reid and Pantelis powerless to deal with the movement of Hernandez, Ward, Allsopp, Thompson and Pondeljak. There were holes everywhere, and Hernandez had a field day.

Other times, when Vidmar has played three in central midfield, it's been Reid deep, Barbiero in the half-and-half role and Pantelis as the attacking central midfielder. The emphasis has been on attack, and it hasn't looked balanced.

Here it was return to the more defensive template of the first half of the season, with Salley adding muscle in midfield, Reid playing alongside him and Barbiero playing in the attacking role.

Elsewhere Pantelis was deployed in his rightful place on the flank, while Dodd was restored wide-right.

All three central men were very good, helping suffocate McKay and Murdocca. There was still a little too much space for Nichols, whose mobility, strength and game-sense troubled Adelaide. Nichols had most of the Roar's chances and should learn from a rare off night in front of goal.

Salley in particular was very strong. Interestingly, while most, including me, expected him to sit in the hole, in front of his back four, Salley was often found higher up the midfield. The objective was clear; get in McKay and Murdocca's face. It worked a treat.

The other keys to controlling Queensland were in defence, where Mullen did an outstanding job on Zullo, rarely allowing him to get in behind, while Ognenovski and Cornthwaite took turns in controlling van Dijk. Jamieson had it all over Cernak and was back to his marauding best.

The defensive platform set, the mood back, Adelaide looked like the organised side that had blunted so many sides in Australia and beyond. Barbiero's bomb was enough, despite relying on some good fortune after the late injection of Miller.

As for Queensland, they had most of the better chances and will be guttered not have have made Asia, a place that suits their ambitions (and geography) perhaps more than most.

Adelaide, having finally shaken the finals monkey, can now plan to try and finally get one over Melbourne. Strategically, now that their nullifying template is back, they have a chance, but Vidmar's biggest challenge this week will undoubtedly be the mental side.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Ed Vegas said...

nice wrap Tony, such a pitty I recon, not that I am at all bias...

Using Salley was a masterstroke, I remember how effective he was against M&M in Adelaides 1-0 win at suncorp in the third round.

Still I was convinced the Roar would come back right until the final whistle. Proper heartache.

Think the most disapointing thing for non-roars must be the crowd.

Sun. Feb. 22, 04:22:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous sir alex said...

Another GF loss coming up for Adelaide. Mentally the Victory have it all over them, and I cant see it changing in the near future. Look for another blowout.

Mon. Feb. 23, 04:08:00 am AEDT  
Blogger Bill said...

Great article Tony. Right from the start Adelaide looked a different side from last week.

I think Salley will be crucial against Melbourne: he is the one player with the potential to nullify Hernandez.

Mon. Feb. 23, 09:17:00 am AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Commiserations ed, congratulations bill, and thanks both for the kind words.

…Using Salley was a masterstroke, I remember how effective he was against M&M in Adelaides 1-0 win at suncorp in the third round…

Agree, great game from Jonas, despite the error that almost lead to a nichols headed goal.

…Still I was convinced the Roar would come back right until the final whistle. Proper heartache…

Like you I thought they had a chance till the end, esp. with Miller putting himself about.

…Think the most disapointing thing for non-roars must be the crowd…

Too true. Price no doubt played a role, but viddy’s comments surely must have.

…I think Salley will be crucial against Melbourne: he is the one player with the potential to nullify Hernandez…

Bill, I’ve no doubt he’ll start, but it will need to be a collective effort against the very mobile victory front third. if the attitude is right, and they believe, they have a chance.

…Another GF loss coming up for Adelaide. Mentally the Victory have it all over them, and I cant see it changing in the near future. Look for another blowout…

Big call sir alex, agree mv have the mental edge, but vidmar can be clever and continue to emphasis this underdog aspect throughout the week, all the while instilling belief in his men.

Should be another fascinating week of mind games.

Mon. Feb. 23, 08:55:00 pm AEDT  

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