Football 3 years ago

Djite injury a blessing in disguise

  • Djite injury a blessing in disguise

If Adelaide United is to do any damage this Finals Series they must be ruthless in the final third - an attribute which continues to elude them.

Potent strikers are a key commodity come finals time, and every A-League finalist has an indispensable target man, except Adelaide. The table servicing the A-League's attacking elite has risen substantially in value, and unfortunately Djite can't score a seat. But, that's not to say he doesn't belong at a table. Isaias and the A-League's engine room will happily offer a chair.

I'll admit, when Djite backed-up his round-one bullet with an excellent glancing header in round four, it looked as if he was ready to take that elusive "next step" - and the media hastily agreed. But as the season wore on, the goals dried up, and Djite embodied his former self.

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Djite has become ingrained in Adelaide's midfield structure. Externally, he is an effective leader and an affable ambassador of the game. Internally, he has a relentless desire to chase, harry and hold-up the ball - all attributes which typify his immense work-rate. These traits are testament of Djite's worth, but they do not reflect a consistent goalscorer. So, is Djite undermining the role of being a striker?

In Adelaide's final match of the season, The Reds were clinical in front of goal - a rare occurrence in a side accustomed to owning possession, but failing to affect the scoreboard. Despite Djite's usual toil and tussle, it will be the Berisha's, Burns' and Janko's that win your club a title, and unfortunately for Djite, there's no reward for effort. This could prove a definitive issue for Adelaide.

With Djite ruled out - for one week - with a groin injury,  it has opened the door for Pablo Sanchez and Miguel Palanca. I think most will agree, dropping Djite on form alone is a risky decision, hence Josep Gombau's persistence with him up front. But, an injury has forced his hand.

The Spanish pair know where to position themselves inside the area, and have an astute understanding of their midfield countrymen. Sanchez is skilful, intelligent and an accomplished finisher, but he is often wasted when placed out wide - this could be his chance to come inside. Palanca's first month at the club was unfulfilled as he took time to acclimatise to the A-League's style and physicality. But, even in a brief 10-minute stint off the bench, his incredible first touch and ball control was clear. Last week, Palanca had license to roam, and he was destructive when unopposed in between the lines. His goal was a lucid example of what Adelaide is lacking.

If Sanchez and Palanca can fire, it will also relieve the pressure on eccentric and unpredictable winger Awer Mabil. And Djite's imposing threat from the bench could be another silver lining. Adelaide's defence and midfield will take confidence from seeing their dominance confirmed where it matters, on the scoreboard.

Furthermore, if Adelaide can learn anything from their greatest rival Melbourne Victory, it would be to take risks. Adelaide has a tendency to play it safe and respect their game style. Style over substance can be a futile tactic, especially in the finals, therefore it's time to make goals paramount.

It is time for Adelaide's ambassadors of elegance to become ruthless risk-takers.

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