26/02/2024

Daniel Arzani celebrating a goal during Macarthur's Australia Cup run. (Photo: Macarthur FC)

Daniel Arzani's Round Two performance only exacerbated Adelaide United's midfield struggles as Macarthur ran out 2-0 winners in south-west Sydney.

The Adelaide United story has become a predictable one, and it did not stray from the script in Campbelltown in 2022/23. The Reds dominated possession, but like their New Zealand outing the week before, they had little to show for it.

The midfield trio of Isaias, Louis D’Arrigo and George Blackwood is one that poses more questions than answers, especially when it comes to causing problems for the opposition in the final third of the field.

Isaias, once a premier midfielder of the league, is in the twilight of his career and searching for form. D’Arrigo burst onto the scene as one of the country’s most promising young defensive midfielders but has found himself playing higher up the field after the signing of Isaias and Juande. Meanwhile, George Blackwood is a squad player who plays where required, be it forward or midfield.

A disjointed midfield meant that the Reds felt more comfortable ushering the ball wide and crossing, a game plan that is becoming synonymous with Carl Veart’s side. Even though it has produced results in the past, there is a feeling that the Reds midfield is there to limit damage, not to win games of football.

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The Reds did produce opportunities, but they all came from similar situations, crosses from advanced wide areas and set pieces. Just like Wellington in Round 1, the Bulls seemed content to let the Reds attack that way, even at their own peril at times, because it is much less damaging than a direct approach.

That dangerous, direct approach was showcased by the hosts and their midfield duo of Daniel De Silva and Daniel Arzani, attacking players that symbolise everything that the Reds lack in that position.

After Isaias carelessly turned over the ball in the middle of the pitch halfway through the first half, De Silva received the ball and exploited the space available before releasing Arzani who opened the scoring with little fuss.

Arzani was at his brilliant best against the Reds, but it has not all been smooth sailing for the midfielder at Macarthur. In Round 1, Macarthur head coach Dwight Yorke raised eyebrows when he substituted the young star after only 60 minutes of action.

Yorke did not shy away from his decision, explaining post-match that he was unhappy with the midfielder’s defensive work. Come Round 2, Arzani was once again in the starting line-up, Yorke giving the midfielder another opportunity to improve his output on the side of the ball he is less involved in.

Arzani was not benched from the start because Yorke understands that the midfielder provides something that not all players do: an attacking instinct and skill that cannot simply be taught.

If that attacking quality was not evident in Macarthur’s first goal, then it certainly was when Arzani danced through Adelaide’s right side to put the ball on the platter for teammate Lachlan Rose, who sealed the points for the hosts.

Carl Veart faces a logjam in the defensive midfield position, but lacks an abundance of players that can consistently make an offensive difference in the middle of the park. This becomes even more evident when chief creator Zach Clough is unavailable.

Adelaide was unlucky not to grab a goal, finding the back of the net on three occasions, but having the potential goals ruled out for two offside calls and a foul. There comes a point where you have to help create your own luck.

Adelaide sets up to limit damage and aims to create chaos in the opposition’s box in hopes of snatching a goal before entering game management mode.

What Daniel Arzani displayed in comparison felt inevitable; he may have had luck on his side, but the only reason he did was because he played himself into positions where fortune could be kind to him.

The Reds have become reliant on late drama the past 12 months, and it is a credit to both Carl Veart and his charges that they keep getting the job done after falling behind.

It is now time for Adelaide to ensure it does not place itself in situations where it requires to be saved, and it all starts with the personnel selected in the middle of the park.

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