As we approach the mid-point of season nine of the Hyundai A-League, we take a look at how the teams are progressing.
After a rough start, Josep Gombau's project at Adelaide United has taken off and their toppling of top-of-the-table Brisbane Roar on the weekend, shows that they are a force to reckoned with.
Adelaide United sit eighth on the Hyundai A-League table after 14 matches, but they have kicked clear of Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Heart, after early indications that Adelaide would keep them in good company.
Josep Gombau came to Adelaide with the aim of revamping their playing style and his background as a FC Barcelona youth and academy coach saw him bring a whole new brand of football with him.
Sergio Cirio and Isaias arrived with Gombau and have done their part in implementing the coach's philosophy. It is easy to see where Gombau was schooled and Adelaide immediately set to work on a short, sharp, possession based style of football.
An opening round 3-1 win over Perth Glory was a false start though, as eight matches without a win followed.
The drought was broken in Round 10 in sensational fashion, as Adelaide thrashed Central Coast Mariners at Coopers Stadium. Bruce Djite, Fabio Ferreira, Jeronimo Neumann and Cirio were all on the scoresheet.
That result was the first in an ongoing run of five matches unbeaten, culminating in their late smash-and-grab win over Brisbane Roar on the weekend. How times change.
Adelaide now sit just four points behind the third placed Mariners and their confidence is high. Gombau, to his credit, has adjusted slightly rather than sticking dogmatically to the short-passing game that he introduced.
As a result, their defence is tighter and they are caught out less trying to play out. Their improved acumen has coincided with their upturn in form and they are now serious contenders for the finals.
STAR MAN: Sergio Cirio
The Spanish attacker has been a revelation since following Gombau to Adelaide United. His speed of thought and deft feet have been a joy to watch over the first half and he has scored thrice, third behind Jeronimo (five goals) and Ferreira (four goals)for the club.
Cirio's passing accuracy of 81.2% is outstanding for a player in an attacking position and he has a happy knack of laying on chances for Jeronimo, Djite and Carrusca.
His combinations with those three, and the rock-solid Isaias are key to Adelaide kicking on in the second half of the season.
COACH'S REPORT: Josep Gombau
Gombau's initial stubbornness has given way to a degree of pragmatism and he freely admitted that their performance in the win over Brisbane "wasn't the best".
Importantly, Gombau seems to have struck the balance between pretty football and winning football, as five unbeaten matches in a row suggests.
He will try and marry the winning football to the pretty football more regularly in the second half of the season, but so far the signs are good.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not reflect those of Football Federation Australia.