After Lucas Alcaraz was sacked following Granada’s home defeat to Valencia last weekend, it was something of a surprise to see Tony Adams thrown into the void at such a vital stage of the season.
The former Arsenal defender has worked as a consultant for club owner John Jiang’s DDMC company, both at Chinese club Chongqing Dangdai Lifan and more recently overseeing all things football with Granada, but has a huge task on his hands to turn around a team that look destined for the second division.
The Andalucian club have a recent history of squirming their way out of trouble, having found themselves bottom of La Liga last season with 25 games played. They had just 20 points to their name at that stage, but managed to close the campaign out in 16th having picked up 18 points from the last 39 to play for.
Survival is still possible this time around, but it remains unlikely with a seven-point gap to safety. Back in 2005, Mallorca found themselves 11 points adrift with seven games to play and somehow stayed up, but Adams rightly admits that his task will be considered as nothing short of a ‘miracle’ if he can pull it off.
“We’ve conceded 65 goals and I’m going to try and do my best not to concede another goal until the end of the season,” Adams said at his unveiling.
“I think we’re a bit soft and we’re going to be fighting. I’m going to try the best that I can do with my forty years of experience in football, trying to get this group to keep the ball out at one end, and stick it in the other.”
Three instances of horrific defending were to blame for Granada’s defeat to Valencia, with Sverrir Ingi Ingason substituted at centre-back after just 33 first-half minutes. The Icelandic defender lost Simone Zaza twice in quick succession to see his side concede two poor goals, ensuring that Granada’s defensive record now stands at two home clean sheets in 39 attempts.
Further poor defending allowed Santi Mina to fire home a third, as makeshift centre-back Uche, Matthieu Saunier and Dimitri Foulquier criminally failed to track their men inside the penalty box. It is going to be much tougher than just giving this group a good old-fashioned kick up the backside.
Where Granada do have potential, however, is in their front three. Their first-choice attack consists of Borussia Dortmund loanee Adrian Ramos, flying winger Mehdi Carcela and Manchester United-owned Andreas Pereira. Between them, they have 11 goals for the season and provide a spring-loaded counter-attack.
Ramos has two goals in eight starts as the focal point of the attack since his arrival in January. Carcela offers pace and drive from the right flank. Pereira is comfortable both out on the left and playing through the middle, and has become the heartbeat of the team’s offensive efforts at just 21 years of age.
Unafraid to run with the ball and drift in from out wide, but equally happy to get plenty of service in the middle of the park, Adams has a very flexible and tidy option at his disposal in the Man United loanee. Pereira is forward-thinking and keen to drive Granada upfield at any opportunity.
The Brazilian intelligently finds pockets of space to play in, and is never the type to stop to admire his own good work – he would rather reposition to give himself a chance of receiving the ball in a more threatening area. Beating players comes naturally, easily providing his side’s best weapon when breaking opposition lines.
If it is clean sheets that Adams is targeting between now and the end of the season, he might be hard-pressed to deliver. But providing sturdy foundations can unshackle a front three that has the pace and guile to exploit any gaps on the counter-attack. Granada have the quality to turn tight games, but not to triumph when they gift the opposition a 3-0 lead.
It has not been an unfamiliar sight to see Carcela haring down the right flank to have a goalscoring say in matters this season, nor has grown to be a surprise for Pereira to be Granada’s beacon of hope going forward.
Adams can point to his team’s goals conceded column with disgust as a former defender, but he must ensure that his forwards are given the necessary attention in his plans. They may prove to be Granada’s best hope of survival – and failure to recognise this will see the club descend from the top flight with a whimper.
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