Josep Gombau has never been one to take the easy road and he loves a challenge. The Spaniard left his role in the renowned FC Barcelona youth setup to take the reins at little known Kitchee SC in Hong Kong’s top division. Under the guidance of Gombau, Kitchee picked up five trophies in four seasons including a domestic treble in the 2011/12 season. The project at Kitchee was complete and it was time for a new challenge.
The Catalonian-born Gombau was then appointed at Adelaide United, the sixth coach in three years after a turbulent period at the club. It was and is a club with enormous potential, but one that had been undermined by instability and outside influences. In other words, it was the perfect place for Gombau’s next project. I sat down with Josep to find out about what the future holds and how he has settled into life at Adelaide United.
Gombau knew there would be plenty of work required to turn the Reds into a force in the A-League, but he was pleasantly surprised by the quality within the squad at United, and across the league.
“Yes, honestly even higher,” he said when asked if the strength of the competition was what he expected. He added that the league was as good off the field as on it.
“I am so satisfied with the competition, in all the aspects…What you see on the field but also in arrangements, stadiums, the media, TV, everything is a very high level.”
Gombau’s recently extended his contract until 2017 and he feels he has found a home at United.
“I am so satisfied to stay here… I am a man that likes long term projects. I want to build things in the club, I want to create players, I want to work with the youth, I want to put in a style.”
Although Gombau’s extension was received well by most United fans, there were some who felt the situation was very similar to that of former Reds coach Rini Coolen. Gombau explained that when the club approached him, they explained they couldn’t offer a longer contract because of the Coolen saga.
“They told me that they cannot make more than two years contract, because of the position of the club, also because they had an experience before with another coach from a long term contract, and in that moment they don’t want to take that risk.”
Gombau said he accepted Adelaide’s hesitance wasn’t about him personally and he was still keen to demonstrate what he could bring.
“I accept to come…I understand I need to show first what I can do, and after that if both sides are happy, we can extend.”
Both sides were obviously quite happy with how the season progressed and Gombau now has security and the ability to continue to shape the club how he sees fit.
“I like the way that the club is running, I like the city, I like the fans, I like the environment, I am so comfortable with the players…We have three more years to work.”
Adelaide led the league with 45 goals but Gombau said that defence wasn’t the only area that needed improving.
“For me football is not attack or defence, football is something together…A team is a team and the team attack and defend together.”
Gombau suggested that speed of ball circulation was where his players needed to develop, and offered an insight into his attacking philosophy.
“We need to make the same movements but faster, this for me is where I am more concentrating…For me it’s better to win a game 4-3 than 1-0. We spend more time attacking because attacking and goals is what people like.”
Upon his arrival at United Gombau signed two of his fellow countrymen, winger Sergio Cirio and midfielder Isaías Sanchez. Adelaide’s five visa spots are currently filled for next season but Gombau said that Spain can be a good hunting ground for A-League clubs.
“We have the five foreign players under contract…Depending what need, of course there are a lot of players that now want to leave Spain because of the financial problems that there are in the country…It is hard to say what you can need in two year’s time or one year’s time.”
Gombau has mentioned in recent weeks that the next part of his style of play is to implement a 3-4-3 formation, and he suggested that the team would alter between the two depending on the type of opposition they were up against. Gombau also said that a shift in formation could also help his side to break down stubborn defences.
“At Barca we worked two styles, two systems. One is 1-4-3-3, one is 1-3-4-3…This depends how many strikers that they (the opposition) have…I want to work in 1-3-4-3 for these games were the other team just defends, they don’t allow us spaces.”
Gombau coached Kitchee in the AFC Cup, the second tier continental competition in Asia, and Adelaide has an exceptional record in Asia. He has embraced this and stressed the importance of United qualifying for the Asian Champions League next season.
“A lot, a lot, for everybody. For the club, for the players, for myself…You play in Asia you have another objective, you are travelling, you are playing strong games overseas, it’s a big experience for everyone…I think that this needs to be the objective for next season, to try to be qualified for this.”
When asked about replicating his success at Kitchee with Adelaide, Gombau said he was very confident that United would pick up silverware during his time at the helm.
“I am sure that after these three years we will win something.”
When reflecting on the season as a whole and what had been accomplished, Gombau brought up the atmosphere around the club, and how the team and fans have formed a relationship.
“We created a good environment inside the changing room, we are a family…For me what is more important is we created this environment with the fans and the team. From what I’ve heard and from what people told me at the club, for a long time this hasn’t happened and I feel that the people come the stadium and enjoy…If we make this attractive football and beautiful football for the people they want to come. If you go to a place and you enjoy it you want to come again.”
The full interview with Adelaide United coach Josep Gombau can be heard on next week’s episode of the Football Central ‘Extra’ podcast.