Thursday, August 03, 2006

Arnold's catch 22

SO the 22 man locally based train on squad has been named ahead of the upcoming Asian cup qualifier with Kuwait, Graham Arnold blending youth with experience in his first independent selection as Socceroos boss. It will be trimmed down to 18 after a training camp in Melbourne next week.

His hands tied by the fact the match doesn’t fall on an international date, Arnold was unable to draw on any European based players, choosing only three players from the 23-man world cup squad (Archie Thompson, Mark Milligan and Stan Lazaridis), meaning that unless he can convince a couple of his European stars between now and the official squad announcement, the team that takes the field on August 16 will essentially be a third string Socceroos outfit, at best.

Whether a locally-based team is strong enough to do the job against Kuwait will be fascinating to observe, but Arnold has given himself what he believes is the best hope, drafting in three experienced internationals – Kevin Muscat, Lazaridis and Steve Corica - to compliment some of the form players from last season’s inaugural A-League.

Whether they are the form players at the moment, only time will tell, but an intense familiarisation camp from Monday to Thursday will give Arnold an opportunity to assess the form. For many of the younger names, it is an opportunity to impress and build a national career towards 2010.

If they don’t take their chance, Arnold may have to beg and plead a couple of the established names. By not committing to naming his final squad, he might just have a last minute opportunity to convince an overseas based player or two.

Interestingly, the official FFA release notes that the 22 man train on squad is “expected to form the nucleus of the squad that will take on Kuwait”. Clearly there is scope to move.

In the meantime, Arnold has stuck with some familiar faces, drafting in the local-based players that not only went to Germany but those who were a part of the last Asian adventure in Bahrain (the likes of Alvin Ceccoli, Mike Valkanis, Jade North, Spase Dilevski and David Carney), part of some recent Socceroo camps under Guus Hiddink (Sasho Petrovski, Kristian Sarkies, Adrian Leijer, Stuart Musialik and Danny Vukovic), members of past Socceroo teams (Muscat, Corica, Alex Brosque, Joel Griffiths and Clint Bolton) and some A-Leaguers who did well in the inaugural season and in this pre-season (Travis Dodd, Matt McKay, Iain Fyfe and the bolter Mark Bridge).

Certainly there has been a degree of convincing behind the selections, particularly towards Muscat and Lazaridis, thought to have played their last games in green and gold. Both needed reassurance, but in a squad lacking know-how at this level, they have a vital role to play.

If, as Arnold noted earlier this week, his squad would be filled more with experience than youth, it is surprising not to find three Adelaide players among the list – Angelo Costanzo, Ross Aloisi and Carl Veart. Ditto last season’s player’s player Bobby Despotovski. If you take what was seemingly one of the criteria’s for selection – last season’s form – all four have a strong case.

Certainly Costanzo or Aloisi could fill the holding role in midfield, a position that appears light-on in this squad. Although Muscat is currently playing their, only Musialik is a natural in that area, meaning their might be room for Arnold to draft in an experienced player like Vince Grella, particularly now that the start of the Serie A has been shifted back a fortnight.

The likes of Brosque, McKay, Dodd, Griffiths, Milligan, Corica, North, Carney, Thompson and Sarkies certainly fit the Hiddink template – nimble, mobile and adaptable, but there are other players whose form last season warrants consideration, including the Central Coast’s Alex Wilkinson and Noel Spencer.

If timing is everything, then injury has certainly denied the likes of Tom Pondeljak, Ante Milicic, Simon Colosimo, John Hutchinson, Richard Johnson, Lucas Pantelis, Nick Mrdja and Andrew Durante time to impress. None of these names should be forgotten.

Little doubt it has been a difficult unit for Arnold to assemble, but for so many it is an opportunity they shouldn’t let slip. Whether they’re up to the standard we’ll soon find out.

Discounting for now the potential that others may be drafted into the final 18, here’s an 11 from the 22, in 3-4-3; Bolton; Muscat, Milligan, Ceccoli; Dilevski, Musialik, Corica, Lazaridis; Thompson, Petrovski, Brosque. Reserves; Vukovic, North, Valkanis, McKay, Dodd, Carney, Griffiths.


Blogger Mike Salter said...

Like the look of your line-up Tony, about the best you could get out of that squad.

FWIW, I reckon there are a couple of glaring omissions and a general lack of balance to the squad:

And for mine, if they're taking this match seriously they should definitely try to get Grella (not necessarily Bresc as the squad is packed with attacking midfielders anyway and Bresc is establishing himself at a new club), given this squad's lack of defensive midfielders.

Wonder if the FFA is making any movement on this now that the Serie A has been pushed back. Wonder if there's any way of finding out?

Thu. Aug. 03, 07:25:00 pm AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Thanks for the comment Mike, have read your piece, nice work....

Agree about the lack of balance in the midfield, it is definitely top-heavy with attacking minded players, which is why Musialik was the only real option for me in the deep midfield role. McKay can also play box to box, but he's more a driving midfielder than someone who sits.

Muscat is an unknown quantity as an anchor in the A-league let alone at international level, and I'm not entirely convinced about defenders playing in midfield.

I have to say that Costanzo has probably been the best of the locals at adapting to the change from defence, but he's been doing it (on and off) for a while now, since Eddie Krncevic introduced him to midfield at Marconi in 2001.

If there's no Grella or any specialist o/s player available, Costanzo or Spencer would have been perfect, offering experience and quality.

Musialik has plenty of potential, and if it's he who lines up on August 16, here's hoping he grabs the opportunity.

I'm looking forward to seeing who does.

Fri. Aug. 04, 02:06:00 pm AEST  
Blogger Mike Salter said...

Yeah, ditto. Good to read Lucas Neill's comments today to the effect that most of the first-teamers will be available for the Bahrain game (which is heartening).

I still wonder whether the FFA will feel inclined to make a late grab for Grella. I do rate Musialik (for me he was the U20's best player in that youth WC early last year), but he's not of the calibre of either Costanzo or Spencer, I'd say, let alone Grella.

Fri. Aug. 04, 03:38:00 pm AEST  
Blogger Hamish said...

As I've said before I love your blog Tony, and also yours Mike.

But the two of you in a dialogue like this is a special treat. Can I encourage you to do more of it? This is where blogging, with good quality voices (I should add James as well) is better than journalism by a long shot. There is always a different nuance in football, as in life.

The three of you, in my opinion, should never hesitate in these dialogues to link back to your own comments on your own blogs.

It would also be good Tony if you linked at least Mike's and James' blog (leave the amateurs out by all means). In effect a reader gets a single, multi-layered football site of a very high quality indeed.

Tony, as I did with Mike's, I'm in the process of reading your entire blog, with wikipedia (metaphorically) by my side. The latter has an apparently exhaustive range of articles on teams, players, coaches and managers, which I find extremely useful.

I'll get to doing James' blog more completely as well, after which I'll probably have to write a Part 2 to my Bloggery Review. From next week I have a job however, which will doubtlessly slow me down.

Thanks to all of you, once again.

Wed. Oct. 11, 11:02:00 am AEST  

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