A series of tough decisions that Ange Postecoglou will undoubtedly get wrong

Stuart Thomas Columnist

By , Stuart Thomas is a Roar Expert

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    When the itinerary and timeline was announced last week for the Socceroos trip to Honduras, many were surprised.

    Spending four full days in San Pedro Sula leading up to the match is apparently rife with danger. Local pundits have cited the past history of teams vacating the city to avoid the media circus that can erupt.

    To suggest the Honduran supporters can get a little worked up in the lead in to big matches is an understatement and distractions to the most important camp in the entire campaign are something that the Socceroos cannot afford.

    No doubt, the manager, the FFA and senior players would have been consulted and something of a collective agreement reached, however, Ange Postecoglou would have had significant impact upon the decision.

    If recent history is any guide, whichever way he chooses to prepare and how he sees best fit to steer the national team into this game, his decisions will be questioned, second guessed and perceived by many, as flat out wrong.

    Such is the fickle current relationship between the passionate supporter base of the Socceroos and the manager for whom trust and love has slowly waned over the last twelve months.

    Life can be very much about trust in relationships and getting the runs on the board. Those runs or credit subsequently excuse imperfection in future decisions or actions.

    Unfortunately for Postecoglou, the public feel that any credit has well and truly dried up and no matter what decisions he makes in the next fortnight, he should expect a barrage.

    He is no fool and will be prepared for what comes his way, however, being prepared is one thing, engaging in debate is another.

    And that has been a significant part of the backlash that has come his way in recent times.

    The concerns pertaining to selection, structure and preparation have been laid before him yet his willingness and ability to deal with the concerns in a calm and measured manner has been lacking.

    A series of decisions now face the manager leading into the away leg and the calls he makes must be entirely based on that game alone.

    I can’t see any logic in resting, nursing or saving anyone or anything for the home fixture.

    If Tim Cahill is in the manager’s plans for game one, he must play and play for as long as required.

    Potentially not able to play both matches, Postecoglou will face the music if Cahill’s absence in the second leg is costly. However he approaches the decision, it’s hard seeing him avoid intense second guessing and criticism.

    The fans wanted blood after watching Robbie Kruse battle on the left side with something of an ineffective left foot against Syria. In something of an irony, it was eventually a Kruse pass which set Cahill up for the decisive header.

    Robbie Kruse (right) of Australia. (AAP Image/Mark Dadswell)

    (AAP Image/Mark Dadswell)

    The Socceroos’ impotence down that side has been a concern throughout the campaign. Postecoglou has played Kruse more often than not and without Brad Smith, must decide whether to venture down that path again.

    Despite Kruse and Matthew Leckie playing well in their domestic leagues, their impact and returns against teams that the Socceroos should deal with more clinically, is still an issue.

    Leckie was better in Sydney against Syria and did work hard on the right, delivering the first goal to Cahill on a platter, however, therein lies the problem.

    That same name keeps cropping up and until statisticians are able to pen in Tomi Juric, James Troisi and Tom Rogic on the scoresheet more often, the team will be stuck in that grey space between the cameo performances that save our bacon and the scary prospect of life after Tim.

    Aaron Mooy’s start from the bench is Sydney sent social media into a spin and the unfortunate injury to Brad Smith stopped my device from exploding, as fans sought out a reason for our golden boy sitting comfortably in a tracksuit.

    How Postecoglou approaches the eleven and the role that Mooy plays within it will be crucial.

    In simple terms, the Socceroos looked in each other’s way at times and despite the Syrians defending gallantly and having considerable numbers behind the ball, they did push hard on the counter.

    As a result there were holes galore for the Aussies to exploit, yet once again the speed of ball movement was inadequate and the clunky nature of the attack moving forward just didn’t seem right.

    Personally, I see the Mooy, Rogic issue as the most significant one for the manager. To me it is those two men, both looking to possess and distribute who seem to be sharing something that each wants to make their own.

    Unfortunately for Postecoglou, whether he starts with one or both, he will be hounded for his poor choice.

    Despite the importance of that decision and the impossibility of pleasing us all with his selections, the defensive structure and the men selected to combat the Honduran attack will be highly contentious.

    Mark Milligan was a little unfortunate with his error in Sydney and that is football to some degree. There is no such thing as a perfect defence that remains impenetrable. However, the Socceroos have been leaky at the back, tense, nervous, slow at times and haven’t filled the hearts of supporters with confidence or certainty.

    Ange Postecoglou Football Australia Socceroos 2017

    (AAP Image/Matt Roberts)

    The ironic cheers of a back four taking to the pitch in San Pedro Sula would be hilarious to many and not something that Postecoglou would ever concede at this point. Potentially, persisting with his methods gives us the best chance of success.

    There were moments during the Confederations Cup where initial doubters of the more aggressive set-up, designed to construct a Socceroos defence that could compete with the best of the best, may have doubted their instincts.

    However, as the qualifying campaign has continued, their gut feeling has proven correct and the Socceroos have looked sloppy.

    It appears most likely that Trent Sainsbury, Milos Degenek and Matthew Jurman will be the men once more for the Australians, all good pros and giving everything for their country.

    Sadly, the manager could throw Stuart Thomas, Nick Kyrgios and Semi Radradra in there and probably cop the same amount of criticism.

    The Australians will face four torrid days of pressure in the build-up, the manager will sit for hours attempting to formulate a plan to bust open the Honduran defence and find the perfect eleven capable of completing the test.

    Oh, to be a fly on the wall as those decisions are made, the inner sanctum for these matches would be an extraordinary place to be.

    Being at the heart of the decision making process at a potentially historic moment for Australian football is a privilege.

    A privilege that the manager will experience again this week. Unfortunately, whatever direction he chooses or decisions he makes, they will be wrong.

    Stuart Thomas
    Stuart Thomas

    Stuart Thomas is a sports writer and educator who made the jump from Roar Guru to Expert in 2017. An ex-trainee professional golfer, his sporting passions are broad with particular interests in football, AFL and rugby league. His love of sport is only matched by his passion for gardening and self-sustainability. Follow him on Twitter @stuartthomas72.