It wasn’t that long ago that Matt McKay was the Socceroos permanent makeshift solution at left-back and there seemed no immediate specialist in sight. Now it’s the right side of Australia’s defence where the options appear barren.
The latest man to be brought into the fold is Perth Glory’s Josh Risdon, selected yesterday by Ange Postecoglou in the Roos squad to face Kyrgyzstan in Canberra on 12 November and Bangladesh in Dhaka five days later.
Since Luke Wilkshire was banished by Postecoglou as part of his initial regeneration of the squad at the back end of 2013 and first half of 2014, it’s fair to say that right fullback remains a work in progress.
You could probably say the same about the left side, but at least there Jason Davidson has often been Postecoglou’s first choice and has generally been the most consistent performer there, even if he toyed with the idea of Aziz Behich for a little while.
But it’s fair to argue that even Davidson is far from a sure selection, especially after a fairly abject performance from both sides of the Roos defence in Amman earlier this month.
Neither he nor right fullback Tarek Elrich covered themselves in glory in that match, often exposed in behind by a pacey Jordanian counter-attack plan that seemed to target a Socceroos weakness.
Davidson survives, for now, but not so Elrich, who makes makes way for fellow A-Leaguer Risdon.
While perhaps it’s a surprise selection given the up and down form of Perth Glory in the opening part of the season, it speaks more to the genuine lack of depth, and the manager’s search for answers, on that side.
Ivan Franjic looked to have cemented the spot in the early part of Postecoglou’s reign, but has had an unsettled time since initially leaving the A-League – whether that’s been through injury or struggling to settle in Russia.
Now back in the A-League at Melbourne City, he remains on the sidelines with a quad injury at least until December.
It means that Ryan McGowan, who replaced him when he was injured at the World Cup last year, is the most likely to get the starting spot in the next two qualifiers.
While he’s now getting 90 minutes at Dundee United in the Scottish Premier League, the defence he’s a part of has shipped nine goals in three games this month, including a 3-0 loss to Partick Thistle and a 5-0 loss to Tom Rogic’s Celtic on the weekend.
These are hardly the most convincing results.
Postecoglou shed some thought on the problem area yesterday: “Josh has been on our radar for a while now, he’s started the season well so we’ll bring him to see how he fits into the environment in a position we have been open in suggesting we need to create more depth.”
“His form’s been pretty good over the first few rounds. He plays in an area, fullback position, where I still think we’re a little light on in depth.”
Admitting he had yet to speak to Elrich, Postecoglou added: “Fullback is a position where we’re trying to create depth and we’ve given an opportunity to someone else, like he got one. We’re still tracking him and he’s still very much part of the extended squad.”
Look around the A-League and overseas and there’s aren’t a great deal of options at right back begging to be selected, or available.
Take, for example, two of the in-form right backs in the A-League, Daniel Georgievski and Storm Roux, both foreigners, even if the former was born and raised in western Sydney.
Even those that potentially might be, like Jason Geria, are currently being squeezed out of first team action by experience.
Sydney FC’s young left back Alex Gersbach is another example of this, currently having to bide his time as Rhyan Grant excels there.
At least it’s good to see the equally talented Michael Neill getting an opportunity at the Mariners ahead of Josh Rose.
Throw in Jackson Bandiera, currently doing well for the Joeys in Chile, Olyroos Scott Galloway and Brad Smith, and Melbourne Victory’s Dylan Murnane, and it’s good to see a few options waiting in the wings on the left, hopefully ready to push on and challenge the likes of Davidson, Behich and James Meredith in the coming years.
Apart from Geria, though, the right sided options look more barren. Go down to the Joeys and Jonathan Vakirtzis hasn’t always looked comfortable in Chile.
It’s certainly an area to watch in the coming 12 to 24 months.