Graham Arnold will take an inexperienced Socceroos squad to face South Korea in next month’s friendly in Busan as preparations for 2022 World Cup qualifying ramp up.
I must admit to letting rip with a loud and aggressive curse word when I heard the diagnosis of Daniel Arzani’s knee injury on Tuesday.
The reaction was partly in consideration of Arzani’s emotions and the tragedy of seeing his foray into European football cut short before he had even struck a blow. However, there was also a more selfish motivation behind the expression of frustration.
When the 19-year-old went down just 22 minutes into his debut match for Celtic, Australia’s Asian Cup chances were first and foremost in my mind.
No doubt his treatment will be top notch, with parent club Manchester City keeping a close eye on his recovery. Celtic too, will access the best medical practitioners in Europe to put Arzani on the road to recovery as quickly as possible.
Sadly for the Socceroos, all that makes little difference to their Asian Cup defence. Graham Arnold was set to unleash Arzani on Asia, a new star was to be born and with it, Socceroo hopes would soar.
Instead, Arzani will be hobbling about while the boys travel to the U.A.E in their attempt to claim back-to-back titles.
Arzani has shown in only a few stifled and frantic appearances for the national team that he is the type of player for whom we have longed.
Putting aside some of the issues that arose on the left when the rookie and Socceroos left back Aziz Behich crowded each other in warm up matches prior to the World Cup, the Iranian born wonder kid definitely looked the goods.
His ability to run at defenders, audacity in shot selection and the power and speed that increases the tempo of a match when he finds the ball, are all x-factor qualities.
Of course, we had seen it before in 24 matches for Melbourne City and his fast tracked debut in the starting team under Warren Joyce.
However, when the world’s most powerful football organisation plucks a kid from AAMI Park at such a young age, it becomes clear that the A-League might not be the most appropriate platform for a potential star to showcase his talents to the world.
That show is yet to come and no doubt, Arzani will return as a 20 year-old amidst much hype and expectation around his ability to recover from such a serious injury so early in his career.
For now, Graham Arnold and fans of the Socceroos, will have to bide their time and wait for his return, with the more pressing issue of an appropriate replacement now on the agenda.
As disappointed as the national coach will be, he must also have enjoyed Craig Goodwin’s goals on Sunday afternoon, as he watched on at Central Coast Stadium.
In one of the greatest weeks in the history of the Adelaide United football club, it rebounded from the emotional high of the FFA Cup victory against Sydney FC and secured its first win of the A-League season against the Mariners just five days later.
Amidst the euphoria of the cup victory and the dominating league performance, Goodwin managed four goals. Far from tap-ins, they were quality efforts and the two strikes that put Sydney FC to the sword were particularly impressive.
I played as a right back for the entirety of my rather cumbersome career and never once found the net in a competitive game. I didn’t need four in a week, just one in a lifetime would have done. But I’m not bitter.
Goodwin’s four in five days evokes immense jealousy but also displays a fit, hungry and aggressive player enjoying his time back in his home town.
Still only 26, Goodwin doesn’t return to Australia after the all too common ‘unfortunate time abroad’ that plagues many Australian players. He managed six goals in 47 matches for Sparta Rotterdam yet returned to Adelaide as opportunities appeared to be drying up in Holland.
Whilst not the perfect ending to his time at Sparta, at least Goodwin was playing football and the early signs suggest that he has indeed returned a better player.
Arnold will have him well and truly in his viewfinder when it comes to the squad that he will eventually assemble and take to the Emirates in January.
He will not be the only A-League talent around whom Arnold will be asking questions. This season has confirmed the potential of Goodwin’s team mate Jordan Elsey. The 24 year-old has taken another step forward already this campaign, under the tutelage of Michael Jakobsen.
Brandon O’Neill has also staked a claim for consideration in Arnold’s future plans. Already capped at Olyroo level, the Perth-born O’Neill is building an impressive resume in the harbour city and starting to push strongly for representative duty.
Also playing well is the Victory’s Thomas Deng and he looks more mature and composed at the back after making his debut for the Socceroos against Kuwait in October.
The coach will also be keeping a keen eye on Adam Taggart up in Brisbane, knowing full well that the striker can convert as clinically as any Australian when in top form.
No doubt Arnold thumped his toe into the dirt when the news of Arzani’s injury filtered through, yet as the old saying goes, life does indeed go on.
There is still a pretty decent Socceroo squad to be put together with numerous domestic options to be considered alongside our international stars such as Tom Rogic, Mathew Ryan and Aaron Mooy.
Selecting a squad to take on the best in Asia is Arnold’s number one priority right now, with or without Daniel Arzani.