In the recent Socceroos campaigns in Russia and the UAE, it has become quite apparent the playing squad needs a serious shakeup, based around exciting young players at its core.
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Australian soccer fans would have cracked a wry smile on Monday morning upon hearing the news of Aaron Mooy’s double strike in the Premier League.
Mooy managed two long-range goals – one of them a curling free kick – for his team Huddersfield Town in their win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.
It’s a timely performance from Mooy, who hasn’t scored for the Terriers since December 2017, bringing his tally to six goals in 48 appearances in England’s top flight. His last goal for the Socceroos was even further back, in March 2016, on the long road to World Cup qualification.
Obviously, the gifted playmaker isn’t just on the pitch just to score goals. In his central midfield role, he has an uncanny knack of wrestling the ball off opponents and distributing the ball quickly. But, with his speed and skill, he does get into attacking areas with the ball at his feet so the Socceroos need him to pinch a few goals at the Asian Cup if he gets the chance to shoot.
Scot-turned-Aussie Martin Boyle looks a good prospect as striker but it won’t be easy to replace Tim Cahill, Australia’s top goal scorer. Together with Hertha Berlin’s Mathew Leckie and Boyle, Mooy should be looking to contribute in the goal-scoring department.
Remember that Mile Jedinak’s goals from the penalty spot will be lacking in the UAE in January after the former Socceroos captain retired this year.
At the moment, Tomi Juric is cumbersome at centre-forward, Tom Rogic seems weighed down by his endless potential and Massimo Luongo never seems to get any game time – no matter who’s coaching – for us to even find out whether he can still score at international level.
Ask any Socceroos fan out there and they all say it: we need more players scoring goals, more often.
Ahead of this year’s World Cup, veteran EPL commentator Martin Tyler described Mooy as a “clever player” but noted how hard he had worked at Huddersfield throughout last season just to keep his team afloat.
In Russia, Mooy was unable to conjure any assists or goals in a tough group including France, Denmark and Peru – despite starting in all of Australia’s matches. Was it due to fatigue or just the class of the opponents? Either way, I hope he gets a chance for a short rest over Christmas to freshen up before this tournament.
It would be great to see Mooy play with a bit more swagger when he rejoins the national team. After missing out on selection for the 2015 Asian Cup tournament, the 28-year-old is now one of the older heads in the side and, barring injury, will play in his 40th international when the Socceroos open their tournament on January 6 against Jordan.
Between now and then he has a handful of games in the EPL to really hit a purple patch. At Huddersfield, with David Wagner as coach, Mooy is well appreciated and one of the first names on the team sheet. Whether his post-match interviews will ever be entertaining and rollicking affairs remains unlikely, but on the pitch he should feel free to express himself with the ball at his feet.
If he does that and it comes off, his estimated 9-million-pound market value will surely continue to rise. And, more importantly for Aussie fans, he could help the Socceroos secure a second Asian Cup title in a row.