Socceroos coach Graham Arnold speaks ahead of Australia’s knockout clash with Uzbekistan in the Asian Cup round of 16.
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The Socceroos have five players down now, with Aaron Mooy, Mathew Leckie, Daniel Arzani, Brandon Borrello and most recently Martin Boyle all injured.
So, how could Australia line up in this Asian Cup?
Personally, I believe that the Socceroos could benefit more from a back five than a back four, as they would be tougher to score against from long balls and this gives the opportunity for Josh Risdon and Aziz Behich to go further forward. However, Australia should preferably be sticking with the same 4-2-3-1 formation, because it seems to be working well and the Asian Cup is not the right time to experiment.
Mathew Ryan has been the undisputed number one for Australia in many years and there is no reason for that to change. His superb club and international form ensure he will get the nod ahead of Mitchell Langerak and Danny Vukovic. They are solid replacements though. So Ryan.
Alex Gersbach and Aziz Behich had approximately the same amount of game time for their clubs. Not internationally of course, with Behich having four times as many caps as Gersbach. Although Gersbach has played extremely well in his limited time on the pitch, Aziz Behich’s recent form has shown that he is the best fit for the left back position.
Milos Degenek is in superb form for his club in Serbia and the Socceroos, helping the Socceroos keep Lebanon and Oman scoreless. He is the best defender the Socceroos have at the moment and should certainly be in the squad.
Trent Sainsbury, one of Australia’s best performances at the World Cup is struggling to get game time in Holland, and it is affecting his performances for the Socceroos. And there is Matthew Jurman, who is getting plenty of game time for in the Middle East but has hardly had any game time for the Socceroos recently.
Despite Matthew Jurman’s impressive Socceroos appearances in the past and his recent game time, Trent Sainsbury would probably be better. It could be difficult for Degenek to suddenly switch his defensive partner, and Sainsbury should improve the more he gets games with the Socceroos.
The right backs from rival clubs and competitors for the right-back position are Rhyan Grant and Josh Risdon. Risdon went to the World Cup and did a great job, and has continued his fine form with a fantastic performance against South Korea. Grant has played in Australia’s two recent friendlies against Lebanon and Oman but has worked under Arnold before. Risdon has shown that he deserves the nod over Grant.
The former most valuable player of the Asian Cup in 2015, Massimo Luongo was shifted in a more defensive position recently. Despite this, he still offers a lot to the Socceroos squad and was unlucky not to receive any game time in the 2018 World Cup. Mustafa Amini and James Jeggo are both receiving regular game time in Europe, yet Jeggo has only played 18 minutes of international football.
Amini has recently been awarded with more game time after breaking into his club’s first team. Mark Milligan, Australia’s captain, is a guaranteed starter in midfield, despite not getting as much game time in Scotland as one will expect. Massimo Luongo and Mark Milligan should start in a more defensive midfield role.
Attacking midfield three
Robbie Kruse, the player who has the most caps of anyone in this position has only scored one goal in his past thirty-six games. He had another mediocre performance against Oman and was criticised for his performances at the World Cup. He did assist fairly often in World Cup qualifying, but his performances were unimpressive since then.
In addition, he suffered from another injury recently. Tomas Rogic is another experienced player in attacking midfield playing regularly for Celtic, with eight scoring involvements. However, he is still recovering from an injury.
Jackson Irvine scored another international goal coming off the bench against Oman and scored five goals so far for Hull City with 21 appearances. Chris Ikonomidis is setting the A-League on fire and can play in a number of positions, even as a striker.
Awer Mabil has 12 scoring involvements in 16 appearances this season in Denmark, and also scored two goals and assisted once in five international appearances. Matthew Leckie is currently injured but is one of Australia’s key players especially as he was scoring in the Bundesliga and ended his goalscoring drought for the Socceroos against Lebanon.
Martin Boyle was sent home after an injury.
The ideal attacking midfield, which is mainly based on league form, especially on goalscoring, is Mabil, Irvine and Ikonomidis. They all scored against Oman, which is pleasing. This is what the Socceroos need.
Jamie Maclaren has been demoted to the bench for Hibernian FC, and hasn’t scored for the Socceroos yet. He scored once in twelve appearances this season and needs to significantly improve. Andrew Nabbout hasn’t scored for the Urawa Red Diamonds yet but has three assists in twelve games. This is also not great.
Fortunately, he scored twice in eight games for the Socceroos, which is certainly better than Jamie Maclaren. Andrew Nabbout should be the ideal striker, especially as he scored against Oman.
Mustafa Amini, Alex Gersbach, Tomas Rogic.
Danny Vukovic, Mitchell Langerak, Rhyan Grant, Matthew Jurman, James Jeggo, Robbie Kruse, Mathew Leckie (injured), Jamie Maclaren.