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Opinion

Arnold must solve Socceroos' striker headache

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Roar Guru
30th October, 2019
21

Injuries to Jamie Maclaren, Martin Boyle, Andrew Nabbout and Massimo Luongo have caused a few selection questions for Australia’s next match against Jordan.

Adam Taggart has come up as the main option as their replacement, while others such as Apostolos Giannou, Chris Ikonomidis, Tom Rogic and Daniel Arzani have also been brought up for the clash. But we need to take a hard look at who we should take into the remaining qualifiers.

The teams that went to the World Cup in Russia and the Asian Cup in Qatar looked like the gang who couldn’t shoot straight. They failed to score a single goal from open play in Russia and they weren’t much better in Qatar.

In the final World Cup group match against Peru, the players in the starting front four had just 28 goals from 201 games between them, or less than one in seven. In Qatar, no player had more than ten international goals to their name and the entire 23-man squad had just 49 goals between them, which was only one less than Tim Cahill’s career total of 50.

We need to weight selections towards goal-scorers and most players won’t make the cut.

The list of players who could make up the front six is getting longer with Apostolos Giannou, Harry Sawyer, Al Hassan Toure, John Iredale, Nyko Smith, Martin Boyle, Adam Taggart, Jamie Maclaren, Lyndon Dykes, Milislav Popovic, Nikita Rukavytsya, Moudi Najjar, John Roberts, Dylan Wenzel-Halls, Mitchell Duke, George Blackwood and Ben Folami all popping up as potential strikers.

Then in the midfield and on the wings there’s an even bigger group made up of players such as Matthew Leckie, Awer Mabil, Aaron Mooy, Sebastian Pasquali, Riley McGree, Daniel Arzani, Tyrese Francois, Alexander Robertson, Remy Cho, Reno Piscopo, Cian Cuba, Isaac Danzo, Zach Duncan, Jackson Irvine, Tom Rogic, Ajdin Hrustic, Ramy Najjarine, Mustafa Amini, Massimo Luongo, Brandon Borrello, Chris Ikonomidis, Connor Metcalfe, Denis Genreau, Sam Silvera, Jacob Italiano, Kosta Grozos, Blake Ricciuto, Daniel De Silva, James Jeggo, Dimitri Petratos, James Troisi and Panos Armenakas. Phew…

That’s 32 players and you could go even further!

Graham Arnold head coach of Australia looks on

Graham Arnold has no shortage of options. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

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We have to cut this list down and it has to start somewhere, so I’ll begin with the strikers. Beginning with Boyle, he’s only scored about one goal in every five matches with Hibernian and he’s also injured himself again just after getting back from his last injury, so he’s out.

Moudi Najjar, John Roberts, Dylan Wenzel-Halls and George Blackwood are all A-League players and I doubt that any of them would make the cut for Jordan at short notice. But of all of them it’s Najjar who looks the most like the next Maclaren.

Nyko Smith was spotted by Rale Rasic and went to Brazil but got nowhere and Milislav Popovic seems to have followed a similar trajectory in Germany. Iredale is in the reserve team at Wolfsburg and is coming back from injury so he’s unlikely for Jordan. For similar reasons, Ben Folami is also out of consideration after just coming back from a ruptured Achilles.

Apostolos Giannou meanwhile has scored seven goals from 40 matches in Cyprus, which is only about one goal in every six. That’s not good enough if you want to play for Australia.

Mitchell Duke has scored twice from five matches for Australia and has scored six times from 12 for the Wanderers. But he also only scored three times from 89 matches with Shimizu S-Pulse from 2015-2018.

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That leaves Taggart, Toure, Dykes and Sawyer.

Toure is in good form, but he’s tossing up between playing for Australia or for his birth nation of Liberia and it might not be good to put too much pressure on him to choose Australia in time for the Jordan match. If he needs time to think it over, that’s fine, and he can always join the Olyroos to see how he fits in.

Of the remaining three, Taggart is easily first choice making it a question of who should be second.

Lyndon Dykes has recently popped up due to his form in the Scottish Premier League where he has scored three goals in his first seven matches this season at Livingston. Playing in the Scottish Premier League also puts him in competition with Boyle if he has a good season.

As for Sawyer, he’s a bit of an outsider but one worth considering. At 195 centimetres he provides an aerial threat and he’s been a prolific goal-scorer in the Philippines and Hong Kong. He’s now returned to Australia to join South Melbourne, but he’s also getting interest from Sydney FC.

Taggart is the best choice for striker in the match against Jordan while Dykes would make a good substitute. But it would also be interesting to have Iredale as striker and Sawyer as a second striker in a 4-4-2 formation like 2006 in Germany. With two tall strikers who can both score with their heads and Harry Souttar coming up during corners, that’s some pretty serious aerial firepower.

Alternatively, a future strike team of Iredale and Toure would also sound promising if Toure does decide to play for Australia and Iredale breaks into the Bundesliga.