Last Wednesday I had the privilege of attending an event at Macquarie Park in Sydney entitled ‘Women in Sport and Business – A Morning with the Matildas’.
I’ve already gone through Graham Arnold’s options for the striker role in their next match against Jordan and now I’ll go through the midfielders and wingers to sort the wheat from the chaff.
The list of midfielders and wingers is an extensive one, so I’ll have to rattle through them quite ruthlessly to find the real contenders. Rather than taking them all on as a single group I’ll put them into their own subgroups based on the parts of the field they play in and the roles they have.
Starting with the players who generate the most excitement, we have a series of good dribblers to draw upon but their finishing leaves a lot to be desired and raises a note of caution.
At the top of the heap is Daniel Arzani whose foot skills are excellent in beating opponents, but when it comes to his finishing it’s a different matter.
At Melbourne City he scored just two goals in 24 matches over two seasons and one of those was from the penalty spot. When you watch his highlights, you’ll also notice that he made very few assists.
Tyrese Francois, Remy Cho and Reno Piscopo are a similar story. They have tremendous dribbling skills but when you watch their highlights, what’s missing are the goals. In the case of Piscopo, he only scored five goals from 51 appearances for Renate in Serie C.
Sam Silvera came to attention during the recent FFA Cup campaign, but before his move to the Mariners he only scored four goals in 30 matches for WSW in their U23 NPL side.
Another good dribbler we have is Cian Cuba at Gold Coast United who provides creative passes and assists for teammates, setting up goals for others. Cuba is still only at the NPL level, but at least one A-League club is said to be interested in him.
The only good dribblers we have who look good at scoring are Ramy Najjarine who has a bucket load to his name below A-League level and Ben Folami who is a forward at Ipswich Town.
Although I’ve already covered him as a striker, you could also add Al Hassan Toure as he can dribble well and also score goals making him suitable in attacking midfield or on the wings.
Based on goals per match for Australia, it’s Awer Mabil who comes first with four from 13 for the Socceroos which works out to one goal every 3.25 matches. That even beats Harry Kewell who scored 17 from 58 which works out to one goal every 3.4 games.
Andrew Nabbout is next with two from nine but he’s out injured and won’t be going to Jordan.
In third is Mat Leckie with 11 from 63 in the green and gold, Chris Ikonomidis comes fourth with two from 12 while James Troisi is fifth with five from 37.
Finally I’ll throw in Panos Armenakis at Panathinaikos, who is yet to appear for the Socceroos.
Of that lot, I’d pick Mabil first and then I’d choose Ikonomidis over Leckie for his crossing ability and assists. But Leckie could also find a place in the centre as he can dribble a bit and shoot well for a non-striker.
From the attacking midfielders I think we can cross off Daniel De Silva and James Jeggo straight off the bat. There’s a bit of hype around Denis Genreau and Ajdin Hrustic but going by their goal scoring records they look like they’re both dead ends.
16-year-old Alex Robertson was at the Manchester United academy and was poached by their rivals Manchester City, so there must be something good about him. We’ll see.
Isaac Danzo at Levante also looks promising after being named in the “U19 La Liga team of the year” which has a very high standard. Danzo is on the radar of the Spanish and Italian FAs but his preference is to play for Australia.
Riley McGree looks sure to get a Socceroos call up in the not too distant future scoring seven times from 27 matches last season and three from three this season. But he faces competition from Tom Rogic, who has scored 23 times from 108 matches at Celtic and nine times from 46 for Australia.
Aaron Mooy would seem top choice coming from the EPL while Sebastian Pasquali has similar skills to Mooy in the play-maker role but adds greater mobility.
Massimo Luongo is currently out injured but should be good once he recovers.
Jack Irvine adds mobility and can add to the attack while Amini is good at defence. Connor Metcalfe is only 19 and is still developing so let’s see how he goes for the rest of the season first.
Zach Duncan got gushing praise from his coach in Denmark who urged Graham Arnold to give him a Socceroos call up, expecting him to go far in Europe. So, maybe he’s got something special.
Starting line up for Jordan
Along with the strikers, that’s the list of players who could make up the attacking six for the Socceroos World Cup campaign. But for now, it’s just a matter of picking the best combination for the Jordan match.
From the strikers, I’d go for Taggart up top with Dykes on the bench in reserve. Across the attacking three I’d pick Mabil, McGree and Ikonomidis. Then behind them, I’d go with Irvine and Pasquali in the double pivot and leave Mooy on the bench.
With so many options it can be hard to pick the right ones. But hopefully we can put a team together from the ones we do have who can get back out of the group stage again at the next World Cup.