Wednesday, August 16, 2006

 

Arnie’s First Test

This evening, we will attempt to become the first Asian nation to qualify for next year’s Asian Cup.

The squad with which we hope to do it is perhaps less than ideal, but Kuwait’s recent form suggests we should have enough quality to get over the line comfortably.

Everyone has had a crack at picking their team for tonight, and I’ll have a go later in this article. But first, some general observations.

The excisions from the larger squad of 22 were, again, puzzling. Mark Bridge should never have made the squad in the first place, but Adrian Leijer was perhaps a better option in defence than either Valkanis or Fyfe. Alex Wilkinson, too, could consider himself a little unlucky, even if he only made the preliminary squad due to Spase Dilevski’s injury. Can Jade North really be rated ahead of Wilkinson at the moment?

And so, to what we’re left with. The squad is still far too left-leaning (and I’m not referring to their political affiliations), and the lack of a commanding anchorman in midfield is clear. Stuart Musialik should probably be given the gig, although Mark Milligan’s move into midfield for Sydney FC might provoke a knee-jerk reaction from Arnold. In truth, Milligan has hardly been solid for the A-League champions, leaving most of the defensive legwork in midfield to his more tenacious colleague Terry McFlynn.

One would expect Arnold to stick with the flexible 3-4-3 (or 3-6-1, if you like) favoured by Hiddink, in which case Alex Brosque should start up front on the left. Saso Petrovski, the only player in the squad suited to the target-man role, should appear at the apex of the formation. So who’s going on the right?

It would appear, since Archie Thompson has been named vice-captain, that he will start; one hopes that Arnold will not waste him in the sort of position which left him thrashing around to little effect against Greece earlier this year. For the moment, let’s put Thompson on the right (he would be better placed on the left, but then so would most of the attacking players in the squad), although I rather think David Carney, wrong foot and all, would be a wiser choice, leaving Thompson as an impact option from the bench.

The centre of defence is a worry. Arnold has indicated – thanks for the heads up, Shane – that Kevin Muscat is likely to start in the centre of a back three; presumably, Milligan and Valkanis will complete the trio. I shudder to think of Iain Fyfe starting in a competitive international match, but it just might happen…

Alvin Ceccoli, so adept at covering the entirety of the left flank as he showed last season, should start in the left wing-back role. On the right, Travis Dodd would seem to be the most natural choice. Not afraid to do his share of defensive work, the Adelaide winger has been in fine form early in the season and probably merits a start. It is, sadly, more likely that Arnold will fall back once again on the over-rated Jade North.

Steve Corica is the obvious candidate to partner Musialik in the centre. Always constructive, always instrumental, he was at the heart of things during Sydney’s recent impressive demolition of Perth, even if Alex Brosque and David Carney received most of the acclamation afterwards (not that it was undeserved). Kristian Sarkies makes a useful understudy, and deserves some game time, I feel.

The team I would pick:

Bolton; Muscat, Milligan, Valkanis; Dodd, Musialik, Corica, Ceccoli; Carney, Petrovski, Brosque.

The team Graham Arnold is likely to pick, in my opinion:

Bolton: Milligan, Muscat, Valkanis; North, Musialik, Corica, Ceccoli; Thompson, Petrovski, Brosque.

Comments:
I am told it will unfold like...

------------------------Bolton

-----------North------Muscat------Valkanis

Dodd--------Milligan---------Corica--------Ceccoli

--------Griffiths--------------------Carney
----------------------Thompson


Not too convinced by that myself. I don't think Griffiths should be in there at all (match practice?), and North shouldn't either.

I'd move Milligan to RCB and Musialik to CDM. Archie then to the attacking right where he can stretch forward and let Dodd follow him up from behind.
 
The worst team I can realistically see Arnold going with...

Bolton; Fyfe, Muscat, Valkanis; North, Milligan, Corica, Ceccoli; Carney, Thompson, Brosque/Griffiths.

A defence I don't know whether to laugh or cry about, a right wing-back who doesn't belong, an unproven holding midfielder, Thompson again misused at national team level...

Not to say Arnie will go with something this bad, but it should be an, erm, interesting night.
 
Thanks for the comments guys.

If they line up as you've indicated, Jaza (and they were saying more or less the same on Talkin' Football), there's considerable screw-up potential in defence (not that there wouldn't have been whatever backline we started with from that squad), a verrrry soft underbelly in midfield, and a non-target man playing in a frontman role, although I suppose it'll be more a case of him and Griffiths up front together and Carney out wide.

Re Griffiths, I've liked what I've seen of him in the past, but as you've pointed out he's short of match practice. And leaving Brosque out on recent form is perverse.
 
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