Sunday, September 10, 2006
Floundering Fozzie, Part 1
Bang on cue. Just after I’ve commended Craig Foster for his apt comments on Australia’s obtuse tactics on Wednesday night, he comes up with another piece of nebulous hogwash.
Don’t get me wrong here: I agree that Graham Arnold gave a poor account of himself in Kuwait City, but not remotely for the reasons Foster gives (if indeed his “reasons” for criticizing Arnold are clearly discernible anyway).
So much in his article is based on cack-handed impression and assumption that it’s hard to know where to start, but let’s take a look at two particular statements:
“The Kuwait game confirmed that Graham Arnold has grown in tactical understanding…”
Let’s take a look at Arnie’s tactical acumen as it was displayed in Kuwait.
Opting for a three-at-the-back system, he chose Luke Wilkshire, a right-footed central midfielder, to play left wing-back. A position he has never, to the best of my knowledge, occupied before.
Wilkshire, predictably, was forced to cut inside whenever he wanted to make a meaningful contribution to Australia’s attacks, and he was, also predictably, stifled by the Kuwaiti midfield whenever he did so. Then, when boxed in by the left touchline in the second half, he was forced to clear with his weaker left foot; his insufficient clearance was whipped back into the mixer, and headed home for Kuwait’s opening goal.
Of course, a 3-4-3 system also requires a right-sided midfielder, or wing-back if you like. Arnold chose a central striker for this role.
Poor Brett Holman was forced to move inside constantly in order to get into the game as he likes to do, and the right side of Australia’s midfield was consequently vacant for much of the game. This forced Mile Sterjovski, a player of limited defensive capacities, to race up and down the right-hand touchline helping out with the defence. And this, in turn, contributed substantially to the Kuwaitis’ second goal, in which Sterjovski made a pitifully maladroit attempt to track his runner.
But back to Foster. Of course, in his eyes Guus Hiddink was utterly infallible (incidentally, remember Hiddink’s recommendation of Arnold as national coach, Craig?). Quite bizarrely, he blames Arnold for a recent (and entirely correct) comment to the effect that it’s harder to win games without the talent of such players as Kewell or Bresciano at one’s disposal. Hiddink, he reveals, was more canny:
“Hiddink rarely, if ever, singled out individuals for praise.”
May I remind Craig of Hiddink’s studied, lengthy (and largely deserved) encomium of Harry Kewell following the Australia v. Croatia game, in which he described him as a “special player” and attached all manner of laudatory epithets to his performance?
Enough on Foster’s nonsense for the moment, although there’s more to come in Part 2. By way of contrast, here, from the same media stable, is a clear, sensible and cogent analysis of the Kuwait debacle and of national team issues in general. Plenty of reference to Cockerill’s excellent article in my next instalment too.
Read it again, I haven't criticised Hiddink for this at all.
I'm merely pointing out that Foster, like so many other knee-jerk Guus-worshippers, is quite prepared to conveniently rewrite history when necessary, or distort the present.
...As for Hiddink's support of Arnold what could anyone expect him to say? He was asked outright by the media about a successor... how could you not propose your assistant at that stage? Once again Hiddink knew what he was doing - it provided the camp and assistants with a timely morale boost and all the while Hiddink would have know that it probably wasn't going to happen....
OK. A couple of points:
1. Yes, he did give that answer to the media, but he subsequently went out of his way to recommend Arnie as a successor. There was no specific need for him to do that.
2. It would have been motivation/morale boost of sorts during the tournament, but a wholehearted recommendation of Arnie after the World Cup was over, over a month before the next 'roos game? What can you conclude from that other than that he believed Arnie to be a worthy successor?
And let's not write him off just yet, by the way. As Cockerill explains quite clearly in his SMH piece, Arnie was on something of a hiding to nothing in Kuwait (even if I felt he still faltered tactically).
It's interesting isn't it, I've always found the same thing. He usually impresses me with his analysis at the time, when he has something concrete (a game situation) to bite on, but when he goes off on one of his road-to-Damascus tangents he just comes across as a naive waffler.
Then there's the question of the attributes needed to be a successful international manager, versus the attributes required to get into (and keep) the job in the first place. Quite different things!