Monday, June 04, 2007
In Defence of Arnie
Right now, that piece is more relevant than ever.
Graham Arnold is copping an absolute bollocking on football forums around the country. Most of this criticism is extremely vague (he couldn't alter the formation to suit the situation, he's too soft on the players, he hasn't got the experience for this job...and that's the more specific comments).
To my mind, one of the few criticisms that's really valid is that, like Hiddink and Farina before him, he has stuck to a single-striker system for too long.
One of the sillier whinges is that he makes too many substitutions in friendlies, thereby altering the shape of the team and disrupting cohesion. All well and good, but, erm, didn't Frank Farina get regularly blasted for failing to give younger players enough of a run in friendly games? That's partly what they are for, after all.
The truth is that, as Cockerill aptly concluded, Arnie is on a hiding to nothing.
It has been made very clear that he will probably be replaced, no matter how Australia fares in the Asian Cup. Certain pundits have placed on him the ridiculous expectation that anything less than victory in the Asian Cup (in our first try, in conditions many of the players will rarely have experienced) constitutes failure.
The FFA, a model of efficiency in its handling of the national team while Hiddink was in charge, has become mysteriously spineless. Arnold was miserably treated in Kuwait City, and the Argentina friendly has been swept from beneath his feet (I still harbour a sneaking suspicion that the Argentine FA would not have had a leg to stand on had the FFA decided to stick to their guns over the game). And a replacement friendly has not been organised for June 6, with the result that few of the top players were willing to rush back to Sydney for a single match - and understandably so.
And had Arnold decided to put his foot down over player availability, would the FFA have backed him up, as they did Hiddink?
In short, Arnold has been provided with inadequate preparation for a major tournament.
I find the "Arnold bollocking" tedious and uniformed as well - one of the recent ones is that he is "too matey" with the players but no-one seems to have a source to confirm this.
Most of the "bollocking" seems to come from people who don't seem to understand what friendlies are for.
Agree also on the one vs two striker system - but this to me gets back to him trying to emulate Guus' first law to not concede a goal early and then worrying about scoring later. So for the problem is not the one striker per se but Arnold's inability to change a game plan.
That said, he has done a good job all things considered. Even Fozzie gave him credit, particularly in the area of new player recognition.
And for us to win the Asian Cup first time up would be a massive achievement, agreed.
I don't have a problem with the key lads missing really - they'll be back and in training for the Asian Cup soon enough. One issue might the lack of friendlies closer to the AC kickoff - Singapore is nice to give us a soft game coming in but maybe a game against one of the other group teams - Sth Korea, Japan, or whatever.
Heartily agree with you on that one. Incidentally, I've no doubt at all that we could have arranged another friendly on June 6 (and I've little doubt that we could have held the Argies to that game had we really wanted to). TBH, the preparation for this tournament appears pretty slapdash all round, especially by contrast with the WC.
It's a chicken-and-egg situation though, isn't it. I just don't like the idea that you have to be a pushy foreigner to get decent support from the national body...because that is the way NT affairs have been run for the last several WC cycles, IMHO.
...Arnie should go to Europe and see what he can achieve. A good run and maybe in 10 years he can be NT coach....
Again, I'm not sure whether managerial success in Europe should be a criterion for the NT job...considering that Australian coaches would face huge obstacles establishing themselves there. It would essentially mean forcing locals out of contention for the NT job, IMO, which can't be a good thing.
It doesn't have to be EU that Arnie goes to. He may be a good coach, it is hard to tell, but he loses 'street cred' because he has no track record of coaching to fall back on. That is always a recipe for disaster in a country where the game is emerging. Again not saying it is right, but it is the way it is.
A big name coach (like the ones you have suggested in the past) buy the game locally a lot more than on-field tactics.
I tend to agree with Anonymous on that point. It is unfair on local coaches to be sure, but in this day and age of marketing and gargantuan egos in the game, the more humble local coach perhaps doesn't receive the recognition they deserve. Unfortunately, a foreigner with an overinflated reputation such as Venables - who was arguably no better than the likes of Matic and Scheinflug - will basically have the key to the city, while the locals have to make do with what they're given. It sucks, but that's the way things work.
FWIW, I think Arnie's doing quite a decent job given his lack of access to the very best squad, which is something Hiddink never had to contend with. Before anyone argues that Hiddink would always have the best players, his reign happened to coincide with the period where the players themselves were highly motivated to appear anyway. This is arguably one of the least favourable times to call players up.
Mikey wrote.... "Again, I'm not sure whether managerial success in Europe should be a criterion for the NT job...considering that Australian coaches would face huge obstacles establishing themselves there. It would essentially mean forcing locals out of contention for the NT job, IMO, which can't be a good thing....."
Completely agree here.
Is someone like Houllier (particularly for the dollars being mentioned) honestly more qualified for NT management? Houllier obviously has excellent qualifications, but is he better positioned to get the best out of Australia's national squad given the ad hoc nature of the international calendar? The jury's out IMO.....
That is why they have given Arnie back the under 23s.
They don't want him to loose face. They want him intact for his chance for the world cup after next.
That's how the big boys play this game. It isn't a secret.
I think they are doing what they think Australian football can afford.
We got 61,700 to the game. Sydney FC didn't get anywhere near that for the Asia cup games in Aust. Maybe the Aust TV audience wasn't that big. When they do we will be able to splash out and take financial risks. Lowy has taken these types of risks before. He has a better idea of what is going to work now.
I think he's lost a lot of face already, because plenty of fans are unable to react rationally to NT results, or to look at the deeper reasons behind them.
Same thing happened with Farina. Although, to be sure, he made plenty of mistakes as NT coach, by the time he was sacked you had half the fans in Australia thinking he should never be employed again.
In truth, part of the reason he ended up looking so bad was that the support he got from the various national bodies during his time in charge was nothing short of pathetic.
Ange P (yeah, yeah I know) was critical last week of FFA cost-cutting. He said he felt we were taking "shortcuts" and doubted whether we were doing enough to prepare for the Asian Cup.
Unfortunately, I agree with him.
Our preparations smack of belt-tightening and Arnie (who is, I fear, somewhat dispensable to the FFA) will get all the blame if we don't do well. :(
The FFA is very publicly undermining Arnolds authority by talking about replacement coaches like Houllier, while at the same time really not putting themselves behind the coach in the lead up to what is, let's face it, probably the second most important tournament we can be a part of short of the World Cup!
Sure, as the FFA want to replace Arnold, the team's failure will play into their hands when they lure their big name manager here. But I thought the sport's administration would realise that success at the Asian Cup would be far more beneficial to the image of the sport than the mere hiring of a high profile coach.
Going into the Asian Cup with a threadbare preparation calendar, with public sentiment being that anything less than a win will be a failure is not a good combination.
Should we be embarrassed for whatever reason, how much worse will it make the FFA's bargaining position when it comes to recruiting as well?
In my opinion Arnold has done enough to deserve some support and the benefit of the doubt. Losing 2 - 1 to a fully primed Uruguay should not generate the negativity that it has in some quarters. Especially when all three of the goals came due mainly to individual defensive errors, and cannot be squarely blamed on any tactical mistakes.