Friday, July 13, 2007
The Iraq Plan
The Oman game made it quite clear that Mark Viduka needed some support up front, particularly in the oppressive tropical conditions. Although it was John Aloisi who was brought on to shoulder some of the burden against Oman, I feel that Archie Thompson would be a better choice in the circumstances; he is quicker, he can drift wide at times to provide variation, and, most importantly, he seems to be in reasonably good form.
An extra man up front means ditching one of the two defensive midfielders, but there should surely be no qualms about doing this. Jason Culina was supernumerary against Oman, and although Vince Grella had one of his worst games for the Socceroos, his performances in the holding role in the past give him first dibs. Mark Milligan would be another possible choice, but I would go with experience in this game (Grella will surely be keen to erase the memory of his performance against Oman, for one thing).
Harry Kewell needs to start on the left wing, rather than wandering aimlessly just behind the front line as he generally does when used in the "free" role behind the main striker. With a genuine winger on the left, there is less need for overlapping fullbacks to provide the width; in Thai conditions, constant overlapping would be an exhausting business, and could lead to the fullbacks regularly being caught out of position (as happened to Brett Emerton particularly against Oman).
It seems to be taken for granted these days that Emerton should occupy the right-back (or right wing-back) slot for the Socceroos; yet he has played as a right-sided midfielder at international level in the past, and at club level. Since he was clearly looking to join the attack against Oman, and often leaving the right side unattended as a result, why not give him the right midfield role against Iraq?
Who to play at right-back, then? Luke Wilkshire, in my opinion. He is much more comfortable on the right, and he has generally played on that side for Twente Enschede this season. This leaves a vacancy at left-back, and I would fill it not with Michael Thwaite, who had his problems there against Uruguay, but with Jason Culina. Again, he has occupied the position in the past (against Japan at the World Cup, for one thing), and has the tactical flexibility to adapt.
This leaves the other central midfield position, and Tim Cahill would be my choice for it. As well as being a midfield poacher par excellence, Cahill can "hassle" with the best of them, and with Iraq possessing a capable Pirlo-style deep playmaker in Nashat Akram, some hassling may be necessary.
Paddy Kisnorbo was a liability in defence against Oman, and I'd be inclined to give Michael Beauchamp a go beside Lucas Neill.
No Bresciano or Sterjovski, who were ineffective on the flanks in our opening game. No Nick Carle either, because I remain convinced that his optimal deployment at this level is as a sub after an hour, full of energy and ideas, to find the gaps that will appear as an opposing team tires.
There are other good suggestions that I've seen, many involving a switch to a back three, but the above would not be a bad deployment, in my view.
Culina @ LB is worth a try, while Grella should play on his own @ DM.
While I agree with your formation, I'd still be inclined to stick with Sterj @ RM/RF, as his performaces over the last 12 months have been good on the whole. Emerton should be @ RB, but he needs more specific instructions (keep it simple Forrest!).
This might be a roughie, but I'd like to see Milligan replace Kisnorbo. Ironically - given his relative inexperience - he is arguably the most experienced player in the squad against Asian opponents, and he has been impressive in the ACL (from what I've witnessed) and Olyroo campaign (reportedly). Above all, he's mobile and doesn't get himself 'suckered' as readily as Kisnorbo and Beauchamp against tricky forwards.
Bresc should indeed be on the bench - he needs a good kick up the arse.
My only concern with that would be that you've then got two sweeper types in the centre-half roles, and no stopper type (which we might need against their striker Mahmoud).
But you're quite right about Milligan in Asian competition. I really rate him anyway, and I'd like to see him get some game time in this tourney (either at centre-half on in def. midfield).
That's quite a valid concern, and one I wouldn't necessarily make if not for our current dearth of central defenders.
"But you're quite right about Milligan in Asian competition. I really rate him anyway, and I'd like to see him get some game time in this tourney (either at centre-half on in def. midfield)."
He could possibly even fill RB in your formation. BTW, has he ever played as a LB for Sydney? And more importantly, was he effective?
I don't know enough about football to point the finger at Arnold alone or whether it was the FFA not being serious enough about this tournament or the players not going hard enough at it.
Haven't seen the game yet, but I would suspect it's a little bit of all three.