If the March qualifying matches for the World Cup go ahead (against Kuwait and Nepal) there’s every chance Arnie will be limited to A-League players only.
IMHO we always want to see our best team on the pitch (within strategic reason) but the fact we can’t have the Europeans at this time may well be a blessing in disguise. It gives Arnie a low-risk opportunity to look at Generation Next in the cauldron of WC qualification.
So who should be picked?
Some readers of my work may have suspected a vague inclination towards the Mariners, but if I do include a few of them here – shouldn’t the team topping the league be well represented?
In any case, I make my living from answering questions that nobody asked, so here I go again:
Mark Birrighitti – the Mariners shot stopper has been key to them breathing the rarefied air at the top of the table for the first time in years. Some people would have him in the squad anyway, although Ryan, Langerak and Vukovic might have something to say about that.
(Bench – Andrew Redmayne and Tom Glover)
(Near misses – Adam Federici, Daniel Margush, James Delianov)
Ryan Grant – incumbent right back, so no question.
Thomas Aquilina – outstanding on the left so far this year. Good defender and dangerous attacker – very like a left footed Grant.
(Bench – Ryan Strain and Tate Russell)
Curtis Good – very experienced player in excellent form – first picked.
Ruon Tongyik – another Mariner having a sensational start to the year. He’s 24 and in career best form. Adds speed, strength and a bit of mongrel to Curtis Good’s intelligence. Player of the future.
(Bench – Nigel Boogaard, Kye Rowles and Jordan Elsey)
(Near misses – James Meredith, Alex Wilkinson, Dylan McGowan, Aaron Calver)
Ramy Najjarine – really excellent creative player. Would work well on the right with an overlapping Rhyan Grant.
Ollie Bozanic – has been the main reason the Mariners have turned the corner. Was always a technically excellent player but comes back from Europe as the finished article. Stops the enemy and starts new attacks with outstanding touch and vision. I would have him as captain.
Danny De Silva – has always been one of Australia’s top prospects since signing for Roma at 16 years old, but has never quite hit his straps. From afar (and how on earth would I know) he’s seemed a tad too individualistic to play a team sport, but under Staj he’s finally turning into the player we hoped he would. Very dangerous.
Luke Brattan – outstanding and experienced player. Very solid in defense and one of the best passers and dead ball hitters in the league.
(Bench – Keanu Baccus, Steven Ugarkovic, Deni Genreau)
(Near misses – Neil Kilkenny, Josh Nisbet, Rene Piscopo, Cam Devlin, Connor Metcalfe, Jake Brimmer, Max Burgess, Connor Pain)
Jamie MacLaren – great finisher and really unselfish player. Has improved enormously with age, with great vision and decision-making. Always in the right place and scores a lot of goals with the right service.
Mo Toure – so he’s 16? I am so impressed with this kid. His strength, pace and positioning is obvious, but his goal against Victory last week showed incredible calm under pressure for someone so inexperienced. He could absolutely run riot playing in a front two with MacLaren – from whom he will learn a lot.
(Bench – Carlo Armiento, Valentino Yuel)
(Near misses – Andrew Nabbout, Dylan Wenzel-Halls, Nick D’Agostino, Dylan Pierias)
Some of my near misses are arguably good enough to be in the team but I’ve left a few out (like Wilko, Troisi, Kruse or Kilkenny) with an eye to the future. I’ve also left others out that I really like for being too young (like Nieuwenhof and Stynes).
But here’s my starting eleven, and if they can’t beat Kuwait and Nepal then god help us.
Grant Tongyik Good Aquilina
Najjarine Brattan Bozanic De Silva
Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. His new novel, Welcome to Ord City, is now available.