Looking towards the Asian Cup, there is little further opportunity to impress, except at club level. Who will make the final cut?
Arnie’s army is changing. Plenty of new faces, new coach and a different shape and system from the latter part of the Ange Era (although more or less the same as the Van Marwijk system).
I thought we did pretty well against South Korea, but the second stringers should have done better against Lebanon. Of course, the usual problem reared its head – our poor finishing, but it must be said that Martin Boyle shows very promising signs of addressing that.
Using Arnie’s preferred (4,2,3,1) structure, I would suggest our best team right now is:
GK: Mat Ryan is head and shoulders ahead of the rest, but Danny Vukovic always looks solid when called upon.
Defenders: I used to think Josh Risdon was not quite good enough for international football but he’s improved out of sight in his last few outings. He’s not getting caught out of position ball watching and his attacking play has gone to a new incisive level. He does have Rhyan Grant breathing down his neck but you’d have to say the position is Risdon’s to lose.
Aziz Behich is solidly established at left back but Alex Gersbach will increasingly put pressure on him.
In the centre, Trent Sainsbury ought to have a stranglehold on one spot but his lack of time at PSV makes him look weirdly ricketty. His timing and judgment is a little out and only game time can fix that. In contrast, Milos Degenek is going great guns at Red Star Belgrade and I would suggest he had a blinder against Lebanon. It would be only fair to say that, on current form, Degenek is ahead of Sainsbury to partner Milligan.
Midfield: Mass Luongo and Aaron Mooy are pretty much unchallenged for the two number 6 roles. Musti Amini and Jackson Irvine give us depth, but do not make our best 11.
The attacking midfielders (occasionally making up part of Arnie’s three number 9s) on current form ought to be Awer Mabil, Tom Rogic and Matt Leckie. That gives us plenty of pace and artistry, all we need is someone who can put the ball in the back of the net.
Striker: Martin Boyle is fast, direct, can beat a player, and knows how to finish. He’s exactly what we’ve been missing since the retirement of Mark Viduka and he would be my first choice.
Second choice, for me, would be Andrew Nabbout (who can also play as an attacking midfielder). He did very well in Russia (and pre-tournament) against high quality opposition and is playing at a good level in Japan.
That gives 18 players, leaving five spots for the Asian Cup.
Mitch Langerak probably deserves the third keeper spot and Matt Jurman will almost certainly go, leaving three more spots for attacking midfielders and strikers.
I think the Tomi Juric experiment is over. He’s just not fast enough (in every sense...), has a Usain Bolt-like touch and misses way too many chances.
Robbie Kruse also does plenty of huffing and puffing but his touch is not good enough for international football. Gets offside way too much also. Arnie’s named him among the leadership group so is likely to go to the Asian Cup, but I wouldn’t take him.
That leaves three spots for the likes of Jeggo, Goodwin, MacLaren, Petratos, to which group I would also add Riley McGree, Adam Taggart and Chris Ikonimidis.
Jamie MacLaren offers something different up front so will probably go. On form, I think I’d take Craig Goodwin leaving just one spot.
If I was Arnie, I’d be looking very closely at Riley McGree over the next month. He would give us cover for Rogic (along with Irvine and Mooy) and is likely to emerge as a Socceroo in the future.
He’d be my bolter (with Goodwin), and I would have quite a lot of confidence that that squad could go deep into the tournament in January.
Adrian’s latest book The Fighting Man is in the shops right now or available through Booktopia. Adrian also wrote Mr Cleansheets.