I get the hate for Graham Arnold.
I recognise the resentment over the way he was appointed, his style of football and the concerns over his past performance as Socceroos boss…and that much of the love and hate follows tribal lines of club allegiance.
But the moment Aaron Mooy crocked his knee and Martin Boyle followed soon after, the crosshairs came off Arnold.
With the X-factor of Daniel Arzani already ruled out, Leckie injured, Rogic under a cloud, and no Mile Jedinak or Tim Cahill at an international tournament for the first time in a football generation, the excuses were already there.
You can also throw in the short preparation time Arnie chose to have as coach, when he opted to stay with Sydney FC for the Premiership before taking the reins of the Socceroos instead of leading the Roos to Russia.
No matter what happened in the UAE, Arnie was ultimately off the hook before a ball was even kicked.
The bottom line is that anyone who expected us to go to the Middle East with what is at best a B team in transition and expect us to return Asian Champions are being as arrogant as Arnie was with his misguided “we expect to win every game” prediction.
There are still issues that need to be addressed.
Arnie’s media presence has improved dramatically since the days of 2007, but that doesn't mean he’s not without fault. His “expectations” never matched reality, and they insulted, empowered and inflamed our rivals without showing even a skerrick of humility.
Hubris is not a virtue…and frankly ridiculous when our competitive goalscoring record is as appalling as it has been recently.
Sure, no team should ever take to the pitch expecting to lose and self-confidence is vital – but so also is recognising the opposition’s strengths and acknowledging the challenge we face in overcoming that.
Prior to the game against Uzbekistan, Arnie came out with the Trumpian: “I probably know more about Uzbekistan than they know themselves.”
Afterwards? “Their tactics surprised us…” That sound you hear is Australian football facepalming…
Arnie’s overconfidence is a blight and an embarrassment when we can barely find the back of the net and give away amateur hour goals. If he’s saying that in public, what’s he saying in the dressing rooms?
And then there were those tactics against Jordan in the opener which were all but unforgivable.
Fair enough, Jordan parked the bus but there are ways to break down a backline. Lumping it randomly to the back post is not the way to do it in the modern game, especially when your striker is probably the smallest man on the pitch.
The recurring theme throughout the tournament has been Australia dominating possession, near-four figure passing stats (909 passes during the Uzbekistan game), and double-digit shot stats (22 against UAE, 19 against Jordan, 17 against both the Uzbeks and Palestine).
What we lacked was consistent goals. Again. Twice we scored three in a game from three different goalscorers each time, three times we couldn't find the net at all.
The stats suggest we are doing almost everything right, except for burying all those shots in the back of the net.
We still need that lethal man upfront. Martin Boyle certainly offered optimism that he will be one who can do the business for us, but has yet to be tested in a competitive game. We have had other similar false dawns in the past. Form in friendlies has often failed to to match form in the fire of do or die games. Maybe Boyle will be different though.
Defensively, Milos Degenek has owned his error in the UAE game. It was a helluva way to go out and a nightmare for him. How he recovers from it will be a test of his character, but he’s started the right way at least.
In midfield, it looks like Mark Milligan will be the next to hang up his boots and it will again leave us in a state of transition as we bed in the next generation, but it may be time to change things there anyway.
We've definitely missed Mile’s mettle and leadership since the World Cup, even if we don't miss his often erratic distribiution, while Milligan looked past his best in the UAE.
At the end of the day, with a new coach and a squad missing several key players through injury, a quarter-final or semi-final exit really was the best we should have expected. We’d all obviously hope to go further… but the reality was this was as far as we deserved to go.
As Australia exited, Arnie thought we'd done "very, very well" – but few would agree.
However, for all the valid criticism of Arnie’s coaching, he did enough to get us out the group with, by pure chance, the best possible pathway to the final (Uzbekistan->UAE-> Qatar->final).
His record at the Asian Cup was won three, lost two, and one of those losses, the key one, was via a coachkilling backpass error, which came after our best 45 minutes of the tournament.
As ugly as the Jordan game was and as turgid as the Uzbekistan game was, what killed us was the simple lack of a lethal goalscorer more than any other single thing.
Even Degenek’s brainfart would have been embarrassing but irrelevant if we could have just converted two of those 22 shots on UAE’s goal.
For all those calling for Arnie’s head, you’re peaking too soon.
The very biggest concern is, still, the infrastructure of Australian football which is roadblocking the development of homegrown strikers.
Arnie's defining test will come in the second round of World Cup qualifying, by which time (hopefully) we will have bedded in the new generation of Socceroo regulars through successful experimentation in the upcoming first round of qualifiers.
But while it may be too soon for #ArnieOut, it’s certainly not too soon for criticism and for Arnie to learn from this – and improve both the Roos…and himself.