It’s a strange squad that Ange has picked for the games against Iraq and UAE. Strange if you want to score goals, that is…
With only Tommy Juric and Tim Cahill as the recognised centre forwards, the stocks look very thin in the number nine department. Not least as Juric is notoriously injury prone and Le Timmy (bless him) can’t do ninety minutes anymore (especially when there’re two games in five days with all that travel as well).
So what does Ange have planned?
Troisi in an advanced role looks an absolute given, and maybe also as a false nine if Juric is injured or ineffective too early to bring on Timmy.
A stacked midfield also looks likely with that many midfielders picked. Could he be looking at something like 3, 2, 4, 1? Or even 3, 4, 3 at home? Nothing else explains so many midfielders, but he has picked Rhyan Grant and Brad Smith who are best known for their pace and their engines. That would suggest 4, 2, 3,1 with those two wingbacks bombing on Arnie style while Jedinak or Milligan or Irvine drop back between the centre backs.
He might plan for two different shapes away and home. Away (in Tehran) he might go for the more conservative 4, 2, 3, 1. I reckon he’d be very tempted to pick Grant and Smith, given that Smith has done fairly well for Ange, despite not playing much for Bournemouth, and Grant has been in outstanding form despite being uncapped. Inside those two will almost certainly be Trent Sainsbury and Bailey Wright, with Rhys Williams trying to pinch one spot in training.
Keeper is a genuine toss up this time as both Ryan and Langerak are in great form, but so is Danny Vukovic. I’m not suggesting he’s a realistic chance of starting but he’s in career best form and will look pretty good in comparison at training. Could be a smokie for the bench if there is the slightest doubt over the fitness of the other two.
You’d think Jedinak will start. He’s been described as a beast on the Villa forums in recent times. After a shaky beginning they’re really singing his praises and, while I think the blood and thunder Championship is very different from the zippy technicality of Asia, it would be a major call by Ange to leave him out. He’s also a strong leader (and penalty taker) so is worth more to the team than just his basic game transactions.
Thing is, he needs someone fast next to him so that might be Milligan. Luongo, Mooy and Amini are all better players but Milligan is the fastest so Ange will be tempted to fortify Jedinak with Milligan’s pace. Unless he goes for Irvine. I suspect he prefers to play further up the park but in a struggling side he’s one of the form players of the Championship and is just about demanding his spot in the Socceroos.
If Ange opts for the fast wingbacks there is less need for the likes of Leckie and Kruse (or both of them) so that means Mooy, Troisi and one more as the three behind the striker. Leckie will probably get the nod given his regular starts in the Bundesliga.
That leaves Juric up front, with Timmy to come on, and maybe Luongo and maybe Amini. Or maybe McGree, depending on the score.
So if I was Ange, my side for the Iraq game would be:
Grant, Sainsbury, Wright, Smith
Mooy, Troisi, Leckie
With the exception of Sainsbury and Smith, it’s a side playing regularly and in pretty good form, with pace where it matters. I am a tad worried about the striking options though, especially at home against UAE when we ought to be more attacking.
Adrian’s latest book Political Football: Lawrie McKinna’s Dangerous Truth is in the shops right now or available through Booktopia. Adrian also wrote Mr Cleansheets.