Leading 1-0, midway through the first half, Melbourne City are screaming for a penalty as Daniel Arzani is clipped by Johnny Koutroumbis and falls to the ground.
The referee waves the appeal away, but wait! The VAR is intervening – surely that’s a penalty…
For just about anyone else it probably would have been, but Shaun Evans could be seen speaking very animatedly to the VAR Assistant and you didn’t have to be a lip reader to know what he was saying: “Arzani’s a diver! I’m not putting the home team out of the Grand Final because of Arzani’s cheap theatrics.”
Obviously, that last bit is conjecture, but it’s what everyone will assume Evans was thinking (whether he said it or not). For the sad truth is, wonderful player though he is, Arzani has acquired a reputation for going to ground a little too easily and he needs to get that out of his game pronto, because if he didn’t have the reputation, that penalty gets given last night and Melbourne City would have had a strangle-hold on the game.
The other part of the equation is this: for all his dives, Arzani has won precisely zero free kicks that I can recall. So if you are going to gamble your reputation, you ought to be getting something in return. Clearly it’s not working so time for a change of approach – like just making the most of his outrageous talent.
As for that, there is yet another issue with young Daniel – I think he’s trying too hard. Don’t get me wrong – I think he’s an amazing player and believe 100% we would be mad not to take him to Russia. But in his last couple of games I wonder if the hype was getting to him and he’s started to overcomplicate in an effort to really showcase his ability?
Seriously, that kind of ability doesn’t need to be showcased. All he needs to do is play directly and quickly and the results will follow. He still made several chances for colleagues last night and was (with Nathaniel Atkinson) one of City’s best, but there were a couple of times I think he tried to beat too many players when he could have passed.
You win an opportunity for your team when you beat just one player, because that means at least one man is out of position. Thing is, Arzani attracts defenders like flies to cowflops. That means that he may have no choice other than to beat more than one before he can get his head up again – but he does it regularly. Constantly beats two defenders in a single movement.
That ought to be enough. Beating two defenders puts your team at a massive advantage so that’s the time to find the player(s) in space – not being marked by the players now out of position. Yet more often than not, Arzani continues to drive at the retreating defence, seeking more foes to vanquish when he ought to be looking for the channel runs of his team mates (at least some of the time).
He’s capable of playing sublime passes through the lines but those passes are also contingent on his teammates making the right runs.
Having said all that, I don’t want him to stop making those driving runs (at least some of the time). He has an ability and an effervescence that can’t be coached so you don’t want to bash that out of him. He just needs to get the right balance in his game – when to pass and when to go himself.
Obviously he’s still young and has plenty of time to acquire that balance – but the truly great players in Arzani’s style (like Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Messi) already had it at Arzani’s age.
Some may think I’m over-contributing to the hype myself by even mentioning players of that ilk in this article – and maybe I am. It’s just that I’ve never seen an Australian player with anything like his technical ability and, like any other fan, I just want it see it developed (and used by the Socceroos).
Adrian’s latest book The Fighting Man is in the shops right now or available through Booktopia. Adrian also wrote Mr Cleansheets.