Socceroos midfielder Jackson Irvine has welcomed Football Australia’s decision to keep faith with Graham Arnold, insisting the under-scrutiny coach has been “fantastic for us.”
Germany-based Irvine missed out on Australia’s back-to-back losses against Japan and Saudi Arabia after testing positive for Covid.
IRVINE RECKONS ARNIE IS STILL THE MAN
- Australia midfielder Jackson Irvine believes coach Graham Arnold can still upset the odds and pilot the Socceroos to the World Cup.
- Irvine says it's the players who need to take responsibility for individual errors which have proved costly during qualifying.
- He claims buoyancy within the squad is unwavering going into June 7's sudden-death duel against UAE in Doha.
More Socceroos news can be found on FTBL.
He was a powerless observer from afar as Australia’s automatic World Cup qualification hopes disappeared into the ether.
But Irvine, 29, remains adamant Arnold - despite the social media clamour for him to go - is still the right man to navigate the Socceroos through the playoff minefield in pursuit of an unlikely spot at this year’s showpiece in Qatar.
His experience and bite sorely missed in the 2-0 defeat against Japan and 1-0 loss in Jeddah, St Pauli’s Irvine believes in miracles, and in a coach he says retains the support of his players.
“Arnie has been outstanding with us and has never let anything from the outside affect his approach to games,” Irvine told FTBL. "He's been fantastic for the group,
“The outside noise is always going to be there - it’s the job of the media and the right of every fan to ask questions and analyse.
“But, for us, it never changes how we approach things, the trust we have in each other as a group and also in our coaching staff (Arnold and assistant Rene Meulensteen).
“We know we need to find solutions for the playoffs (in June against UAE in Doha and then Peru if Australia clear that hurdle).
“But Arnie has showed he can be bold with his selections and I’m sure he’ll look at what needs to be put right and will adapt to what lies ahead for us.
“People on the outside can speculate all they like but the bond between the players and staff that Arnie has built up over the past four years is still as strong as ever, and we believe we have a good shot at winning two sudden-death matches and qualifying for Qatar.”
Irvine will be back for those games, hopefully in tandem with Tom Rogic, Aaron Mooy and Adam Taggart - all of whom were ruled out of the March window with either injury or Covid.
Whilst Arnold has borne the brunt of the opprobrium for Australia’s travails, Irvine says the team as a whole has to look in the mirror.
“When we come into camp we only get two or three training sessions, if that, for the coach to work with us,” he said.
“Really, the onus is on us as individuals and collectively to perform and produce the moments of quality needed to win football matches.
“We haven’t been doing that enough lately (as evidenced by just one win in their last seven qualifiers). "Our structure hasn’t been terribly wrong - it’s not come down to tactics or game plans.
“It’s often been down to split-second moments when we’ve maybe made the wrong decisions like giving away penalties against China, Oman and Saudi Arabia (which alone cost six points).
“That’s about individual slip-ups and that happens in football. It’s not about apportioning blame because even the best players make mistakes.
“We have have to find a way to rectify those moments by showing enough quality to go up the other end of the pitch and make up for it so we’re able to put games to bed.”
Irvine says there’s a temptation to over-analyse and agonise over every tiny facet when things are going awry, when what’s needed now are clear heads and a renewal of belief to give Australia the impetus for a final lunge at the finish line.
“We’ve lost some momentum, that’s clear, but now it’s down to who wants it most, hopefully having our best side on the field and raising our game when we need to most will get us to where we want to go,” he added.
“You go into every match believing you can do something special - otherwise why bother turning up?”