FTBL lays down its predictions for how the Socceroos may take shape over the coming friendlies
Undoubtedly, the way Graham Arnold fields his side against South Korea and against Lebanon will provide a clear indication in to what the starting XI could shape up as in Australia’s opening match of their title defence of the Asian Cup against Jordan.
In particular, the matches will provide a refresh of the types of opposition the Socceroos will face as they take on the Asian Cup next year in January
Assuming Graham Arnold maintains his 4-2-3-1 shape, here is how the side could line up over the next two games…
Australia Vs South Korea
Goalkeeper – Mathew Ryan
Fresh from notching the Premier League Fans' Player of the Month for October, following three consecutive shutouts in goal for Brighton & Hove Albion, Ryan comes in to these fixtures with confidence aplenty. Ryan has developed exceptionally since being thrusted in to a starting role in Brazil four years ago and will seek to maintain his inspiring form of late.
Right Back – Josh Risdon
The Western Sydney Wanderers defender appears to have the right back spot on lockdown for now. An excellent wingback, Risdon’s marauding runs and incessant work rate is critically complementary to the side’s intent to play with a rapid transition.
Centre Back – Trent Sainsbury
A potential Socceroos captain in future and unquestionably one of the key cogs in the current generation of Socceroos. Sainsbury’s all round talent has finally earned him a move to a prestigious club, Dutch side PSV, where his minutes have unfortunately been few and far between. Matches his defensive ability with an excellent passing range and agility to succeed in even the most desperate of challenges.
Centre Back – Mark Milligan
Alongside Sainsbury, Milligan has been cited as a potential Socceroos captain choice leading in to the Asian Cup. Contrary to reports of retiring from the Socceroos following the World Cup, Milligan has opted to stay on, becoming a part of Graham Arnold’s leadership group in the Socceroos camp. Subsequently, following the World Cup, Milligan finally earned a dream move to Europe, signing alongside fellow Aussies Jamie Maclaren and Scotsman turned Socceroo Martin Boyle.
Left Back – Aziz Behich
The current custodian of the left back position in the Socceroos squad, Behich’s eye-catching displays for Bursaspor in the Turkish Super League and at the World Cup under the gaze of Mark van Bommel earned him a move to PSV alongside Sainsbury where he is coached by none other than the Dutch legend. Like Sainsbury though, his time in the side has been limited.
Centre Midfielder – Aaron Mooy
Huddersfield Town’s midfield maestro is the beating heart of the Premier League side week in and week out. For his national side Mooy displays the same tenacity and ability, but it is in his attacking instinct that Graham Arnold sees further potential. Arnold undoubtedly wants the midfielder to relinquish the form that saw him dominate the A-League and earn a move to Huddersfield via Manchester City.
Centre Midfielder – Massimo Luongo
Sympathy rung out around Massimo Luongo following consecutive World Cup squad call-ups and zero game time, but such a setback has done little to encroach on the dynamic midfielder’s classy displays for QPR in the English Championship. He will likely sit alongside Mooy, with Arnold attempting to facilitate getting the most out of both players’ balance of attacking and defensive ability.
Attacking Midfielder – Tom Rogic
Mercurial is the word often used to describe Celtic’s Tom Rogic but against an admittedly disinterested and lacklustre Kuwait, Rogic was pulling the strings for his side in a manner indicative of his form in the Scottish Premiership. Graham Arnold seems to have raised confidence levels across the park, but it is in Rogic where he has had to unearth a longstanding potential to be a Socceroos great.
Right Wing – Mathew Leckie
Leckie is one of the Socceroos’ greatest assets and having been blessed with immense speed he will be one to watch over the friendlies. His directness and aggression is something that Arnold will seek to maximise as he pushes Leckie to be an ever-present nuisance for the South Korean defence.
Left Wing – Robbie Kruse
Perennial whipping boy for Socceroos fans on social media, which whilst understandable at times is wholly unnecessary for the large part. Kruse was fantastic against Kuwait, putting in the type of shift that excited fans in the past. The VFL Bochum is very much in the plans of Graham Arnold, whether fans like it or not, he will always be one who can change a game in an instant.
Striker – Jamie Maclaren
The choice for who takes up the elusive striker position against South Korea is one of the major concerns of Socceroos fans and despite Graham Arnold’s desire for the goal tally to be spread out amongst the Socceroos attackers and midfielders, there still needs to be a focal point or finisher. Maclaren is that finisher. Lethal in the box and with pace to burn, he is energy incarnate and perfectly fitted to Arnold’s pace based system.