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.
Australia Vs Lebanon
Goalkeeper – Mitch Langerak
Arnold is no doubt a fan of the Nagoya Grampus No. 1, but the former Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper found himself often playing second fiddle to Ryan under Ange Postecoglou and seems to have retained that position under the former Sydney FC boss. Will likely be handed a rare chance against Lebanon.
Right Back – Thomas Deng
Thomas Deng’s story, alongside that of childhood friend Awer Mabil is simply incredible. A tale of sheer resilience and one that provides a reminder of the Socceroos’ incredible diversity in cultures amongst the squad. Rhyan Grant might have to wait a little longer for his Socceroos debut as Deng is likely to be given an opportunity to build on from his impressive A-League form.
Centre Back – Milos Degenek
Degenek’s story of returning to his boyhood club Red Star Belgrade and taking on the likes of Napoli, PSG and Liverpool (where his side came away with a 2-0 win at home) has stolen headlines as of late. Rightfully so, but it is Degenek’s growth in ability and discipline that is there for all to see and there is no doubting that he will feel he has earned a chance to impress.
Centre Back – Matthew Jurman
The hulking left sided defender was a late arrival to Socceroos camp in the playoff qualifiers against Honduras and Syria last year but he was immense in a back three role that the likes of Bailey Wright and Ryan McGowan struggled with. Deserves another chance to demonstrate his indispensability.
Left Back – Alex Gersbach
It was surprising to see Gersbach not provided with a substantial run of games under previous regimes in the left back position, given how technically gifted he is for a fullback. Under the tutelage of his old boss at Sydney FC it is now time for Gersbach to begin to truly push custodian Aziz Behich for a shot at the starting left back position.
Centre Midfielder – Jackson Irvine
High energy, late arrivals in the box and flowing long hair. All components of Hull City’s and Australia’s own Jackson Irvine. It is tough to put Irvine in what will likely be a second string side against Lebanon because he was critical to maintaining the high pressure system Arnold wants to see in his team.
Centre Midfielder – Mustafa Amini
Amini has been kept predominantly to last substitute appearances in a Socceroos shirt over the past few years, but a starting role against Lebanon could be the chance for the former Borussia Dortmund youth player to display a creativity synonymous with his time at the Central Coast Mariners under Graham Arnold.
Attacking Midfielder – Dimi Petratos
Newcastle Jets’ own miracle man with magic feet has all the ability to be the creative hub for the Socceroos. Whilst blessed with natural speed it is his quick thinking, improvisation and silky skills that set him apart from his fellow attackers. If he is opted to play in behind Andrew Nabbout, the pair could reignite a very promising on pitch relationship.
Right Wing – Awer Mabil
A so far consistently solid season with FC Midtjylland in the Danish Superliga exploded to life as Mabil notched two goals and two assists in a 5-0 win over Vejle BK, putting himself in to serious contention for a start in either of the upcoming fixtures for the Socceroos. His FIFA 19 Team of the Week card is a splendid sight as well, considering his exceptional pace and dribbling.
Left Wing – Craig Goodwin/Martin Boyle
Goodwin has taken both the A-League and FFA Cup by storm this domestic season, but it is the hope of Socceroos adherents that he transitions such ability in to some exciting performances for his national side. Whilst Goodwin had been a part of Ange Postecoglou’s squads in the past during his time with Sparta Rotterdam, his return to A-League action has brought back a different player to his previous spell, leading to calls for a start against South Korea.
Earning the left wing role behind Robbie Kruse is no easy feat and in Scottish youth player turned Socceroo, Graham Arnold has a player well suited to his plans to rattle opponents with pace and one that has contributed to 20% of his teams goals this season. It was seriously tough to choose between Goodwin and Boyle, whom are both deserving of spots in the Socceroos squad.
Striker – Andrew Nabbout
It may be unfair to put Tomi Juric below Nabbout in the pecking order of Aussie strikers, but Nabbout’s sheer work rate and ability to press undoubtedly plays in to the hand of Graham Arnold, who views his Socceroos side as one to be modelled in the attacking style of Liverpool. Nabbout’s on pitch connectedness with Dimi Petratos is an additional factor that may influence Arnold’s choice. Nabbout himself is also of Lebanese heritage and has been approached by The Cedars before.