If Graham Arnold was reach panadol to cope with selection headaches in september, it might need something a little stronger at this point. With just over two weeks to go until Australia’s World Cup opener against France, the time for deliberations is up for the Socceroos boss. There is no more football to play and no more opportunities to advocate for the selection; 1,153 days after the Socceroos began their trip to Qatar, Arnold will name the 26 players he will take to the biggest sporting event on the planet on Tuesday.
But unfortunately for Arnold, while the majority of his squad appear largely settled – the names of ’15 or 16 players’ were effectively decided two months ago and several others have bolstered their cases since – the picture surrounding the final slots did not become clearer through the weekend, particularly for those plying their trade in Australia’s top flight.
“If you think about it too much, it can affect your mentality and your focus in games,” said Melbourne City striker Mat Leckie. “At the end of the day, the only thing we can do is play for our clubs and get fully fit. And then it’s up to Arnie to decide.
Certainly, for players like Leckie, the stakes associated with the first few weeks of the ALM season have been low. One of Arnold’s defining characteristics as a coach is his loyalty to his players and he will be reluctant to let go of anything that has brought him to this point. It will only be exacerbated by injuries, lack of club minutes or a combination of the two that have befallen so many in the months leading up to the tournament. The sudden uncertainty surrounding who would have been considered cornerstones may make the pragmatic Arnold think twice before pulling too many shocks at the selection table.
Coming from a position in which he likely protected a position rather than trying to win one, Leckie’s place in Qatar was likely assured even without considering his significant contributions to City’s unbeaten start to the domestic season. . The same goes for team-mate Jamie Maclaren, whose brace against Perth Glory on Saturday nets him seven goals in five games to start the season.
Adelaide United winger Craig Goodwin, who has returned to form after battling injuries to lead the league in creating chances, is in a similar position, while penalty shootout hero Andrew Redmayne has avoided a fall into a crevasse while keeping goal for Sydney FC and almost certainly goes on the final list as well.
But not everything can be that simple. During the final round of the ALM before Arnold dropped off his team, City striker Marco Tilio, Central Coast Mariners duo Garang Kuol and Jason Cummings, and Macarthur dynamo Daniel Arzani made their way to the pitch with what was likely just one seat on the plane for a catch – and that leaves Australian-born, Roma-born Italy junior international Cristian Volpato out of the equation.
Melbourne Victory cruised to a 4-0 win over the Newcastle Jets with Chris Ikonomidis, Nick D’Agostino and Jake Brimmer but the three-game scoreless streak before Friday night’s dominating display cast a shadow.
Based on form, the player with the strongest resume in the 2022-23 season is Cummings. The Scotland-born striker played a key role in three of his side’s four games to start the season and had an iconic performance of one goal and three assists against Western United in the fourth round. Cummings, however, is trying to break into a largely established centre-forward group and was largely overshadowed by Kuol in the Mariners’ 3-0 win over Western Sydney on Saturday after the 18-year-old once again toppled the game. when introduced as a substitute.
Kuol’s latest eye-catching display from the bench came after Tilio scored his second goal of the season in City’s win over Glory earlier in the day; the winger finished strong after a move on the left in the second half. The question for Tilio is whether his combined 18 minutes over the two rounds of the season will cost him at the selection table.
With just one winning performance to his name so far this season, Arzani started furthest behind the quartet of prospects when he made the trip to Wellington. An assist and another strong individual performance followed – the 23-year-old leads the league in dribbles attempted and is second in dribbles completed – but his side’s 4-1 loss and scorer Callan Elliot scoring on the opposite end may have -to be put an end to his hopes. .
Possible Socceroos team: Mat Ryan, Mitch Langerak, Andrew Redmayne, Aziz Behich, Joel King, Harry Souttar, Kye Rowles, Trent Sainsbury, Milos Degenek, Bailey Wright, Nathaniel Atkinson, Fran Karacic, Aaron Mooy, Jackson Irvine, Ajdin Hrustic, Cam Devlin, Riley McGree , Craig Goodwin, Denis Genreau, Awer Mabil, Martin Boyle, Mat Leckie, Garang Kuol, Mitch Duke, Jamie Maclaren, Adam Taggart.
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