Arnold has goods for top Aussie job

Ex-Aus­tralia striker linked to the All Whites must be favourite for the Soc­ceroos va­cancy in­stead, writes Michael Lynch.

Sunday News - - FOOTBALL -

OPIN­ION: The FFA should look to a lo­cal re­place­ment for for­mer Soc­ceroos coach Ange Postecoglou if it is se­ri­ous about de­vel­op­ing the lo­cal game, its coach­ing in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty and its global rep­u­ta­tion.

Postecoglou was an evan­ge­list for the Australian game, ex­tolling the virtues of lo­cal coaches and play­ers, ad­vo­cat­ing an Australian play­ing style and in­cul­cat­ing a mind­set that em­pha­sised self be­lief and the de­sire to take the game on.

It didn’t al­ways work – wit­ness the strug­gle in World Cup qual­i­fy­ing – but it cer­tainly raised the team’s pro­file in the do­mes­tic mar­ket; the fact that Postecoglou lived here, ad­vo­cated for the sport in the me­dia and was its cham­pion made a dif­fer­ence.

The FFA fully bought into Postecoglou’s cam­paign then, so surely it can’t eas­ily jet­ti­son all that now.

If they share that view, then Gra­ham Arnold, the Syd­ney FC boss, should be a walk-up start.

If this ap­point­ment were just about the World Cup in five months, the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee might just fo­cus on a ‘‘big bang’’ ap­point­ment (a Guus Hid­dink­type gam­ble that worked so well in 2006) and worry about the fu­ture later.

But the fu­ture will ar­rive very quickly. The next Asian Cup is due in the UAE in Jan­uary, 2019, and there will be lit­tle time to ex­per­i­ment or for a new coach to pre­pare for that tour­na­ment af­ter the World Cup.

Who­ever gets the job should have a long-term deal, for the World Cup, the Asian Cup and the qual­i­fy­ing cy­cle for the 2022 tour­na­ment in Qatar as well.

While it is flat­ter­ing for Aus­tralia that so many high-pro­file, out-of-work coaches are be­ing linked with the post, the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee shouldn’t get too car­ried away with the in­ter­est.

Most of the names men­tioned are ex­pe­ri­enced, pro­fes­sion­als who want to work: if the Den­mark or Mo­rocco jobs were open five months out from the World Cup, most of them would also hap­pily throw their hats in the ring for those po­si­tions, too.

Postecoglou got the job in 2013 be­cause of the suc­cess of his Bris­bane Roar team and the state­ment it made about the way A-League clubs could play.

Arnold’s achieve­ments in the A-League are ev­ery bit as im­pres­sive as Postecoglou’s, in some ways more so.

He took the Cin­derella club of the com­pe­ti­tion, Cen­tral Coast, to two grand fi­nals, win­ning one af­ter los­ing the first in ex­tra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances in a penalty shootout to Postecoglou’s Bris­bane, hav­ing led 2-0 un­til the last min­utes of ex­tra time.

Now he has fash­ioned a Syd­ney team that landed the premier­ship/cham­pi­onship dou­ble last sea­son and is at the mo­ment romp­ing away to this sea­son’s ti­tle.

Arnold’s Sky Blues, in their ruth­less ef­fi­ciency, re­lent­less­ness and abil­ity to take teams apart are ev­ery bit as im­pres­sive as Postecoglou’s record-set­ting Bris­bane were with their aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing pass­ing game.

Crit­ics say Arnold’s teams are ‘‘bor­ing’’ and ‘‘de­fen­sive’’. That may have been the case once but it’s cer­tainly not the case now.

How could you not ad­mire and ap­pre­ci­ate the flu­id­ity of Syd­ney and their at­tack­ing prow­ess? The fact that they score more goals and con­cede less than any­one else is tes­ta­ment to the way Arnold has put to­gether a team and coached it to play with max­i­mum ef­fi­ciency front and back.

For some, Arnold has al­ready had a chance with the na­tional team and failed at the 2007 Asian Cup and doesn’t de­serve an­other go.

That, in the evo­lu­tion of Arnold as a coach, was a life­time ago. I cov­ered that tour­na­ment, Aus­tralia’s first es­say in the Asian Cup, and it was a huge learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for all con­cerned.

Arnold was only a care­taker at that time (it was the pe­riod postHid­dink and pre-Pim Ver­beek) and was feel­ing his way in the job.

The golden gen­er­a­tion of play­ers had starred at the pre­vi­ous World Cup but were less than en­am­oured by the prospect of an­other sum­mer with­out a break (hav­ing played in the 2005 Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup and the 2006 GETTY IMAGES World Cup), and it’s fair to say that with a few ex­cep­tions it didn’t look as though their minds were fully on the job.

They should have done bet­ter than they did. But los­ing in a quar­ter­fi­nal in a penalty shoot out to pow­er­house Ja­pan is not a dis­grace. Get­ting beaten by Iraq in the open­ing game looked a dis­as­ter, but a few weeks later, when the Iraqis won the en­tire tour­na­ment, the form line didn’t look quite so bad.

If, in 2013, Postecoglou had been judged by his achieve­ments up to 2007, he prob­a­bly wouldn’t have got the job ei­ther. Af­ter all, the FFA had just sacked him as coach of the Australian ju­nior teams af­ter he had failed to qual­ify for the un­der-20 World Cup. He evolved, de­vel­oped his think­ing, and turned into the most suc­cess­ful Soc­ceroos coach so far.

Arnold has also evolved and de­vel­oped his ap­proach to the game, as his suc­cess, par­tic­u­larly with Syd­ney, shows.

He has skin in the game here, is a proven suc­cess and has plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence at the in­ter­na­tional level.

Surely no-one can ar­gue that the griz­zled vet­eran has not earned the right to have a shot.

‘ Crit­ics say Arnold’s teams are ‘‘bor­ing’’ and ‘‘de­fen­sive’’. That may have been the case once but it’s cer­tainly not the case now.

Gra­ham Arnold has fash­ioned a fine record as coach of Cen­tral Coast and Syd­ney FC.

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