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.
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.