FO­CUS ON THE FIELD

Coach’s man-man­age­ment skills tested

Sunshine Coast Daily - - SPORT - EMMA KEMP

FOOT­BALL: He says it’s one of his strengths, and Gra­ham Arnold’s man-man­age­ment skills are get­ting a work­out at a ma­jor tour­na­ment co­in­cid­ing with the trans­fer win­dow and rife with se­lec­tion headaches.

If the new Soc­ceroos coach didn’t al­ready have enough on his plate un­der the weight of ex­pec­ta­tion re­served for de­fend­ing Asian Cup cham­pi­ons, the dis­trac­tion of lu­cra­tive club of­fers on the ta­ble for some of his squad adds a new el­e­ment.

Ru­mours of Mi­los De­genek’s re­cently an­nounced trans­fer to cashed-up Saudi pow­er­house Al-Hi­lal have fol­lowed the de­part­ing Red Star Bel­grade cen­tre-back since the be­gin­ning of camp.

Mel­bourne City are be­lieved to be tar­get­ing striker Jamie Ma­claren, cur­rently on loan with Hiber­nian from Ger­man club Darm­stadt, and also have Urawa Red Di­a­monds for­ward An­drew Nab­bout on their wish­list.

And Nor­way-based Alex Gers­bach is re­port­edly in talks about a con­tract with NAC Breda.

Some have made moves them­selves to curb the in­ter­rup­tion – it’s un­der­stood De­genek wanted Al-Hi­lal to hold off an­nounc­ing his switch un­til after the tour­na­ment.

Nev­er­the­less, it’s pre­sented a unique chal­lenge as the team nav­i­gates a less-than-straight­for­ward group stage cul­mi­nat­ing in tonight’s de­ci­sive clash with Syria in Al Ain.

“It’s a new one, that’s for sure,” Arnold said.

“Keep­ing them fo­cused on their job and keep­ing them fo­cused on what we’re do­ing while they’re get­ting agents call­ing them with of­fers – some are get­ting of­fers with crazy money.

“It can be (chal­leng­ing). At the same time, I’m fully aware of what’s go­ing on so I can talk to the play­ers about it and re­move it from their minds while they’re rep­re­sent­ing us.”

There’s also the mat­ter of break­ing bad news to play­ers be­ing dropped.

The bold move to bring in Chris Ikono­midis and Jack­son Irvine for Fri­day’s 3-0 de­feat of Pales­tine proved spot on.

But it also meant a tough con­ver­sa­tion with Rob­bie Kruse and Mas­simo Luongo, and Arnold said he took a dif­fer­ent tack with dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties.

“That’s man man­age­ment, that’s one of my strengths,” Arnold said.

“Man man­age­ment is get­ting the best out of peo­ple. Com­mu­ni­cat­ing is a big key.”

Signs from train­ing sug­gest Mark Mil­li­gan is set to shift to de­fence to cater for the ab­sence of Trent Sains­bury through sus­pen­sion.

Though he didn’t con­firm, Arnold was cer­tain the vo­cal skip­per could still ex­ert his in­flu­ence from the back, with Luongo likely to ben­e­fit from the prospec­tive move.

Photo: Fran­cois Nel

OFF-FIELD DIS­TRAC­TIONS: Jamie Ma­claren cel­e­brates with team­mates after scor­ing against Pales­tine.

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