Surprise selections, forced absentees, experienced heads and young prospects – Graham Arnold covered a variety of talking points during his 15-minute squad announcement press conference yesterday.
CONFIRMED: Caltex Socceroos lock-in clash with Lebanon
Here’s Arnie’s thoughts on the 11 players he discussed, or simply name-checked, as he debriefed the media about the 31-man squad that that will convene in Antalya next week.
The Celtic attacker has been a consistent performer during the opening phase of the 2018-19 season, which is why many were surprised to see his name absent from Arnold’s team list. He explains why:
“Tommy’s got an ongoing knee issue that’s affecting his hamstring. Every game he’s played over the past few weeks, he’s only been in for 60 minutes and he’s coming off the bench. He’s having an injection directly after the game on the weekend that requires five to seven days rest.”
The day before Hertha Berlin’s 1-0 victory against Nuremberg, it was announced that Leckie would miss the Bundesliga opener with an injury. Arnie is more hopeful he may link up with the squad:
“Mat Leckie is the same, he’s got a knee injury. These type of things can happen, especially after a World Cup, that’s the main reason why I didn’t want a game in this September window.
"The World Cup puts a lot of stress on the players, physically and mentally. Mat has got a knee injury but we’re working hard to get him in for a couple of days so we can see exactly what the injury is.”
Mile Jedinak has seen action in the Aston Villa back-line this season and Arnold revealed this could also be an option for the influential veteran at international level.
“I had a great chat with Mile last night for half an hour. Mile’s in a good head space at the moment, he’s enjoying playing centre back for Aston Villa. He gives us another option. He’s a great leader and he’s been part of the Socceroos for a long while.”
On to another seasoned Caltex Socceroo who was converted into a defender, Arnold said he was looking forward to assessing new Hibernian player Mark Milligan.
“That’s what this September camp is about. It’s about seeing where he’s at mentally. I’ve spoken to him three or four times and that was right across every movement he was doing to go to Hibs.
"I thought he had a fantastic World Cup. I thought him and the backline and Matty Ryan did an outstanding job so Mark, I think, has a lot more to offer.”
It was only a passing mention, but Arnold referenced the new Celtic attacker’s ability to change a game in an instant. A hint that the tricky winger could be a key part of Arnie’s plans?
“I look forward to having players like Daniel Arzani, who has a one-v-one action, you can give them the ball – give them the key and they’ll open the door.”
The 22-year-old forward starred for FC Midtjylland with a goal and an assist in a 3-0 Danish Superliga win over Randers last week, but Arnold admitted he’s been an admirer for some time.
“Mabil I’ve been watching very closely for the last six months. He seems like he’s developed a lot physically, he’s doing a great job.”
A surprise call-up for many, Arnold revealed he wanted a couple of talent youngsters to experience life in a senior international camp. He may be one more for the future than the present, but the on-loan PEC Zwolle attacker Denis Genreau could be a name to remember.
“I spoke to John van 't Schip and he’s so excited about that kid and the way he’s going at PEC Zwolle. We’ve got some very good flexible players who can play in any role.”
Another 19-year-old who has clearly made an impression on the senior coach. Arnold mentioned Iredale could be ear-marked for a role in the Under 23s.
“Johnny Iredale, I’ve bought in mainly to connect with the squad but with also one eye on the Olympic team. He’s only 19, he’s at the Heerenveen youth team. Last year he scored 24 goals in 27 games.
“I know the kid well, he has a lot of talent and I want to see where he’s at. It’s about giving people an opportunity. I’ve learned in the past when you do give kids an opportunity, they take it.”
Hyundai A-League players
Two Hyundai A-League players were named in the 31-man squad, Josh Risdon and Dimi Petratos, but Arnold explained his focus was on reviewing the European-based players he was less familiar with.
Without mentioning any names, Arnold spoke about holding a behind-close-doors camp last week with 23 young Hyundai A-League players in Canberra.
He did, however, name-check three other, more experienced, Hyundai A-League stars.
“The Adam Taggarts, the Brendan O’Neills, James Troisi, players right across the A-League, I get to see them all the time and this first camp is more about me getting to see the European boys up close.”