Three tactical questions for Graham Arnold ahead of Socceroos opener

The Socceroos begin their Asian Cup defence against Jordan on Sunday night at 10pm. We take a look at the key tactical questions coach Graham Arnold will be pondering before kick-off.

How do the Socceroos replace Mooy and Jedinak in midfield?

The Socceroos midfield will undergo the sporting equivalent of a heart transplant when it lines up without Aaron Mooy and Mile Jedinak on Sunday night.

Could Mark Milligan be the midfield answer for the Socceroos?

Could Mark Milligan be the midfield answer for the Socceroos?Credit:AAP

Mooy – the calm-passing metronome who controls tempo better than any other Socceroo – and Jedinak – the beacon of stability and wily defensive positioning – have been mainstays in Australias midfield for several years.


Tom Rogic, Massimo Luongo and Jackson Irvine will all be asked to play their part filling the void, but it might be the club form of defender Milos Degenek that yields the solution to the midfield jigsaw.

Degeneks regular European game time for Champions League outfit Red Star Belgrade means he is likely to slot in next to Trent Sainsbury in central defence, allowing Mark Milligan to shift into midfield.

Milligans move into the base of midfield will bring experience and assuredness to the Socceroos in possession, though admittedly he does not possess the same guile as Mooy.

Likely to be placed in a midfield three with Rogic and Luongo, Milligan will act as the anchor that allows Rogic to pick up the ball between the lines and create play in the final third.

What will the Socceroos' attack look like?

With Tim Cahill retired and Tomi Juric not in Graham Arnolds plans, the Socceroos are set to employ a fluid front-third set-up where a combination of Andrew Nabbout, Robbie Kruse, Chris Ikonomidis, Awer Mabil and Rogic will interchange positions, taking inspiration from the dynamic attacking trio at Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Nabbout is tipped to start in the No.9 role, a position he hasnt generally been accustomed to in his career, usually plying his trade in wide positions. Nabbout hasnt scored since making his club move to Japan, and wasnt prolific in his time at the Newcastle Jets either, scoring around one in every three matches.

Andrew Nabbout could start as a No.9.

Andrew Nabbout could start as a No.9.Credit:AAP

Arnold will have the option of reverting to a more standard attacking mode and bringing on – or even starting with – Jamie Maclaren operating as an off-the-shoulder centre forward. The goals havent flowed for Maclaren this season in Scotland, but he scored one in every two games for Hibernian last season, and 40 in 53 games for Brisbane Roar before then.

If Mabil-Nabbout-Kruse doesnt click a la Salah-Firmino-Mane, Arnold will be tempted to utilise the plucky poacher Maclaren for a more direct route to goal.

How will the Socceroos manage their opponents counter-attacks?

Arnold's stated intention to play a style of soccer that floods numbers forward leaves the Socceroos vulnerable to being caught on the counter.

The Socceroos' full-backs – including Aziz Behich and whoever is selected out of Rhyan Grant and Josh Risdon at right-back – are attacking-minded players who naturally enjoy overlapping and getting to the touchline to play dangerous balls across the box.

Without Mile Jedinak patrolling the space behind the advancing full-backs, Milligan and Luongo will need to be diligent in ensuring a loss of possession does not result in opponents streaming down the channels exposing the centre backs.

The vulnerability may be exacerbated by Sainsburys lack of match fitness, having played minimal game time at PSV Eindhoven. Sainsbury looked particularly exposed to defending pacy counter-attacks in a recent friendly against South Korea last November.

Paul is a reporter for The Age.

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