Socceroos coach Graham Arnold boss Graham Arnold has called on his side to be more clinical in front of goal as they face a crucial World Cup qualifier against China.
Despite being largely impressed with the team’s performances in the qualifying campaign, he knows it will mean nothing if the team can’t convert their performances into points, as was the case against Saudi Arabia on Thursday night.
“The mood is great. The review of the game and the performance and statistics show that we did everything but win the game. The performance was great for the first 75 minutes,” said Arnold.
“You look at the statistics, we had 35 penalty box entries to their 13, it shows how dominant we were. But at the end of the day, it’s about putting the ball in the back of the net as well.”
While Australia comfortably defeated China in the reverse fixture in September, he is not expecting an easy game despite winning 3-0 last time these two sides faced off.
“There’s a lot of problems with Chinese football, they’re having to play all their games away from home, which is not far off what has happened to us.
“But a lot of times that can build camaraderie, we just got to make sure that we get our performance right, get out on the pitch and play each game like it’s your last and making sure that you’re mentally prepared and I except no different tomorrow night.”
Arnold’s side will have to get the job done without towering defender Harry Souttar, with confirmation that the Stoke City player will be sidelined for 9-12 months with a serious knee injury.
“It’s definitely 9-12 [months], but with the character and mentality that kid has got; he was more upbeat than anyone else in the whole dressing room after the game, and that’s the type of character and kid he is.
“It’s a setback, he understands that, but he knows that it’s going to make him stronger in the long run and make him mentally tougher. And as I said to him, ‘you’ll be at the World Cup, so get yourself ready and get yourself fit’.”
He also revealed that fellow centre back Trent Sainsbury is carrying a slight hastring problem, but he doesn’t expect this to rule him out of the China match.
“Trent Sainsbury [has] a bit of a hamstring strain, so I had to bring in the extra central defenders to cover that.
“We’ve got to check on him tonight. We did the active recovery session last night and he looked quite good. We just woke up this morning, so I haven’t had the chance to see the players, but I expect that he’ll be fine.”
These injury issues have opened the door for Milos Degenek the chance to return to the starting line-up, and he was giving a ringing endorsement by the manager.
“Milos does great at Red Star Belgrade every week, plays Champions League; I wouldn’t say he’s a great replacement, he’s a great candidate, he’s always done a great job for me and the team.
“He was unavailable for the October camp because he had COVID. Milos has come back in very good condition, and he plays for Red Star in a very successful competition; you see Serbia last night defeating Portugal, it shows the kind of players they’re developing and what they’ve got in their country.
“I’ve got the upmost respect and trust in Milos that he’ll do great job for us.”
Arnold also expressed his excitement for the A-League Men’s season finally getting underway, saying he will be keenly watching some of the top players as they get much needed match minutes under their belts.
“Of course, I’ll be watching the A-League. These A-League boys not getting minutes and lockdown in Australia and not being able to play competitive minutes has been tough for them and tough for us as well, because we haven’t been able to lean on them when we need them most in the September and October camps. They have turned up here in good physical shape, but it’s just the lack of minutes.
“For the older boys, at this moment in time we’ve got the boys who deserve to be here more on reputation than on match minutes because you’re picking players you haven’t seen for two or three months because they haven’t played at all. We’ve used predominantly overseas based players, but it will be good to see the A-League players get back on the field finally.”
Australia take on China on the 17th of November at 2am AEST.