Arnold forced to tinker with Socceroos

Australia have beaten Jordan but Graham Arnold wants increased squad performance.
Australia have beaten Jordan but Graham Arnold wants increased squad performance.

Graham Arnold has been frustrated in his attempts to field his preferred starting line-up in the opening round of 2002 World Cup qualifiers but insists his Socceroos selections are all about match minutes.

Australia hung on to edge Jordan 1-0 in Amman on Thursday to remain top of Group B with 12 points.

Injuries to key players and fatigue from long-distance travel have forced the manager to field four different starting line-ups in as many matches.

But with all his defenders and goalkeepers finally available against Jordan, Arnold opted for Brad Smith at left back, Milos Degenek and Trent Sainsbury in the centre, Rhyan Grant on the right and Mathew Ryan in goal.

It's believed he prefers a combination of attackers Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic, Mathew Leckie and Martin Boyle with Mark Milligan in a more defensive midfield role and striker Jamie Maclaren leading the line.

Of that 11, only Mooy and Grant have started all four qualifiers.

When asked about his assessment of the Australia's starting line-up against Jordan, Arnold didn't think it was the strongest.

"We lost Leckie, we lost Mclaren," he said,

"The most important thing is not about the starting 11 it's about competition for places because the players know that they can't slacken off because if they do then there's someone coming for them."

Arnold maintains that the number of club match minutes was the determining factor in his selections, except winger Martin Boyle who had played just five club matches for Scottish Premier League outfit Hibernian in 2019.

He said everyone selected in the qualifier had been playing regularly over the past month.

"They've got match rhythm, they've got match fitness, they are fit to play a game like that because if players come in and they're not fit, they don't have the rhythm," the manager said.

The Socceroos' next World Cup qualifier is on March 26 at home against Kuwait.

Barring any further setbacks, Maclaren and Milligan would again be available, as would Leckie, after the birth of his son this week.

Australian Associated Press