SYDNEY (Reuters) – Finding a replacement for the retired Tim Cahill and changing the tactics to produce more goal scoring options will be the key objectives of new Australia coach Graham Arnold ahead of the Socceroos’ Asian Cup defence in January.
Former Sydney FC coach Arnold was appointed to the role in March, but was scheduled to take the job after the World Cup in Russia where Dutchman Bert van Marwijk was in charge.
Van Marwijk held the reins in Russia as part of a short-term deal struck in the wake of Ange Postecoglou’s shock resignation in November after securing the team’s qualification via an intercontinental playoff.
Arnold’s first major assignment will be to plot the side’s defence of its Asian Cup title in the United Arab Emirates next January but he has to do so without Cahill, who retired from international soccer after the World Cup.
“Timmy’s a legend of the game and we have the utmost respect for Timmy and what he did for the country but football’s not about one person,” Arnold told reporters on Thursday.
“The way we played was very heavily reliant on Timmy to score those goals and I will do that differently.
“It’s about getting the right environment but also on the field, getting the key men on the ball, getting players into goalscoring opportunities, getting numbers in the box to score.”
The team’s first training camp would be held next month, he said, while they were busy trying to organise matches in October and November as part of their preparations.
A stalwart of Australian soccer, the former national team striker returns for a second stint in the top job, having led the side for a year after Guus Hiddink stepped down following the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
While Arnold’s primary focus would be on the senior side, Football Federation Australia said on Thursday he would also be in charge of the under-23 team as they seek to improve the development pathways in the national setup.
The men’s under-23 team have not qualified for the Olympics since the Beijing Games in 2008 and failed to get out of their group at the last two Asian under-23 championships.
The new structure had support from the country’s A-League clubs and while Arnold said he expected to be busy, the senior side was his priority.
“My full focus is on the Socceroos,” he said. “But I do feel that being able to do both teams will inject a lot of new young blood, young talent into the Socceroos quicker.
“I do believe that is what we need right now.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)