Milligan’s versatility is key for Arnold. (Karim Sahib / AFP)
Milligan’s versatility is key for Arnold. (Karim Sahib / AFP)

Big questions as Arnold faces crunch clash

Answers were provided, now Graham Arnold must mull more burning questions before Wednesday morning's crunch Syria clash.

Having made bold changes and landed on a creative and effective starting side for Palestine, the Socceroos coach will return to the drawing board for a third group match back in Al Ain that will determine their Asian Cup fate.

Surely Chris Ikonomidis must stay? And should he keep Jamie Maclaren up front? Does Mark Milligan move to defence? If so, how does he reshuffle the midfield?

They're all decisions with potentially big ramifications.


Apostolos Giannou has shown his value. (Francois Nel/Getty Images)
Apostolos Giannou has shown his value. (Francois Nel/Getty Images)


Milligan's positioning is the first piece of the puzzle given Trent Sainsbury's suspension for picking up his second yellow card of the tournament.

Arnold has already laid down the two options - either shift Milligan back into central defence, where he played every World Cup game, or leave him at the base of midfield and promote centre-back Matt Jurman.

The former would allow him to start both the in-form Jackson Irvine and Massimo Luongo, but would rob the attack of Milligan's direct passing - a key element of Friday's success in Dubai.

It's good to have an adaptable player like Mark Milligan," Arnold said.

"He did very, very well. I've got a couple of days to think about the next game, and making sure we get it tactically right again is the most important thing."

Further inquiries loom in the attacking third.

Ikonomidis was a rational replacement for the out-of-form Robbie Kruse and ended up best on the park with two assists.

His six chances are the most created by a single player in a match at this Cup thus far, and it seems unfeasible the Perth Glory 23-year-old could be dropped.

Likewise, Rhyan Grant will probably be retained at right-back, with Josh Risdon's groin injury set to keep him sidelined another game.

Less certain is who starts up front.

Maclaren has twice been selected by virtue of Andrew Nabbout's groin injury, which ruled him out on the eve of the Jordan loss.

Now Nabbout looks to be back fit and in contention, but does Arnold pull a striker finally full of confidence after scoring a first for his country at his 10th attempt?

Regardless of who takes the field in three days, Arnold has vowed to go out "all guns blazing".

Syria, holders of a solitary point and with everything to play for, might employ a similar approach.

While poor in their first two games - and now in leadership turmoil following Bernd Stange's abrupt dismissal - Syria pushed Australia all the way in their World Cup qualifying playoff and have already mentioned revenge.

"It'll obviously be a difficult game," Arnold said.

"We know them well, we played off against them in World Cup qualifiers so my players - I wasn't there - but my players do know them.

"We'll recover, get ready, we'll analyse them and then go out and expect to win the game."


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