Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is weighing up his options as to who leads the line for their upcoming World Cup qualifier against China on Friday morning (AEST).

With A-League Golden Boot winner Jamie Maclaren and captain Matthew Leckie missing, Arnold’s squad consists of only two recognised ‘out and out’ number nines in Mitchell Duke and Adam Taggart.

However, the goal-scoring form of Hibernian winger Martin Boyle has potentially thrown a spanner in the works along with the recent hot-streak of Awer Mabil at FC Midtjylland.

The Socceroos boss said he is still unsure as to who he will deploy up-top, hinting that he may even look at utilising one of his attacking midfielders as potentially a ‘false-nine’.

“Mabil is doing well at Midtjylland, Daniel Arzani has obviously come in, you can use Jackson Irvine higher up the pitch if need be,” Arnold said.

“You got (Tom) Rogic there, (Ajdin) Hrustic that can play higher up the pitch,

“We will look at the players tonight and most important thing are the personal conversations I have with the players today to see where they’re at and how they are feeling heading into this game.”

Along with the striker role, Arnold said he will take another look at his squad in a tactics based session tonight before picking a starting XI to take on China.

Arnold also confirmed that goalkeeper Mat Ryan is in contention to play saying he was “looking fantastic” in his first session with the squad after recovering from a knee injury.

“I haven’t decided on any type of starting lineup at this moment,” Arnold said.

“I have to see them tonight in our one and only tactical session but Matty (Ryan) looked fantastic, he trained well last night, all the boys were fantastic last night,

“The energy was great and as I said it’s about just getting them on the pitch and enjoying themselves and doing the nation proud.”

Assistant coach Rene Meulensteen won’t be on the touchline for their next two matches having tested positive for COVID-19.

Fellow assistant Tony Vidmar will also be missing after opting not to travel to Doha in wake of completing two-lots of hotel quarantine after returning from the Tokyo Olympics.

Joey’s coach and national technical director Trevor Morgan has been summoned to deputise in their place.

“It’s a challenge but it is what it is,” Arnold said.

“Of course I have great trust in my staff everywhere but they’re both working still for me, by remote, we are still communicating with each other and coming up with a game plan,

“The only difference probably is that I’m doing everything on the ground here.”

Following their clash with China, the Socceroos are expecting to still take on Vietnam in Hanoi despite the game’s venue still yet to be confirmed.


Nick D’Urbano