As Socceroos still seek long-term replacement for Tim Cahill, Graham Arnold’s prescription for the Asian Cup is broad.
It was timely that Tim Cahill was in the headlines this week discussing the A-League’s Unite Round, because Cahill’s name was also a hot topic in Doha as the Socceroos prepare to launch their Asian Cup campaign.
Or at least his absence was, as Australia continues to grapple with the thorny question of finding a goalscorer to replace Cahill five years after he retired.
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold admitted that the search to replace a once-in-a-generation talent like Cahill goes on, so dominant was he for so long, and challenged the players in the 2024 squad to produce the goals needed to mount a successful campaign.
Mitch Duke looks certain to lead the line after his success in recent months, while Kusini Yengi offers similar physicality – and Bruno Fornaroli is in the form of his life for Melbourne Victory.
But in the absence of such a talisman as Cahill, Arnold is seeking a broader contribution from a number of players, and used one in particular as an example.
“(Scoring enough goals) has been a concern since Timmy Cahill retired,” Arnold said. “Even under Ange (Postecoglou), Timmy was the main goal scorer there as well.
“It’s something that we’ve tried to share amongst the team and amongst the front players and how important it is to have those players getting into the box and giving them chances to score.
“What’s also very, very important is our set pieces and that we get our set pieces right, because at the end of the day, set pieces can change a game.
“So we’re working on all those patterns and we’re working on the finishing and getting players in those positions to put the ball in the back of the net and that’s all we can do.”
Only two of the squad have 10 goals or more at international level, and one of those is defender Harry Souttar – Arnold wants others to chip in, such as Riley McGree.
“(The goalscoring side of things) is something that I am pushing at Riley, talking to him about getting into positions in the box to score because I do believe he has that quality to score goals,” he said.
“I think that once he gets that into his game, you’ll see him go to a higher level of potentially club football as well.
“Riley’s fit (after plantar fasciitis) and he’s ready to go. If there’s a positive (from his injury) it’s that it gave him a bit of a break and he’s freshened up and he looks fantastic.”
Arnold gave few other hints as to who would start against India on Saturday in the first game, with Mat Ryan still to be definitively ruled in after suffering a broken cheek bone last month – though expectations are that Ryan will play.
Australia v India
Asian Cup: Saturday, 13 January 2024
Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Kick-off: 2:30pm local (10:30pm AEDT)
Broadcast: Network 10 and Paramount+