Graham Arnold: Mariners on track for title defence

Last season's title-winning tactician believes his troops are progressing well as they prepare to defend their crown in the 203-14 campaign

Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold says he is pleased with his side's progress in pre-season despite losing their first warm-up fixture against A-League opposition last Saturday.

Brisbane Roar defeated the Mariners 2-1 in the run-out, with returning striker Matt Simon scoring the only goal for the Gosford-based outfit.

Nevertheless, Arnold is sure that his charges will be ready for their first-round fixture against the Western Sydney Wanderers at Bluetongue Stadium on October 12.

Speaking to his club's website after the game against the Roar, Arnold said he felt the outing had been a valuable experience for his players as they step up their preparations.

"We had a good hit out against Brisbane last weekend. We're getting four or five new players into the system and there were a lot of positive signs from it," he said.

"It's not going to happen overnight, but the most important thing at the moment is that we keep fit, we keep working hard and we keep improving."

Confident that his side are improving their fitness levels, Arnold is planning for a long season which will see the Mariners competing in the Asian Champions League as well as the domestic competition.

"Pre-season is going well, we are fit and our endurance is good. We are in decent physical shape as we build into the season," he said.

"It is a long season and we've got Asian Champions League again, we always try to make sure we are hitting our straps towards the back end of the season."

"It's important early on even if you are not performing to the best of your ability, that you are grinding out results and getting some points."

With the club recruiting the likes of Argentine Marcos Flores, Dutch defender Marcel Seip and youngster Storm Roux, Arnold is pleased to see them settling into the squad with four weeks remaining before the start of the season.

"It's good to see Marcos, Marcel and young Storm starting to get the way we play," said Arnold.

"We have done a lot of tactical sessions and quite a lot of video analysis to help them with it."

Last season's champions have also taken a key step in ensuring their financial stability, as they conduct talks with Gosford City Council to take over the running of Bluetongue Stadium.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Mariners owner Mike Charlesworth has described the initiative as "pivotal to our sustainability" and also promised to invest his own money into the bid and development of the venue.

If successful in their attempts, the Mariners would be the first A-League club to run their own stadium and would be set to benefit considerably from a variety of new commercial possibilities.

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