The Socceroos questions facing Graham Arnold

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The World Cup proved Arnold has a few things to sort out

Incoming Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is set for a busy six months as he tries to pick the national team back up after the World Cup.

Despite some promising performances in Russia, the green and gold couldn't quite cut it on the world stage picking up just one point from their three group games.

Though Bert van Marwijk did well with the short time he had in charge, more will be expected of Arnold as the Socceroos prepare to defend their Asian Cup crown in January.

Here are five questions that Arnold will need to answer. 

Who can solve the Socceroos struggles in front of goal?

Tomi Juric Socceroos

Australia exited the 2018 World Cup as the only side unable to score from open play. 

Two Mile Jedinak penalties were the only way the Socceroos could strike in Russia and it highlighted a long-term issue in front of goal.

With all-time leading goal scorer Tim Cahill in his twilight and set to retire, Tomi Juric has been leading the line but struggling to score.

Suffering an injury in the lead up to the World Cup, Andrew Nabbout was used as Australia's starting striker against France and Denmark. Tireless but barely getting a shot away, he didn't solve to the Socceroos final-third woes and after dislocating his shoulder will out of action for up to six months.

Jamie Maclaren does loom as a possible answer but needs a good chance to show what he can do.

Already 24, time is quickly getting away from Maclaren, who is yet to score for the national team but more than capable of doing so.

Whether Arnold is prepared to give him a shot remains to be seen with the fact Bobo has led the line for Sydney FC over the past two seasons suggesting he may want to stick with a more physical centre forward like Juric.

If so, he simply must start firing and with Cahill set to exit, he might finally be ready to step up.

Arnold must also get the most out of wingers like Matthew Leckie and Robbie Kruse in the final third, while also allowing Tom Rogic a little more space to show what can do in front of goal.

A new centre-back pairing?

Trent Sainsbury Socceroos

Trent Sainsbury is a shoe in for the next few years at centre back for the Socceroos, but who will partner him is a lot less certain.

Mark Milligan slotted in admirably alongside Sainsbury in Russia but at 32 is considering stepping away from the national team and that will leave a rather important hole to fill. 

Former Sydney FC defender Matt Jurman makes a lot of sense after improving immensely under Arnold a few years ago and earning a move to Asia in the process.

Milos Degenek and Bailey Wright will be pushing their cases though and do have age on their side considering Jurman is already 28 and lacking national team experience.

While Milligan might be able to do a job for a few more years if he decides to play, Arnold may have to roll the dice on a new centre-back pairing sooner rather than later. 

Changes on the flanks could also be possible, with Alex Gersbach and Rhyan Grant two players who have shined under Arnold at club level and desperate for a chance to play for the Socceroos. 

A new formation?

Mile Jedinak Socceroos

While it's safe say Arnold won't deploy three at the back like Ange Postecoglou, it will be interesting to see whether he's tempted to bring his most recent club formation to the national arena.

A 4-3-2-1 system worked wonders for Sydney FC, but the Socceroos have most recently become accustomed to a 4-2-3-1. 

A formation change to mimic that of the Sky Blues wouldn't be too drastic though and could indeed work to Australia's favour.

Rogic for one wouldn't be as isolated as a number 10 with Aaron Mooy or Massimo Luongo brought higher up the pitch.

While centralising the play will allow wingers like Matthew Leckie and young gun Daniel Arzani to have a greater influence on the game.

Though with enough to speed to make the most of out-and-out wingers, the Socceroos haven't capitalised on a lot of promising play down the flanks in recent times and Cahill's exit won't help that fact. 

Substance over style?

Socceroos 2018

Postecoglou recently hit out at the Socceroos lack of attacking ambition under Bert van Marwijk in Russia and it will be interesting to see what approach Arnold takes to the national team.

With Sydney FC, his side was defined by a compact defence and sharp counter attack - two traits potentially well suited to the green and gold.

While Postecoglou would like to see the Socceroos take it to the world's best, Arnold will likely take a more conservative stance by setting up the team to be strong defensively and capable of causing damage on the break.

It's a set up that's worked well for him at club level and could work at international level willing he's able to get the Socceroos attack firing again.  

Can the Socceroos win the 2019 Asian Cup?

Socceroos Asian Cup 2015

Yes will be the official answer from Arnie, but in reality Australia faces a huge challenge to defend their 2015 Asian Cup crown in Jordan.

Not only will Arnold have been in the job less than six months when it begins, but the level of competition in Asia has grown immensely over the past four years.

While Japan and South Korea loom as familiar foes to watch out for - the likes of Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and even hosts Jordan cannot be underestimated.

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After being held to a 2-2 draw with Thailand in 2017, the Socceroos simply can't afford to take Asian opposition lightly.

Arnold began his first tenure as Socceroos coach with a disastrous 2007 Asian Cup campaign and he'll be desperate to avoid a repeat 12 years later.

Though defending the title will be difficult, a run to the semi-finals will surely be the bare requirement needed to satisfy fans and if not expect even more questions to be asked of Graham Arnold. 

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