Socceroos hopefuls be on notice: Graham Arnold will treat the opening months of the A-League as a nine-round audition for his Asian Cup squad.
Arnold oversaw his first game back in charge of the national team on Tuesday morning (AEDT), defeating Kuwait 4-0.
That squad included just two A-League players; Josh Risdon of Western Sydney and untested Melbourne Victory defender Thomas Deng.
Both saw game-time in Kuwait City, showing that Arnold – who led Central Coast and Sydney FC to championships during his time in the A-League – has no issue with selecting Australian-based players.
“Thomas Deng and Josh Risdon showed tonight that the A-League boys have all got chances,” Arnold said after the success.
“Perform well, do well, you belong here in the Socceroos.”
Arnold said he didn’t pick other domestic players for his first two training camps, choosing to focus on Socceroos based in Europe as the A-League is yet to start.
That could bring Victory’s James Troisi and Sydney FC midfielder Josh Brillante into the fray, two of the unlucky players cut from Bert van Marwijk’s extended group on the eve of the World Cup.
Re-signed Newcastle forward Dimi Petratos, who travelled to Russia, is certain to come into sharp focus.
Riley McGree (Melbourne City), Adam Taggart (Brisbane Roar), Lawrence Thomas and Terry Antonis (both Victory) will also be assessed closely.
“I think the A-League has recruited fantastically and it’s a really exciting year ahead,” Arnold said.
“Australians have come back, and I’ll be watching every week. Perform well and you’ll be selected.”
Australia plays two friendlies next month, against South Korea in Brisbane and Lebanon in Sydney, before announcing a squad to travel to Dubai for the tournament.
The squad is expected to head into camp around Christmas, ahead of the Socceroos’ opening match against Jordan on January 6 in Al Ain.