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Socceroos coach Graham Arnold wants fresh thinking on A-League

Graham Arnold
Graham Arnold wants a solution to the conflict that too often arises between club sides and the national team.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has called for a football forum to solve the eternal club-versus-country row he says is threatening the future competitiveness of the national team.

Arnold, back in Australia after steering the Olyroos through the first round of qualifying to the Tokyo Olympics, says Australian under-23 teams needs more matches. So many matches, in fact, that it could be untenable for him to maintain the role through to January's qualifying tournament and the 2020 Games.

Arnold has canvassed leaving the position given his primary focus is the Socceroos coaching job, which uses the same international windows as the Olyroos.

"It's something I've got to sit down over the next couple of weeks and decide which way I go," he said. "I can't be two places at once.

"I took this Olympic job without any extra salary or reason. It was more about the growth of the Socceroos. When I watched the Socceroos in Russia, we were thin on depth. The only place the depth can come from is underneath.

"[Underage teams] need to have training camps and games in all FIFA windows."

One possibility is the Olyroos playing matches during the A-League's long preseason. Another is clear air through January, allowing clubs smoother sailing to achieve their domestic ambitions while international football takes place.

Arnold was criticised by Western Sydney boss Markus Babbel and Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat for calling up players at the expense of their club commitments. As a former A-League boss, Arnold said he could see the divide from both angles.

"It's been an ongoing problem for years and we need to fix it. We need to sit down and talk about it," he said.

"The problem I see is that the A-League ... is not in line with Asia. Every January there's a major tournament in Asia. What's the best way to deal with this? Maybe it's to have a break in the A-League."

Arnold was adamant of the importance of the under-23 campaign, citing a string of Socceroos legends who got their start at the Olympics.

"Vince Grella, Mark Bresciano, Jason Culina, Luke Wilkshire, Carl Valeri, Brett Holman didn't play for the Socceroos until after they were Olympians," he said. "They went on to play 397 games for the Socceroos. That's how important this campaign is."

Arnold said he'd be calling on top talent like Daniel Arzani to help in January to get Australia back to the Olympics for the first time in 12 years.

"You have to take your best team and best players and on top of that you need preparation," he said. "Asia is getting harder and harder. You can't turn up with a second-rate team with no preparation thinking it's going to be easy. It's not."

Australia are through to the qualifying tournament off the back of 6-0 wins over Cambodia and Taiwan and a 2-2 draw with South Korea.

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