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Mar 3, 2012

Arnold fears A-League talent drain

Central Coast coach Graham Arnold is excited about unleashing his talented youngsters in the Asian Champions League, but fears the A-League can do little to stop the talent drain to Asia.

The league-leading Mariners headed to China on Sunday in preparation for their first ACL group game against Tianjin Teda on Wednesday.

"We're going there to win and that's the mentality of these blokes, I never send them out to draw," Arnold said.

Central Coast left Australia with a three-point lead over Brisbane following a stoppage-time equaliser from substitute Troy Hearfield in the 1-1 home draw with Sydney on Saturday.

"The thing that I'm excited about is really seeing how our youngsters go in Asia," Arnold said.

The Mariners have scored four successive monthly Young Player of the Year nominations through 18-year-old midfielder Mustafa Amini, and 19-year-olds Bernie Ibini, goalkeeper Mathew Ryan and Tomas Rogic.

While Arnold said he was buzzing about the Mariners' participation in the ACL, the competition could well act as a shop window for Asian clubs seeking Australian talent.

Already this season the Mariners have lost four players to Asian clubs, Michael Baird, Matt Simon and this week Brad Porter and Rostyn Griffiths.

Arnold pointed out A-League clubs couldn't compete financially and that the Asian Football Confederation quota of three foreigners plus one player from another Asian country also made it hard for Australian clubs to hold onto their home grown talent.

"Asia is coming to get us and Asia is coming to take all our players," Arnold said.

"With the (A-League) salary cap system in place - and I agree with the salary cap 100 per cent - it's so hard to compete.

"Someone like Brad Porter, who goes to Bangkok United in the second division in Thailand ... can earn much more than what he can earn here. It's very difficult.

"I don't know what the answer is, especially with the (AFC) three plus one."

Amini and Ibini both came off the bench and Arnold didn't rule out starting either or both against Tianjin.

"I think Bernie is a bit closer, Musty at this moment has only played ten minutes in the last five weeks because he's away with the Olympic team," Arnold said.

Arnold will contemplate at least two changes with defender Pedj Bojic available again after suspension and new signing Trent McClenahan also in the selection mix.

He expressed concern about going from a forecast sub-zero temperature in Tianjin to a potentially hot 4pm kickoff in Perth four days later.

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