Analysis: what we learned from the Socceroos

Having returned to the winners' list, the Socceroos need to start building towards the AFC Asian Cup with the defensive set-up critical to the team's long-term success.

Time to settle on a defensive quintet

In Ange Postecoglou's nine games in charge of the Socceroos, Australia have conceded 19 goals. Postecoglou has also only picked the same back four and goalkeeper combination in successive games on two occasions.

While injuries have undoubtedly played their part - Postecoglou claimed the Socceroos 'can't take a trick' on Tuesday morning (AEST) - it is time for him to settle on his best defensive group and play them in Australia's remaining three friendlies before the Asian Cup.

Alex Wilkinson limped off early against Saudi Arabia with a gluteal muscle strain but the Jeonbuk Motors man deserves one of the central defensive slots, while Mat Ryan's superior distribution - critical part of Postecoglou's game plan - should see him get the nod in goal ahead of Mitch Langerak.

Matthew Spiranovic and Ivan Franjic - when fit - have looked good but with doubts over their readiness to play in the Socceroos' two friendlies in October, Postecoglou may have to make some tough decisions in the interests of defensive cohesion.

Either way, Australia's defensive set-up needs to settle and quickly.

Full-backs need to be reeled in

On a related theme, Postecoglou needs to instil an element of pragmatism into his style and teach his full-backs to be smarter when deciding if they should attack.

When Holger Osieck was sacked, Socceroos fans and Australian football pundits demanded a more positive approach from their national team but the way Postecoglou's side has regularly been picked apart on the counter-attack is worrying.

Jason Davidson, Chris Herd and whoever else may play at full-back must not be so gung-ho in attack, as their tendency to sit in the attacking half when Australia has the ball simply leaves the Socceroos exposed. Just after half-time at Craven Cottage, the Saudis almost scored their opening goal when a cross from the left picked out Yasir Al Shahrani, who sprayed his shot wide of the post.

The Saudi attacker was all alone at the back post as Davidson was stranded up the pitch. Ideally, only one Australian full-back should surge forward at a time, ensuring the Socceroos always have three defenders in position to thwart counter-attacks.

Jedinak's passing accuracy needs to improve

One of the reasons Australia's full-backs are regularly caught out of position is because of the team's tendency to give the ball away around the halfway line. In the first half, skipper Mile Jedinak was the chief culprit, with the 30-year-old wayward when trying to fire passes into the feet of the forwards in tight areas.

For all Jedinak's admirable qualities as a midfield destroyer, as long as the Crystal Palace captain is a guaranteed starter, Australia will be unable to properly dominate possession.  

But the reality is that Jedinak is one of the few Australians playing at the highest level of club football.

Until a genuine option emerges to replace Jedinak, Postecoglou must surround him with superior passers.

Luongo is ready now

Swindon Town's Massimo Luongo could be the kind of player who could replace Jedinak as Australia's chief holding midfielder in the coming years.

Regardless, the 21-year-old is ready to be a Socceroos regular now. Luongo shone again versus Saudi Arabia - his maiden international start at senior level - getting involved in some of Australia's most positive moments and displaying impressive close control and attacking verve.

Whether as Jedinak's holding midfield partner or in a more advanced role, Luongo has the type of qualities Australia needs more of. Postecoglou must move the former Tottenham youngster further up the pecking order.

Left-sided depth is still a concern

Postecoglou's commitment to Davidson and Tommy Oar had seemingly glossed over Australia's troublesome left side through the World Cup but the past two matches have indicated the issue remains.

Simply put, Oar does not get involved in the play enough, while for all Davidson's strengths going forward, the West Bromwich Albion full-back can still look lost in defence.

With Postecoglou seemingly unwilling to play a right-footed attacker on the left, the Socceroos desperately need the likes of James Troisi (Zulte Waregem), injured duo Oliver Bozanic (Luzern) and Matt McKay (Brisbane Roar) to get regular game time at their clubs before the next international window.

Troisi's tunnel vision in front of goal would be welcome as Australia searches for other scoring options, while Bozanic and McKay's busy style would be a point of difference to Oar.

At left-back, Brad Smith still looks raw but deserves more chances, while Aziz Behich could perhaps be an option if he keeps playing at Bursaspor in Turkey.