Squad explained: Potential changes for Chinese Taipei, why Sainsbury was left out
Caltex Socceroos boss Graham Arnold is ready to wield the multitude of squad options at his disposal in Australia’s upcoming FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers against Nepal and Chinese Taipei.
Arnold named just one change from the 23-player squad that recorded a 3-0 win over Kuwait last month, with fit-again Bailey Wright replacing Trent Sainsbury, who is managing a 'minor injury', for next Thursday's clash with Nepal in Canberra.
Wright had been sidelined with a thigh injury sustained in Bristol City's 2-0 win against Queens Park Rangers in August but has since featured for the club’s reserves team.
However, the Australia Head Coach said Sainsbury is "probably available" for the Caltex Socceroos' meeting with Chinese Taipei on October 15, and admitted there could be more squad changes in the offing for that clash in Kaohsiung.
"If I could make it clear, this squad is just for the first game, there could be changes after the Nepal game," Arnold said in his press conference.
"This first game especially we need to look at the arrival times of players, players that arrive earlier will be ready.
"I just want to make it clear that we can change as many players as we like after the first game, it’s not that this squad is set in stone for both games.
"At this stage it is but there can be changes."
Sainsbury, 27, signed for Maccabi Haifa in August after his exit from Eredivisie powerhouse PSV Eindhoven.
He had two years to run on his deal with PSV - whom he joined after an impressive 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign for Australia - but opted to trade Holland for 12-time champions of Israel in search of first-team minutes.
“PSV had pretty much let him know that he could leave after the transfer window in the UK had shut, so his options became a little bit less,” Arnold told Fox Sports News.
“Maccabi Haifa are a top club in Israel, he went there and looked at the training facilities and the stadium. He looked at the professionalism of the club, and it’s fantastic.
“But what’s important for me always is that the players need to play minutes. We don’t get any control over their physical status when they come into camp. When they come into camp, they arrived in Tuesday to play on Thursday: they're either fit, or not fit. And we need fit players.”
Arnold also gave promising injury updates on Celtic duo Tom Rogic and Daniel Arzani. Rogic scored and played 90 minutes in the club’s 5-0 win over Partick Thistle on September 26, the playmaker’s first start for the Scottish champions after undergoing knee surgery in the off-season.
Meanwhile, Arzani was a second half substitute in a friendly match for the club’s reserves team on September 24, the 20-year-old’s first minutes since his anterior cruciate ligament rupture he suffered in November 2018.
“Daniel Arzani is back on the pitch. He’ll play for the Olyroos at Qatar this FIFA window and will get some good game time there," said Arnold.
“He’s in great shape, I spoke to him the other day. He’s happy, he’s feeling really good in himself, his body feels great. They’ll be stepping it up at Celtic in that side of it.
“[Caltex Socceroos assistant coach] Rene Meulensteen went up to Celtic and sat with [Celtic manager] Neil Lennon, they rate him very highly.
“They love him, they think he’s a special player. But at the end of the day, it’s all about getting those opportunities on the pitch and getting game time.
“It’s an important six months for Daniel before the January transfer window, that he gets game time. Celtic are a strong club and have a lot of depth, and Daniel is under no illusion that he has to work extremely hard to get in that side."
Arnold also confirmed Martin Boyle "is in good shape" after the knee injury he sustained in July, while explaining that the two Qatar 2022 qualifiers had come to soon for Hyundai A-League-based players - like Perth Glory star Chris Ikonomidis - to warrant selection.
“Anyone who plays well in the A-League will be considered,” said Arnold.
“Boys who played for me in Korea Republic and even in the Asian Cup. The likes of Ikonomidis, they weren’t match hardened for those two. Now that the A-League starts next week, those boys, they’ve now got a great chance to show me what they can do.”