THE combativeness and competitiveness of the Central Coast Mariners squad has forced astute tactician Graham Arnold into an evening of headaches tonight.
“For the first time in a long time” Arnold will not notify his players of the starting eleven for a Hyundai A-League game until match day, keeping each squad member on their toes leading into the round 7 blockbuster against Sydney FC.
“The absence of ‘Oli’ Bozanic, ‘Maty’ Ryan and Brad McDonald away with the Olympic team creates a few headaches,” Arnold admitted.
“But John Hutchinson comes into calculation after his trip away to China, (Adriano) Pellegrino has been doing exceptionally well, and Troy Hearfield as well.
“It’s probably for the first time in a long time that I haven’t announced the team a day before the match, and I’ll leave it to match day.”
Whatever combination Arnold ultimately fields against the Sky Blues at the Sydney Football Stadium, the Mariners mastermind is confident the players picked can replicate the same form that has earned the yellow and navy seven points from the last nine on offer.
“I always like to play the same way whether it’s at home or away,” he said. “We like to dominate the game and dictate proceedings to the opposition.
“Sydney has grinded out the last couple of results. Their game against Perth wasn’t the best but they got the result and we’re going to have to go there with a strong mentality and a strong character.”
While the surrounds of the SFS are far from foreign for Arnold, nor the majority of his Hyundai A-League chargers, the wily coach expects the atmospheric stadium to have a positive impact on his players.
“It’s always a joy to play at the Sydney Football Stadium, and the boys are looking forward to it,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, the Mariners have signed goalkeeper Nathan Denham, 27, on a two-week deal to cover absent shot stopper Ryan who is away with the Qantas Australian Under 23 team in Qatar.
Denham will take his place on the substitutes bench tomorrow night having trained extensively with the yellow and navy in 2011.
Denham toured New Zealand with the Mariners squad leading up to the start of the 2011/12 Hyundai A-League season.