The importance of club form well and truly on show in the...

The importance of club form well and truly on show in the Socceroos’ final third


In yesteryear, Socceroos fans have often been left frustrated by the team’s inability to find the back of the net with regularity.

One just needs to look back as far as the World Cup, when Mile Jedinak scored all our goals from the penalty spot, to see that scoring from open play has often been an issue for the national team.

In those cases, players featuring in the national team were not banging in goals at club level on a regular basis and the lack of confidence in the final third was often telling.

But now at the 2019 edition of the Asian Cup, Graham Arnold is selecting players who are performing in the final third at club level and it is telling.

Ignoring the poor performance against Jordan, the Socceroos have looked much more dynamic in their previous two games against Palestine and Syria.

Albeit, with all due respect to Palestine, they are a team we should be brushing aside with relative ease purely on talent.

Chris Ikonomidis and Awer Mabil are the two cases in this instance where the importance of club form has translated to the international stages.

Ikonomidis only returned to Australia this season to join Perth Glory after departing Lazio and on current form you feel like a return to Europe will be on the cards sooner rather than later.

At club level, has scored six goals and assisted two in just nine appearances this season and judging from his performances at the Asian Cup you can tell he is a player high on confidence.

When he did enter the fray in the loss to Jordan, he provided a major point of difference to Robbie Kruse, whom he replaced on the pitch.

Kruse, has for so long been the whipping boy of the national team, but it has made perfect sense for him to lose his starting place to the in form Ikonomidis.

Following the conclusion of the group stage, the 23-year-old has one goal and four assists to his name, with his assist to Mabil in the Palestine game arguably the best of the lot.

Ikonomidis’ four assists are joint-top at the tournament alongside Qatar’s Akram Afif.

Mabil has been used on the other wing to Ikonomidis at this tournament, with the pair often interchanging throughout matches.

Right now, Mabil is arguably the biggest winner of the Arnold era having suddenly become a valuable member of the squad.

In previous years, Mabil had found himself in and out of Ange Postecoglou’s squads but his upturn in club fortunes have played a major part in him stamping his authority on the national team.

Like Ikonomidis, Mabil has been in terrific form at club level having contributed five goals and nine assists to the midpoint of the season.

Importantly, Mabil has been allowed to play continually with the Danish Superliga currently in the midst of their winter break.

FC Midtjylland’s final game before the tournament came on 17 December, which allowed Mabil to build up at the perfect pace into the tournament.

His impact has certainly been felt with his two goals in the past two games, while he was arguably Australia’s best player in the opening game.

While his stats may not sit as pretty as Ikonomidis, in terms of creation, Mabil’s ability to beat a defender has been a pleasure to watch.

When several key players went down injured prior to the tournament began, we needed players to stand up and this duo have done exactly that.

With no individual laying claim to the starting striker position, perhaps the in form duo could force Mathew Leckie into a central position when and if he returns from injury at the Asian Cup.