Graham Arnold wants to put new Olyroo Daniel Arzani back on the world’s map

Graham Arnold has proclaimed he wants to “help resurrect Daniel Arzani’s career following the announcement that the dynamic attacker was part of his 18-player squad for the Tokyo Olympics.

Following his emergence as the best prospect Australian football had seen in many a year back in 2018, a rotten run with injuries, as well as longstanding questions about his fitness, have hampered Arzani’s ability to deliver on that promise in recent seasons. 

Following a breakthrough 2017-18 season with Melbourne City and a berth in Bert van Marwijk’s Socceroos’ squad for the 2018 World Cup, the then-teenager signed a deal with City’s CFG partners Manchester City and was immediately loaned out to Scottish giants Celtic FC. 

A devastating ACL injury suffered in his senior debut, however, prevented him from establishing himself in the plans of coaches Brendan Rodgers and Neil Lennon and he went out on loan to Dutch side FC Utrecht ahead of the 2020-21 season. 

But the 22-year-old has since been restricted to 719 minutes of senior football over the past year, 499 of which were recorded with FC Utrecht’s academy side that plays in the Dutch Eerste Divisie. He completed another loan move to Danish side Aarhus GF in late January, only for more niggling injuries to dash his hopes of properly establishing himself as he played just 118 cumulative minutes across five appearances. 

Enjoying Joey’s coverage of Australian sport? Your support helps keep it possible.
You’re seeing this advert because this is an unpaid, self-published piece.

You can support his ongoing work by buying him a coffee: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/JoeyLynch

Yet now, after impressing in an U23 friendly tournament in the Spanish port city of Marbella — which included a two-goal turn against Olympic-qualified Mexico — the Khorramabad-born Sydneysider has earned a seat on the plane to Tokyo and a chance to put himself in the shop window for his next loan deal. 

“I think that sitting down with Daniel, he looks extremely fit; he looks really well,” said Arnold.  

“Things haven’t gone his way over the last couple of years. I think that [after] all those high expectations after Russia in 2018 and some cameos off the bench at Melbourne City, it hasn’t gone the way that he wanted. 

“So what do we do? Help the kid or burn him out?

“I think that Daniel is a great talent. He’s one that we want to help resurrect his career, put him on the world stage and move the kid forward. He still has that great talent. 

“I watched all the games [in Marbella] back after Kuwait and those few players that have been selected from that camp showed that that camp was extremely worthwhile — they were standouts. 

“Daniel scored two goals in the last game against Mexico, did extremely well.”

Arzani is one of a select few internationally-based players to have been selected by Arnold for the coming Games; the majority of the squad drawn from A-League level and featuring domestically based Socceroos Denis Genreau, Connor Metcalfe, and Ruon Tongyik.

His birthday arriving three days before the FIFA mandated age cutoff, Tongyik, alongside Al-Taawoun’s Mitch Duke, is one of two overage players to have been selected amongst the 18 players, a selection process that was a logistical nightmare according to the man that undertook it. 

“This was probably one of the most complicated processes I’ve ever been through to select a squad,” said Arnold.  “Some of it down to COIVD and some of it down to rules and regulations made by FIFA and releases. 

“I probably made 30-40 phone calls to clubs for overage players to see which players would be released or could get released. Pretty much out of 30-40 came back three.

“FIFA rules and regulations state that an overage player does not have to be released from their club for the Olympics unless the club agrees. With COVID, a number of competitions are kicking off earlier this season towards the back-end of July and would have interfered with the players release coming to the Olympics.

Enjoying Joey’s coverage of Australian sport? Your support helps keep it possible.
You’re seeing this advert because this is an unpaid, self-published piece.

You can support his ongoing work by buying him a coffee: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/JoeyLynch

“Some players made the decision, again, overage players, for family reasons or due to COVID and the fact that we’d already been away for four weeks with the Socceroos and in a very, very strict bubble. That they wanted to go home and spend some time with their families. 

“They haven’t had an offseason. They came straight to us after their long competitions and they want to go home, have a break and therefore get back to their clubs and have pre-seasons. 

“The other rule and regulation that was put in place [by FIFA] in 2015 was that clubs don’t have to release players under 23 players if it interferes with their local competitions. So, there are some U23 boys that helped us qualify in Thailand that were stopped by their clubs and not released. 

“But I look at the squad that I’ve got and I’m over the moon with it. We’ve had some goodwill from some overseas-based clubs. We’ve got some standout players that have done great in the A-League. For me, it’s a very talented squad of a U23 team that has eight Socceroos in it. As I said before, my expectations are that we will shock the world.”

Also present in the 18-player group Arnold hopes to shock the world with are Nathaniel Atkinson and Riley McGree, whose participation in the then-2020 Games was thrown into doubt when they — alongside Brandon Wilson and train-on player Lachlan Wales — were suspended from the national team setup in November 2019. 

Following a complaint from a woman about their behaviour while with the Olyroos at the AFC U23 Championships in Cambodia, Atkinson was suspended for a period that would have covered an on-schedule Olympics, while McGree was suspended for the remainder of their qualifying campaign. 

See Also: Perth, injuries, Olyroos, and a Joe Marston Medal – City’s Nathaniel Atkinson caps off extraordinary 2020-21

But with the Games re-scheduled due to COVID and their suspensions ended, their contrition and impressive form at clubland — Atkinson becoming the second-youngest A-League winner of the Joe Marston Medal on Sunday — earned them a place in Arnold’s squad. 

“Everyone makes mistakes in life,” the Olyroos boss said. 

“They got punished for it and we move on. I communicated with them [during their suspensions] to make sure that they knew that I don’t hold grudges in any way, to anybody. 

“Yes, I was extremely disappointed in the behaviour but at the end of the day, as I said, I don’t hold grudges. 

“They have thoroughly earned their positions in this squad. It’s a squad where the players have done extremely well at their clubs. It was great to see Nathaniel come back and play the way that he did in the Grand Final. 

“The past is the past, we look forward and we move forward.”

Enjoying Joey’s coverage of Australian sport? Your support helps keep it possible.
You’re seeing this advert because this is an unpaid, self-published piece.

You can support his ongoing work by buying him a coffee: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/JoeyLynch

Header Image Credit: Football Australia

One thought on “Graham Arnold wants to put new Olyroo Daniel Arzani back on the world’s map

  1. Pingback: “He thoroughly deserves his selection” – Daniel Arzani continues national team comeback – JDL MEDIA

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s