Tom Rogic withdraws from Socceroos Squad. Credit: Socceroos.com

Tom Rogic has announced that he has withdrawn from the Socceroos squad due to personal reasons. Let's see how coach Graham Arnold can replace his talisman attacking midfielder.

Tom Rogic has announced that he has withdrawn from the Socceroos squad for the upcoming matches in June due to personal reasons. This has left a gaping hole in the Socceroos’ midfield. 

The Socceroos face an uphill battle in their quest for qualification to the 2022 World Cup. After a disappointing qualification stage, the equation is now a lot more complex than what was first anticipated.

After finishing third in their group, they first must beat the other third-place side in Asia, the UAE. Then should they win that, they then verse Peru in a match to decide who goes to Qatar. 

Tom Rogic was set to be an integral part of Graham Arnold’s plan, the fulcrum for the Socceroos to build their attacking foundations on. His absence will be sorely missed and now the onus is on Arnold to develop a cohesive and effective attacking system without his talisman. 

The Socceroos have since confirmed that Arnold will not be calling anyone else up to the squad, so the likes of Melbourne Victory attacker Jake Brimmer and Central Coast Mariners striker Jason Cummings, two payers on the fringes of the squad, won’t be able to deputise for the missing Rogic. Arnold will only have those that were initially included in the squad to use in replacement of Rogic. 

To first look at the player to ‘replace’ Rogic, we first need to look at how Rogic is used in Arnold’s system.

For all the technical ability that Rogic has, the one thing he lacks is mobility. He isn’t a player that will be able to break in between the lines and use his pace to get past opponents. However, what he does offer, is an incomparable technical ability with the ball at his feet, as well as an unparalleled vision that allows him to pick out any pass with deadly accuracy. 

Playing for the Socceroos, Rogic play as a sole attacking midfielder, acting as an attacking pivot that allows for a fulcrum point to build their attack around in a 4-2-3-1 formation. He occupies the space in between the midfield and defensive, as well as an emphasis on moving across to the right half space, allowing him to get clean and dangerous crosses in the box. 

However, in the two games that Rogic didn’t feature in during the last international break, Arnold deployed a 4-4-2 formation, thus making the role that Rogic plays redundant. So, should Arnold persist with this system, then the need to ‘replace’ Rogic is not needed, as the system is already constructed to be played without him. However, let’s look at if Arnold retreats back to his 4-2-3-1 system, and who is best placed to take Rogic’s spot. 

There isn’t a player that has similar enough characteristics to Rogic for there to be a natural, obvious like-for-like replacement. However, the midfielders that are in the best place to play his role would be Riley McGree, Denis Genreau, and Ajdin Hrustic. The other midfielder in the squad doesn’t suit Rogic’s role. Gianni Stensness is more of a centre-back and a defensive-minded midfielder should he play there. Aaron Mooy is far too valuable playing slightly deeper as he can control the tempo and dictate play like no other. Jackson Irvin and Kenny Dougall don’t have the offensive flair order to play as a sole attacking midfielder.  

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When looking at the potential candidates, it’s imperative that you look at what you potentially remove from the squad in the attempt to fill Rogic’s absence. 

Ajdin Hrustic offers plenty coming from a deeper position, able to drive the ball forward playing as a number 8, as well as given the relative freedom to be able to attack the half-space and drive from a wide position. However, he has the technical ability that can match Rogic and spatial awareness that allows him to find spaces in between the lines.

Riley McGree offers a more box-to-box role for the Socceroos. Being able to play in a variety of systems, his work rate, and endurance is a big part of his game. Playing as that slightly more attacking box-to-box midfielder is something, although valuable, replaceable in this Socceroos team. 

Denis Genreau is a mixture of both McGree and Hrustic. Playing as an outside number 8 for his club side Toulouse, he offers that work rate, as well as that attacking flair that can be very valuable when playing as that number 10. 

Looking at the profiles of these three players, it is clear to see that Ajdin Hrustic is the clear front runner to play as the number 10. However, this could lead to bigger responsibility being placed on other members of the squad. 

Should Arnold look to push Hrustic and play his as the number 10, this gives a chance to either Irvine or Dougall to cement a spot next to Aaron Mooy playing just behind him. However, this is arguably the strongest midfield that Arnold can put out. 

Playing Hrustic as the number 10, give him much more freedom with the ball at his feet, as well as less defensive responsibility, thus allowing him to focus on the attacking part of his game. He is the most similar player to Rogic as he too lacks that real agility and quick feet that a ‘true’ number 10 would have. However, similar to Rogic, his technical ability is off the charts and can be the perfect pivot to base the Socceroos’ attack around. 

The best midfield that Arnold can put out with the players he has available is Aaron Mooy and Jackson Irvine playing just behind Ajdin Hrustic. This allows Mooy to sit deep and dictate tempo, something that is very natural to him. And then it allows Jackson Irvine to be the work-rate machine that he has been at St. Pauli this season. The Socceroos have needed an aggressive and tenacious midfielder, and Irvine is that and more. 

This gives Genreau, McGree, Stensness, and Dougall roles to play off the bench, as McGree and Genreau could come on to give the side a bit of spark and energy. And Dougall and Stensness provide that defensive midfield depth, where they could feature should the Socceroos get into a position where they need to close a game out. 

While Arnold won’t have his full strength side out there and his plans will need to be adjusted on the fly, there is still plenty of quality in this squad to get over the line and qualify for the 2022 World Cup

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