Will Arnie’s Roos move ruin treble chance?
GRAHAM Arnold admits it's a unique situation, as his team prepares to offer the indication of how big an effect his impending exit will cause.
The Sky Blues face Kashima Antlers in the Asian Champions League on Tuesday, five days after Arnold confirmed publicly he will leave Sydney at the end of the season to become coach of the Socceroos after the World Cup.
It is a pivotal fixture, after Arnold's side garnered just one point from the first three games, including a 2-0 reverse at home to Kashima next week.
Desperate for a win to keep Sydney's ACL campaign alive, Arnold will also be seeking confirmation that his team can shrug off the uncertainty over their future beyond May, as the club works through a long list of replacement candidates.
History has tended to be unkind to football's equivalent of lame-duck presidents, but the Sky Blues have the motivation of making history in the A-League as well as seeking progress in the ACL.
Arnold suggested that decisions over new signings would wait until the end of the season, though the club hopes to sort out some re-signings before then.
"It's about commitment to each other," Arnold said of the players' reaction to him leaving.
"I've been honest right through the whole process with the players from day one. I told them every time there's been an update to the situation.
"The whole focus is on the team until the end of this season. Then if there's any other decisions to be made from the players or from the club, they will be made at the end of the season.
"Until then we have the Champions League to contest, we plan to stay in the group phase, and we are ready to win the (A-League) premiership and the grand final."
Arnold compared his situation to players who get national call-ups as reward for their performance, as he bids to oversee his team winning the double for an unprecedented consecutive season.
"This type of situation is unique to me, there's no doubt about it," he said. "But it's the situation I'm in at the moment, and it's one I will take total control of and make sure there's no distractions to players, staff or the club around what we will do and that is winning the premiership and the grand final.
"When you're a team, and you're successful, the individuals get recognised - exactly like Josh Brillante has with the national team."
In the meantime Arnold has other concerns to consider, with Milos Ninkovic, Bobo and Michael Zullo all left behind in Sydney to nurse injuries, along with the suspended Brandon O'Neill.
"We brought the strongest squad available to travel," he said. "We left the players with injury concerns, that's Ninkovic, Bobo and Zullo, while O'Neill is suspended.
"When we reflect back on the game last week, we had the bigger moments but two sloppy setpieces were the difference. I expect to kick more into gear and I expect to win."
Meanwhile, it might look their backs are to the wall, but Sydney FC have seen enough from their first three games in the Asian Champions League to believe a change of fortune is imminent.
One point from that trio of games leaves the Sky Blues in desperate need of a win against Kashima Antlers - and in the remaining two group games to come.
Two home games have brought 2-0 defeats each time, and a 2-2 draw away to Shanghai Shenhua secured Sydney their only point so far.
"We feel we've been as good as the opponent in each game," Arnold said.
"Against Suwon Bluewings (in the first game of the group), the first 60-70 minutes we were even and then they scored against the run of play.
"Against Shanghai Shenhua were the better side, and even against Kashima last week (losing 2-0) we were the better side for 70 minutes.
"We know we're up to their level, it's about getting the points."
With several players missing, Arnold pledged to try his Generation Next, to see how they perform in the ACL's rarefied air.
"There'll be a few young players given an opportunity," he said. "It's about carrying out the game plan for the first minute to the 90th, and about taking your opportunities when we get them.
"We haven't done that the last three games but I expect it to happen against Kashima and in the A-League.
"There's three games to go in the group, and (what happens) partly depends on other results. Our intention is to win all three games, nine points from them would put us in the top two of the group."