The Socceroos Should Use the 3-5-2

Holger Osieck could lose his job as coach of the Australian national team if the Socceroos don’t get any results in upcoming friendlies against Canada and France.

Regardless if Osieck keeps his job as Socceroos coach, Australia should use the 3-5-2 from now on. The formation might give opposition teams more space to attack from the wings but it suits the players that are available.

Very few teams play with a three-man defence these day and most of the teams that do are in fact Italian clubs. So why should Australia use a three-man defence at international level?

One of the main concerns for Australia is the defence. Lucas Neill and Sasa Ognenovski are in their mid-30s and pacey strikers can beat them with ease. The Socceroos also lack a quality keeper who plays regularly for their clubs, with Mark Schwarzer and Mitchell Langerak playing second-fiddle at Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund respectively.

I’ve placed Langerak in the photo because Schwarzer isn’t available for the friendlies and he is the likely heir to the Chelsea keeper. When he has played for Dortmund, he has done well to deputise for Dortmund’s first-choice keeper Roman Weidenfeller.

The left-back position has been a major concern for the Socceroos too. Matt McKay has been used as a left-back, which is not his natural position, and Melbourne Victory’s Adama Traore was taken into consideration but he is ineligible because he has played for the Ivory Coast at youth level.

Implementing the 3-5-2 formation would be ideal for the Socceroos because if Mark Milligan plays in the centre of defence, he can support Neill and Ognenovski and function as a ball-playing defender. Milligan’s role would be similar to his role at Melbourne Victory when he plays as a holding midfielder but in this case, he would play deeper.

Instead of having full-backs, the 3-5-2 uses wing-backs and the wide players don’t have to cover as much as full-backs in a back four. McKay would be able to attack more effectively and carry less defensive responsibility. Luke Wilkshire started as a right midfielder so he too would benefit from playing in a more advanced role.

The midfield would consist of Mile Jedinak and Mark Bresciano, with the latter functioning as a withdrawn playmaker. Tom Rogic would play in the hole, essentially making the formation 3-4-1-2. He played in that role with the Central Coast Mariners and with his flair and ball control he would be an ideal link between midfield and attack.

Unfortunately Rogic has been ruled out with an injury for the France and Canada matches so another option would be to use talisman Tim Cahill in a standard 3-5-2 formation and make his late runs from midfield. Rogic does need to get integrated into the Socceroos squad sooner or later because Osieck has been too reliant on veterans.

Offensively Australia has had problems since the likes of Mark Viduka and John Aloisi have retired. Capping Scott McDonald 26 times clearly shows that Australia has lacked a good centre-forward. Fortunately he hasn’t been called-up but aside from Josh Kennedy and Robbie Kruse, most of the forwards are unproven at international or haven’t played in a major European league.

I’ve put Kruse and Kennedy here because one player is fast and technical and the other is a target man. I’d take a punt on Kruse and Archie Thompson because they were teammates at Victory so they would know how their attacking partner players.

Thompson will be 36 next year so he can’t expect to last for 90 minutes in Brazil. If the likes of Adam Taggart and Corey Gameiro can have breakthrough seasons, they could be useful in attack. Perhaps they don’t represent the present but they definitely would represent the future of the Socceroos.

Players like Kennedy and Thompson would be better off being impact players coming on as substitutes and Harry Kewell can’t be ruled out just yet. Now at Melbourne Heart, if he can return to form and somehow stay fit, he would be an excellent super-sub. He is the most talented player Australia has produced and has been important for the Socceroos in big matches.

Osieck might not have much time left on the Australian bench. The Socceroos have had to fight hard for their wins and there are flaws in the team. Australia doesn’t have the squad that it has from the previous decade but the team could be set-up more adequately. Regardless if Osieck stays or goes, a switch to the 3-5-2 formation is worth a try.