Arnie’s choice leaves Sydney hanging

Graham Arnold’s decision to stay with Central Coast Mariners gives the Gosford club a massive boost – but where does it leave Sydney FC?

Graham Arnold-s brave but correct to decision to stay with Central Coast Mariners gives the Gosford club a massive boost - but where does it leave Sydney FC?

The Mariners project is one that should fascinate anyone who watches the Hyundai A-League. The league-s smallest club has battled throughout its existence, even to the extent that they struggled to pay their players in the season they became Premiers.

And despite the ownership saga that has dragged on for months in the background, with the much-talked about Russian investors still hovering in the wings, the competition-s smallest club is ready to take the next step up.

The $40 million Centre of Excellent at nearby Tuggerah will give Arnold-s side the best training facilities in the country, and offer an extra revenue stream, regardless of what eventually happens in the boardroom.

And Arnie-s decision to stick with the club means the Mariners can also maintain their encouraging development on the field.

The Mariners have always seemingly punched above their weight - but perhaps now it-s time we reassessed what that weight is. Consistent finals appearances and now reigning Premiers, Arnie-s commitment should ensure they will continue fighting for honours next season.

Arnold retains the core of a great football team and faces the interesting task of finding suitable replacements for the likes of Rostyn Griffiths, Matt Simon and the Germany-bound Mustafa Amini.

The Mariners title-winning National Youth League team should provide yet another injection of emerging talent, and a sprinkling of some more established talent will mean they can realistically look to defend their title in season 2012/13.

But an hour or so down the road, the outlook is not so rosy.

Sydney FC - and indeed many fans and pundits - seemed certain the Sky Blues would get their man. Despite their underperformance on and off the field, Sydney are still perceived as the bigger club and such managerial progression is the norm in football.

In football, the grass is always greener at the other stadium. How many times have we watched a coach leave a successful squad he has built for the opportunity in a more glamourous setting, only to struggle to replicate the positive team ethic and winning consistency that got him the job in the first place?

“Two years ago I signed a three year contract with the Mariners, and I have decided to see that three year term out because of the loyalty and respect I have for the players, the Chairman, the staff and all the supporters," Arnold said on Monday afternoon.

“Already my main focus is on recruitment for next season but also next week against Nagoya (Grampus) in Japan."

At the Mariners, Arnold can continue on the exhilarating path he has forged for himself - but a big-money move to Sydney would have meant spending his time filling in potholes.

The double-winning team of departed coach Viteslav Lavicka has long since evaporated, and the club have already released a slew of experienced players, with question marks hanging over the likes of Shannon Cole, Michael Beauchamp and Scott Jamieson.

Arnold would have to start again, building a team from the bottom up at a club that, regardless of its ambitions or potential, is realistically in no better shape than any other in the A-League and has a history of boardroom instability.

Sydney have sought to save some face on Arnold decision, with football director Gary Cole pointing to some unacceptable “last minute requests” but given how long negotiations dragged on, that sounds more like an attempt to retreat with dignity rather than accept the snub.

Cole went on to say that Sydney have been “working on a small number of alternative options” for their new head coach but you have to wonder where they can turn to give the newcomer enough time to rebuild a squad and prepare them for next season.

Will they look overseas again, given that both their titles have come under European coaches? Will they look to the domestic game? There are plenty of excellent local coaches waiting to be given their chance - Gold Coast United-s Mike Mulvey certainly impressed in his short reign at the end of the year.

But are Sydney the type to place their trust in an upcoming coach, or do they believe that they require a more experienced figure to guide them back up the table?

Arnold-s decision has left the Sky Blues hanging and struggling, yet again, to build the framework that can finally deliver on the club-s potential. For the Mariners, meanwhile, the future is all blue skies.

Who do you think Sydney should hire as their new coach? Have your say below...