Arnold: Same old Mariners

Graham Arnold's debut game as coach may have seen Alex Wilkinson score a goal and Matt Simon play a key negating role but the new man in charge at Central Coast insists he won’t be fixing what aint broke at the Mariners.

Graham Arnold's debut game as coach may have seen Alex Wilkinson score a goal and Matt Simon play a key negating role but the new man in charge at Central Coast insists he won-t be fixing what aint broke at the Mariners.

Arnold's tenure in charge of the famously blue collar Mariners began in the best possible fashion with a 1-0 away win over A-League new boys Melbourne Heart at AAMI Park on Thursday night.

He asked a few of his players to play different roles, notably Simon who marked Heart danger man Josip Skoko but has every respect for the culture he has entered into and believes that he has a strong base to build on.

"The guys have done a great job over the past five years," he said. "One of the things I didn't want to do when I came to the club was to lose the Mariners culture."

"Guys like Wilkinson, who has been there at the club, he's only 25. (John) Hutchison, Matty Simon, Pedj Bojic, Brad Porter. They are the backbone and they are the culture of the Central Coast Mariners."

Arnold rolled the dice somewhat, opting to play Simon in a No.10 role with a defensive focus on Skoko, who is highly regarded by everyone who played with him in his time with the Socceroos.

While Simon has traditionally played up front in his time with the club, Arnold believes he has the work ethic and physical capability to play anywhere on the park and thrived on the responsibility on Thursday night.

"I had him with the Olympic team. He's a guy who could play anywhere. If you play the guy centre back, he'll play centre back. He's got a great character, great work rate and I like him to face play. In that No.10 role, I thought he was quite dangerous," he said.

Simon was called in to play that role because Argentine import Patricio Perez was a late withdrawal with a hamstring injury. While he admits things need a bit of tweaking, Arnold said it's not about changing everything that has occurred prior to his arrival but getting more out of the players that are at the club.

Arnold has only been with the club full time for a little over six weeks having only finished up with the national team at the World Cup. With such a short time to prepare the team, his focus has been on tightening up the defence and working on improvement from there.

"We played Melbourne Victory two weeks ago and Melbourne gave us the round around but we got away with a 0-0 draw because our defensive structure is great. I have worked very hard on that since I've come home from South Africa.

"They carried out the tactics tonight perfectly, and I'm very proud of them," he said.

Wilkinson, who scored just his second Hyundai A-League goal in his 112th match, said Arnold has brought a fresh perspective to the club and the players feel like things have lifted a notch.

"It's been the toughest pre-season, physically and tactically that I've had in the six years. Arnie comes in with a wealth of experience. He's worked under some fantastic coaches. He's enjoying being back doing the day to day things with the boys," Wilkinson said.

"Structurally and tactically we have had some great sessions and a lot of sessions and I think you can see that paid off tonight."