Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold admits he loves watching Central Coast’s new attacking game plan but hopes to exploit their wingers' lack of defensive work in Saturday’s Hyundai A-League clash in Gosford.
Arnold has won all three matches against his former club and takes his league-leading Sky Blues to Central Coast Stadium in a confident mood.
While the Mariners have just one win from their opening three matches, they have received plenty of plaudits – including from Arnold - for their enterprising style of play.
“It’s exciting, great, I love watching them,” the Sky Blues boss told reporters on Thursday.
“It’s a beautiful proactive style of play…I’m enjoying it immensely.
“I’ve got nothing but respect for Central Coast Mariners and their fans,” he added.
“They’re beautiful people and I had a great time up there so there will be nothing but respect from me today for them.”
But Arnold couldn’t resist a slight dig at the Mariners tactics, highlighting their winger’s lack of defensive work, an area his side needs to be on alert for.
“It’s important we stay balanced behind the ball when we go forward,” Arnold said.
“We’ve seen that the Mariners wingers don’t defend. They cheat on halfway so we’ve got to make sure we’ve got a plan behind the ball.
“If we do lose it we have to have numbers behind the ball to counter-act that.”
Sydney’s defence has been a shining aspect of their season to date, conceding just the one goal from the opening three rounds.
Arnold praised his central-defensive pairing of Matt Jurman and Jacques Faty for that record and admits his side’s best form could still be a month away.
“Jurman for me in the first three rounds has been one of our best players,” Arnold said.
“He’s doing exceptionally well and that comes from the experience of Jacques beside him. Jacques does a lot of talking in the game and brings a lot of leadership.
“Overall we’ve worked a lot on defence in the pre-season as my teams normally do. We’re never at our best in the first six, eight rounds, we get better as the season goes.
“At the moment I’m about 75 percent happy with our defensive game and 20 percent happy with our play in possession.
“We’ll evolve as the season goes on. There’s no trophies handed out in October and November.
“We have to make sure at the back end of the season when the trophies are handed out and also the Asian Champions League comes around that we’re in much better form than we are now.”
Saturday’s Halloween clash in Gosford is a homecoming of sorts for a number of Sky Blues.
Coaches Arnold, Andrew Clark and John Crawley have all worked on the Mariners staff before while Matt Simon and Zac Anderson both played for Central Coast last season.