Arnie: I'm here to win
The former Central Coast Mariners manager walked away from his J-League job with Vegalta Sendai last month but was immediately targeted by Sydney for their coaching role after releasing Frank Farina.
Today Arnold was unveiled as coach by chairman Scott Barlow and chief executive Tony Pignata and said he had always dreamed of landing the SFC role since the day the A-League began.
“I haven’t come here to be happy with mediocrity, I’ve come here to achieve success,” Arnold declared.
“I’m a Sydney boy. I grew up in Sydney and played all my junior football in the Sutherland Shire, represented the state of NSW here.
“One of the dreams I always had from day one when the A-League started was to coach Sydney FC. I truly believe the new direction that club has spoken to me about and the appointment of Han Berger to the board has shown me that the time is now right and I’m really excited about the future of Sydney FC.”
Arnold, 50, said his first task would be to snap up Australian talent with eight spots available on the roster, including three visa places.
But then he said he would be focused on finding talented marquee players to replace the skill and style of Alessandro Del Piero….but admitted the club would never be able to match his legendary status..
“I’m extremely looking forward to working with some real quality players - obviously some of the young players like Terry Antonis, Rhyan Grant and Hagi Gligor and some very experienced, season pros like Sasa Ognenovski and Ali Abbas and players like that,” he said.
“And on top of that having the privilege for the first time in my coaching career in the A-League of being able to get two marquee players into the club.
“I wouldn’t say I was never a fan of marquees - I worked at a club that couldn’t afford to have a marquee - but if you look at what ADP did for this league and this football club, it’s massive.
“We have to do our due diligence right and take our time to make sure we get the right ones who can have an impact like Alessandro did. If we can do that well, the way the A-League is going forward, the place for marquee players is massive for this club.
“How does the A-League replace ADP, not just Sydney FC? We’ll do our best. The guy is a legend in Italian football and what he’s brought to football in this country can’t be underestimated.
“Sydney FC fans have been spoilt over the last two years to have player of that calibre on the field. We’ll never match that in status but we’ll have to match that performance.”
He added: “Recruitment is key. We’ll have a look at what’s available. The first thing we need to do is to tie up some Australian players. We have eight positions.
“It’s a squad with good basis. I’m happy with the players being retained - there’s a good mix of youth and experience.
“We have to do due diligence in getting the right players in the right areas and getting two players in every position to get players fighting for their spot that breeds a healthy culture of competition.
“We have three foreign player positions left. I’ll look at anything that’s available. Football’s business and we want the best players.”
Arnold sidestepped questions on Bernie Ibini but CEO Tony Pignata admitted: “We have spoken to Ibini’s manager about the possibility of joining. Nothing’s been finalised.”
Most important for Arnold though was to bring the beautiful game to Sydney and win with flair to bring fans back and keep existing ones.
“Success for me is attractive football,” he said.”Success is putting bums on seats and filling that stadium. Exciting football, exciting players, attacking football, high pressure possession-based game - a modern football game.
“I know Sydney FC supporters are demanding. when you look at the combination of Sydney’s crowd where you’ve got The Cove who set the standards from day one and everyone has gone with it, to the family supporters, it’s a wonderful opportunity for the club, We need to get as many people as we can into the stadium.
“Winning games is important. If we can make Allianz Stadium a place where the opposition feels uncomfortable, and that can come from the fans being the 12th man, then we’re halfway there.
“People don’t look at the stats that Sydney FC have an average crowd of 19,000, more than WSW and don’t get the credit for that."
He’s also relishing the chance to coach in the cauldron of Sydney derbies and the so-called Big Blues with Melbourne Victory - derbies, he says, which are twice anything the F3 Derby can offer.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “The F3 derby on the coast was a great experience but with no disrespect, it is 50% of playing Wanderers or Victory. I can’t wait.
“I’ve sat and watched those derbies of the last couple of years and haven’t had the privilege of being part of them until now but I know what they mean to our wonderful supporters.
“The first thing I will be saying to players is that we need to have a siege mentality - everyone will want to beat us because we are known as the biggest club in this country and everyone will raise their game to beat us. It was a totally different story at the Mariners.”
Arnold was linked with a move to the club two years ago but was unable to agree terms, but he admitted the story was very different at Sydney this time.
“Timing is everything,” he said. “The last time Sydney didn’t have a CEO. This time I got to meet the chairman and hear first hand what his plans and goals were for the future of the club and straightaway it was a different story.
“I wanted to go to the J-League and it didn’t work out. It was an extremely frustrating time for myself but having the opportunity to come back to the A-League, and Sydney FC, is massive and I didn’t think I would get this opportunity. I thought I would be out of work for a while.
“Having a full pre-season in front of me, to have a total say in what players and staff come into this club - I couldn’t ask for more.
“It’s a massive club. For me, Sydney FC is the biggest club in the country. There are probably three other clubs who could dispute that but when you look at what Sydney FC have done and the quality players they have brought to the country - they set the standards and those standards now have to be met not only by myself but the players and the rest of the coaching staff.
“Being able to have the resources that we have, probably one of the best training facilities in the country, we are looking at building a centre of excellence that I want to be involved with in the future of the club, those type of things really get you excited and it was quite an easy decision after a couple of discussions."
Despite the revolving door for coaches at Sydney since the A-League began, chairman Scott Barlow insisted this time they were in for the long haul with Arnold…but still demanded he delivers results.
Barlow added: “An important part of the selection procedure was finding someone we could build around in the long term and Graham really stood out in a number of criteria on that one.
“We have been really clear with Graham about the goals we set ourselves as a club. Clearly we want to be competing in Asia regularly and that requires domestic success and Graham is clear about that and on board with that. Having said that though, patience is key and long-term planning is key.”
Arnold refused to be drawn on what back room staff would be involved in the side next season but it’s understood conditioning coach Anthony Crea left soon after Farina, but Rado Vidosic still remains.
But he paid tribute to his predecessor and said he would sit down with existing staff before making any decision.
“I’d like to acknowledge my good mate, Frank Farina,” said Arnold. “I never thought I’d be sitting in this chair today when I left for Japan.
“The things that happened around Frankie’s departure was sad to see. He was on the phone to me yesterday giving me advice which shows you the kind of friendship we have.
“I think out of respect to everyone that was here last year, the first thing I do on Monday will be to make appointments with all the staff that were here last year and sit down with them and see where they’re at.
“There are a few staff who have been here since day one that can give me a lot of knowledge of what’s gone on around the place and also have a look at if they still have the motivation and drive.
“I want people with a lot of passion. I want a lot of people who will turn up for work with a smile on their face and build a positive environment and work hard - because if you don’t work hard, you don’t get success...”