Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold has revealed that an injury to Terry Antonis, and not the impressive form of teammate Mickael Tavares, is limiting the midfielder’s time on the park.
Speculation has been building that Antonis was struggling to mount a case for a starting spot after being reduced to appearances off the bench in recent weeks.
But Arnold revealed the 21-year-old was battling with his fitness. Antonis is due to link up with the Olyroos later this month as they begin their campaign for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“We’re grateful Mickael’s here and he’s doing very well for us,” Arnold told media on Wednesday. “Terry Antonis the last few weeks has been struggling with a knee injury.
“He’s had another injection yesterday so to be able to have Mickael here with us is fantastic.”
Arnold seemed keen to put a lid on the Tavarez hype after the Sengalese international revealed to media he was fielding interest from overseas and two other A-League clubs.
“It’s clear to Mickael why he’s here – he’s here as an injury replacement for Ali Abbas,” Arnold said.
“If we can make the deal work so he can stay then we’d love to have him for a longer term, but Mickael was clear when he came out that initially it was for six months as an injury replacement.”
The Sky Blues have a chance to go top of the A-League ladder for the first time this season if they can defeat Melbourne City at Allianz Stadium on Friday – in what will be their second last home game of the season.
But the harbour-siders have shown a propensity to throw away healthy leads of late, and edged Brisbane Roar 5-4 on Sunday after sitting on a seemingly unassailable three-goal buffer with just 10 minutes left to play.
Arnold said it was a sign of the confidence in the team: “It’s the second occasion in the last few weeks. It’s one thing I spoke about to the players straight after the game.
“I said top teams when it’s 4-1 they go for 5-1. They keep their foot on the pedal and they don’t put the handbrake on.
“I think that’s the confidence at the moment with the team that they believe they have another gear when they need another gear and they showed that against Brisbane.
“Brisbane scored the first goal and we stepped up a gear and when it got back to 4-3 we stepped up another gear and I think that’s the belief that is in the squad at the moment.”
Arnold said the aim remained the same for Sydney since before the start of preseason – winning the title.
“Our goal was to win the title when I first took the job. Nothing changes. Newcastle and the Mariners goal at the start of the year was to win the league as well – and that’s probably what they’ve all set out for.
“There’s a lot of things that happen along the way and there’s a lot of twists and turns between now and the end of the season.
“There is a top five at the moment that is very close together, in a bunch, and everybody has to play each other. But also those teams – the Newcastles, the Mariners and the Wanderers – have a lot of pride, they’re looking to get more wins on the board so, like I said, there’s a lot of twists and turns to happen and all we can do is focus on ourselves.”comments