Ognenovski questions Sydney FC’s ACL squad exclusions

Former AFC Champions League winner Sasa Ognenovski has questioned the logic behind Sydney FC’s exclusion of Jacques Faty and Filip Holosko for the continental competition.

Sydney coach Graham Arnold announced this week that Faty and Holosko had missed out on ACL selection in favour of midfielders Milos Ninkovic, Milos Dimitrijevic and Mickael Tavares.

Clubs are allowed just four imports in the ACL squads, with one of those positions reserved exclusively for players from other Asian Football Confederation nations.

Arnold claimed marquee forward Holosko and Faty – a central defender – were left out of the Sky Blues’ squad to avoid injuries with all the additional travel.

“Every training session is a risk for injury, every game’s a risk for injury. So for me that’s not a real excuse. 

“Jacques Faty plays week in, week out in the A-League, so I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to play in the ACL as well,” former Socceroo Ognenovski told Goal Australia.

Jacques Faty will miss Sydney FC's clash with Perth Glory on Saturday night.

When asked if Arnold’s selections hinted at a lack of ambition, the former Sydney centre-back added: “It looks a little bit that way.”

Ognenovski was the first Australian to lift the ACL trophy when he captained Seongnam to the title in 2010. 

He scored in the 3-1 win over Zob Ahan of Iran to be named man of the match and the competition’s most valuable player.

Based on his experience – he was also part of Adelaide United’s run to the final in 2008 – the 36-year-old reckons defensive solidity is critical to Sydney and Melbourne Victory’s chances in the 2016 ACL.

“You saw the Wanderers defensive unit – not only their back four but their defensive unit – was very strong when they made the final and won it [in 2014]. 

“And even when I was at Adelaide the defensive unit, the back six per se, was very strong and had a bit of experience in there,” Ognenovski said.

“To not select a player like Jacques Faty is a bit of a strange one for me.”

Jacques Faty fights for the ball with Victory striker Besart Berisha in the 2014/15 Grand Final.

In 2008, Adelaide conceded just four goals in 10 games to reach the final before letting in five against Gamba Osaka across a two-legged decider.

In 2014, the Wanderers let in 10 goals in 14 matches to be crowned Asian champions.

Ognenovski was more impressed with Victory coach Kevin Muscat’s decision to select Besart Berisha, Matthieu Delpierre and Kosta Barbarouses from his five foreign players.

Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Gui Finkler missed out.

“The spine’s strong, you’ve got Delpierre – oodles of experience, he marshals the backline whenever Victory’s pressed back – so that one makes sense every day of the week, and Berisha you can’t leave out,” Ognenovski said.

The former Socceroos defender reckons Barbarouses’ selection indicates Muscat will look to tweak Victory’s style in Asia.

“I think he [Muscat] has to,” Ognenovski said.

Kosta Barbarouses vies for the ball with Sky Blues defender Rhyan Grant.

“He can’t play as open as he does here [but] I don’t think he’ll change too much because obviously the team does play well in that system. They play a high-pressing game.

“The thing is, in Asia, if your pressure’s a little bit off, they’ll pick every hole. 

“If someone forgets to press, that’s where the ball’s going to go; it’ll go into the hole, so maybe he might tweak it, he might press for the first 20 minutes and then drop back.

“He’s got options in his team because they’ve got a lot of pace, they can sit back and play on the counterattack or they can press high as well.”

Sydney will open their ACL campaign away to Urawa Red Diamonds on Wednesday, while Victory host Shanghai SIPG earlier the same evening.