Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold has warned that while the addition of world-class marquee players like Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono is great for the A-League, it is still no guarantee of success for the clubs involved.
The Mariners are the only A-League club that hasn't signed a marquee player for this season, but Arnold isn't spitting chips over that. Far from it. He says he is happy to stick with a youth policy, and that not having a player on a million-dollar contract saves him from having to deal with potential problems when it comes to team harmony.
"We're the only team in the league without a marquee player, but that's fine," Arnold said at the 2012-2013 Sydney season launch at Parramatta Stadium. "Our structure hasn't been built around one player. It's been built around 'team' and no individual is stronger than the team.
"At the end of the day, the coaches have to try and fit that marquee player into the system of playing, and you have to fit him into the culture where all of the other players know that player is on a lot more money than they are. So I don't have to have that headache.
"I think, in the past, there has probably only been one successful marquee player in the history of the A-League, and that was Dwight Yorke. Some could argue Robbie Fowler, but others haven't been that outstanding.
"It has been something every club has wanted to do, and it has been fantastic for the A-League to get Del Piero, and Heskey, and Shinji Ono out here, it truly is.
"When you look at what they bring in terms of interest in the A-League from around the world, it's great. But, for us, it's business as usual, and our strength is our young boys and our stability.
"We won the league last year with pretty much the same squad as we've got now, so our challenge is to be as consistent as we were last year.
"It's a great concept, the marquee player, and particularly when you've got players like Del Piero, Heskey and Ono, but there are no guarantees it will bring success.
"For the extra quality of having these players on the pitch, it's fantastic, but if you're building your structure of the team around one player, and that player gets injured or suspended, then obviously it's going to hurt.
"I'm going with stability, and we've been very stable. We've lost 11 games out of 57 games in the A-League, so we must be doing something right.
"We're confident in Australian youth, and that is what the Mariners club is all about - giving Australian kids an opportunity."
Arnold says he has a variety of combinations he is considering for use in the forward line when the Mariners play their season opener against Western Sydney Wanderers at Parramatta Stadium on Saturday. Veteran Mile Sterjovski could be combined with young players Mitchell Duke and Bernie Ibini-Isei up front.
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