But getting releases for players from A-League clubs reluctant to lose their young stars not just for the tournament matches but the preparatory camps has been a major source of tension between Arnold and A-League club bosses.
Now he wants a high-powered summit to take place to try to resolve the issue, warning that unless it is fixed the Olyroos, and potentially the Socceroos, could face ever-tougher qualifying assignments as their Asian rivals only become better prepared and stronger.
«It’s been an ongoing problem for years. We need to fix it, we need to sit down and talk about it, communicate about it,» Arnold said after his return from Cambodia, where the Olyroos had beaten the host nation and Chinese Taipei and drawn with South Korea to seal their spot in the final qualifiers.
«The national teams are not going away. The problem I see is that the A-League and our competition is not in line with Asia (when) every January there is a major tournament in Asia.
«I do understand clearly that it’s dead bang in the middle of our competition and I have been in the situation where I have been a club coach (with Central Coast and Sydney) and it’s hard to deal with both ways.
«But … the FFA don’t make the draw for these international competitions. We have to turn up when they say otherwise we might as well not be in Asia.»
He says that as a matter of urgency there should be «a great discussion with (club) owners, CEOs and coaches on how to fix it, what’s the best way to deal with it».
«Maybe it is have a break in January in the A-league while there is a big tournament on.
«You can’t turn up in Asia any more with second-rate teams.»
One major consequence of Australia’s recent lack of competitiveness is the fact that the nation’s ranking at under-23 and junior levels has fallen — meaning it is seeded lower in competition draws and faces tougher assignments as a result.
«Once they (the rankings) go down they are hard to get back up,» he said.
«We don’t qualify for these junior tournaments because we don’t prepare for them … unless we start fixing it, it’s going to get worse and harder to qualify. It’s already getting harder for junior tournaments.
«And all this stuff affects the Socceroos.»
Michael Lynch is The Age’s chief soccer reporter and also reports on motor sport and horseracing