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Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold mystified over striker Matt Simon’s suspension

Matt Simon of Sydney FC controls the ball during the round 12 A-League match between Sydney FC and the Central Coast Mariners at Allianz Stadium. Photo: Cameron SpencerMatt Simon cops one match ban over elbowAlex Brosque ruled out of Melbourne City clash

Furious Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold believes suspended striker Matt Simon should be available for Saturday’s crucial match with Melbourne City, saying the incident in question should never have been referred to the match review panel.

Simon was hit with a one-match ban by the panel after being cited for “serious unsporting conduct” in elbowing Central Coast Mariners defender Jake McGing.

However, the match review panel is only meant to adjudicate on matters not seen by the referee. Arnold contends the referee on the night, Ben Williams, not only saw the incident but verbally reprimanded Simon at the time.

“[Simon] is really upset because he knows what his intention was and he knows Ben Williams saw it and he knows what Ben Williams said,” Arnold said. “Williams said ‘I saw what both of you did – be careful next time’. So maybe we do have video referees.”

When asked how the matter could have ended up before the match review panel given Williams’ alleged comments, a bewildered Arnold replied: “I’ve got no idea.

“All I know is that Matty has been suspended for a week. The referee, as far as I know, and what he said to Matty Simon, was that he saw the incident.

“So he’s been overruled.”

Arnold reckoned that if Simon’s minor elbow on McGing was worthy of a suspension, a spate of incidents across the competition should wind up before the match review panel.

“I watch a lot of games and I saw a melee on the weekend. Nothing happened,” he said. “I watch every A-League game every weekend and now there will probably be players be cited every week.”

The absence of Simon and Alex Brosque, who suffered a recurrence of a hamstring injury, means the Sky Blues will have to turn to 34-year old Shane Smeltz, who is back from injury, and 18-year old George Blackwood.

” ‘Brosquey’ is the captain of the team and you see what he does for us when he’s on the field. He does exceptionally well – last week he only played 25 minutes and scored two goals. He’s a loss,” he said. “But Shane Smeltz is back and young George Blackwood is a natural No.9 and Filip Holosko has played a lot of football at No.9.

“We’ll start Smeltz, if anything, because of his experience. He’s had the last few weeks off but he does a lot of work up front. I think the two weeks off will freshen him up and bring him back to life. He’s got a proven record in the A-League.”

Arnold defended Blackwood, the teenage forward with plenty of hype but no A-League goals in nine appearances in two seasons.

“I was very happy with George last week. I’m sure once he breaks his droughts, the goals will come in loads. If he can take what he does in training onto the games, he’s got a hell of a future,” Arnold said. “He out-muscles all the defenders at training. He’s quick, he’s got a lot of ability one-v-one. He’s had a bit of bad luck in front of goal when he’s played. He was unlucky with a header that was saved but he’s always dangerous with his runs off the ball. He’s a got a good chance of starting again.”

There is likely to be plenty of movement in the January transfer window for Sydney FC, with several players expected to be coming and going.

Mariners’ midfielder Anthony Caceres has been consistently linked with a move to Allianz Stadium while Smeltz – who nearly moved to Malaysia last year – could also be on the move.

“Let’s just say the phones have been working hot. That’s what the January transfer window is for,” he said. “There’s maybe players who aren’t getting game time who want to move on. It’s also about strengthening players who can help in the second half of the season. I’m looking forward to the transfer window and we’ll see what eventuates.”

After picking up Jacques Faty, Mickael Tavares and Robert Stambolziev in the window last season, Arnold knows the month-long window brings real opportunity.

“We have to look over the first half of the season at what we’ve done well and haven’t done well,” he said. “That’s where I’ll try to work with my contacts and network of agents to see what’s available and what we can do. Maybe we can explore the guest player option as well.”

Meanwhile, Arnold weighed into the debate regarding promotion and relegation – and the Sky Blues boss is a fan of the status quo for now.

“What if you end up with six teams from Sydney, none from Adelaide and none from Perth? Or none from Brisbane or Melbourne?” he said. “I don’t know if the league is ready for that yet. There’s too big a difference in facilities, unfortunately. I think the clubs here now are good, they just have to get their ship in order.”

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