With the season all wrapped up for the bottom four it is now time for The Football Sack to take a look at the teams given an early holiday.

While many predicted the Phoenix to finish bottom of the table this year the Kiwi side rallied against all the odds and finished… ninth. What went wrong for Wellington over the course of the 2017/18 season?

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Season summary

A reasonable start to the campaign saw Wellington competing well against the likes of Sydney FC with a narrow 3-2 loss and earning a 3-3 draw with Brisbane Roar in the opening four rounds but the sides first victory didn’t come until round five when they tore Perth Glory apart with a scintillating 5-2 win.

To the fans’ disappointment Wellington’s next three points took another eight rounds to arrive earlier this year when they toppled Melbourne Victory 2-1 but by that stage the league’s front runners had moved a long way ahead of the New Zealand based side.

It was evident from the get-go that the Nix would miss creative outlets Roly Bonevacia and Kosta Barbarouses moving forward and the mid-season departures of Dario Vidosic to Melbourne City and Gui Finkler returning to Brazil really hurt Wellington when they most needed a lift.

To make matters worse new coach Darije Kalezic departed the club prematurely on the first of March not long after Wellington had announced that the Swiss manager would be leaving at the end of the season, forcing Chris Greenacre to step in as caretaker.

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Areas of excellence

It seems a never-ending cycle for Wellington to recruit well in the pre-season and then to go and lose that talent to other A-League sides or to overseas suitors and this year was no different.

While their recruitment was excellent it was the players from the youth ranks that gave the Nix hope, with Sarpreet Singh, Matthew Ridenton and Keegan Smith all stepping up to fill in some of the gaps and proving their worth under difficult conditions.

Where Smith proved strong with a number of stunning saves and Singh lit up the league with some great goals late in the season it was Ridenton who stole the show playing every game throughout the campaign and earning the clubs young player of the year award.

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Areas in need of improvement

It is clear to see that the Phoenix don’t just have a problem with the players on the pitch but also with the members of staff responsible for keeping players happy at the club.

As the club continue to lose their best players throughout the year the coaching staff have followed suit with the club losing two high-profile coaches midway through the season in two years and there is clearly an internal issue with the club.

Moving back onto the pitch and it is clear that the trouble position for the Phoenix this year has undoubtedly the goalkeeper with Wellington fielding four different glovemen throughout the course of the season who together conceded a league high 55 goals in 25 games.

While injury has made the position tricky to fill for the Nix, goalkeepers Lewis Italiano, Keegan Smith, Oliver Sail and Tando Velaphi have all conceded at least two goals per game with a minimum of four games played each.

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Top student

Andrija Kaluderovic has been a shining star for Wellington this season and alongside Krishna, Ridenton and Singh has been one of the few Nix players worth keeping an eye on.

The former Brisbane striker picked up where he left off in 2015 scoring nine goals and reaching joint eighth top scorer, the Serbian bagging just under a third of the Phoenix’s woeful 31 goal total this year.

The next best player had to be Wellington’s rock Roy Krishna with the Fijian picking up four goals and five assists on his way to claiming the clubs’ players player of the year award earlier this month and at 30-years old the winger seems to be getting better with age.

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Class clown

While the Phoenix have had a number of players failing to find any form this year the real stand out has to be shot-stopper Lewis Italiano having let in 27 goals in 13 games.

An honourable mention goes out to ex-Socceroo Nathan Burns who at 29-years old should be near the peak of his career but has had a woeful campaign picking up no goals or assists in 15 appearances for Wellington.

Grade: D

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Recent Sports Media graduate from the University of Canberra. Love all things football and can't wait to be part of the growth of the game in Australia. Waiting for the day the FFA come to their senses and hand us an A-League team... but could be waiting a while.